Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner released a statement Thursday that addressed the concerns of those who feel the search committee empowered to find a new head football coach has been taking too long.

Both Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson had said they hoped to have a coach in place by the time of a bowl game, but it looks more apparent that the Nittany Lions will not be naming a new head coach until after their Jan. 2 meeting against Houston in the TicketCity Bowl.

In his statement, Joyner said the committee is "continuing to talk with individuals that we're interested in and work through the interview process.

"As I'm sure all can appreciate, this is a very important hire for Penn State, and, as a result, the search committee is taking a very deliberate and measured approach to the process in order to identify the coach that best fits the requirements of the position. We look forward to introducing our new football coach at the appropriate time."

The deliberate way in which the committee has done its work has resulted in concern by observers of the football program. The program was rocked on Nov. 9 when head coach Joe Paterno was fired four days after the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex-abuse charges. The committee was not put in place until 19 days later.

The magnitude of the scandal, combined with the uncertainty over who the next coach will be, has cost Penn State the services of three high school recruits who had orally committed to the program. Many of the remaining 13 commitments have been inquiring into other schools.

Tom Bradley, who was named interim head coach after Paterno's dismissal, has talked and visited with all the recruits. He said Monday that he advised them "that they have to go visit other places and keep their options open until they see what happens here. We've been completely honest about that."

Bradley, a member of Paterno's staff for 33 years, interviewed last Friday with the committee, which also has talked to assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Jay Paterno.

As for other candidates, Green Bay Packers assistant coach Tom Clements reportedly interviewed last week over the phone. But Clements, approached at practice Thursday, would not confirm or deny the report, the Associated Press said.

Another candidate mentioned this week in published reports was Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who denied Tuesday having any conversation with Penn State officials.

Erickson was not available for comment Thursday. University spokesman Bill Mahon told the AP that Joyner and Erickson "have both emphasized the most important element is to get the right coach, not speed up the timing of the search."

Most football programs with openings at head coach have filled the position, which has exasperated a vast number of Penn State fans. Those fans also noticed that Pittsburgh hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as its new head coach on Thursday, just nine days after the resignation of Todd Graham.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.