Most of the names surrounding the Penn State coaching search to replace Joe Paterno hail from big Division-I programs or, in some cases, the NFL.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy is different. The man Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call reports is near the top of the Nittany Lions' list has made his name as a staple of the tiny Ivy League, where he's posted a 119-59 record in 18 seasons with the Crimson.
Though he has major college experience from his years at Cincinnati in the late 1980s and early 1990s, his stamp on the sport has come far away from the bright lights of a BCS-level program and at a school that prides itself on its academic reputation first and its athletic reputation after that.
As Penn State, in light of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, looks to re-establish its reputation of "Success With Honor," Murphy and his Ivy League ties might prove too attractive to pass up, despite the major college football appeal of guys like Boise State's Chris Petersen and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.
And so, for some background on the Crimson's head man, we've enlisted the help of WHRB's Harvard Football broadcaster Scott Reed for some background on the coach. Below are his responses to our questions about Murphy.
AB: Generally, how do Harvard fans feel about the job Tim Murphy has done? Is there a consensus, or are there competing opinions?
SR: Coach Murphy has been in Cambridge for 18 years, and most Crimson fans accept that he is one of the best coaches in Harvard history. He moved into first place in school history in all-time wins this season and won his 6th Ivy title. Too, nothing keeps fans happy like beating your rival, and Murphy is 10-1 in his last 11 Harvard-Yale games. And most are in agreement that Murphy has done it the right way, graduating almost every four-year player he has coached.
AB: What has his team's offensive identity been at Harvard?
SR: Murphy always says he likes a balanced attack on offense. He tends to go with what is working - while last year's offense led by star running back and Ivy player of the year Gino Gordon was more run-heavy, this year behind excellent quarterback play and the best wide receiving corps in the Ivy league, Harvard was more pass-first (although they ran for almost 400 yards in a win over Dartmouth). Coach Murphy typically likes to spread it out and run most plays out of the shotgun or pistol.
AB: How would you rate Murphy's quarterback development at Harvard and why?
SR: Coach Murphy has developed quarterbacks well at Harvard, though he's also been blessed with incoming talent. Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, led Harvard and Murphy to an undefeated season in 2004, and the guy he replaced, Neil Rose, was almost as good of a college quarterback.
AB: What is Murphy's approach to recruiting and how would you rate his efforts?
SR: Recruiting is always much more under-the-radar in the Ivy League, as it is not covered by many media outlets, so it is more difficult to say. Coach Murphy says that first and foremost he looks to recruit character, and of course, academics are important for a potential Ivy league recruit. General consensus is that Harvard along with Penn get the best recruiting classes in the Ivy league - though, to be fair, Harvard has a lot of advantages such as the academic brand, location in Boston, and large need-based financial aid program (remember, no athletic scholarships in the Ivy League) that make the school an attractive choice. Murphy is always able to pull in a few guys, this year's Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Josue Ortiz among them, who could have gone to a decent FBS program.
AB: What kind of fit would you see Murphy being with the Big Ten? How do you think he would fare at that level?
SR: Coach Murphy would fit with the academic mission of the Big Ten, though I would be very interested to see how he would do there. Coaching-wise, he would be fine, but I will say that he has not had to recruit necessarily at the higher level required at a Big Ten school. Not to say he couldn't do it, but he hasn't had to at Harvard, or at his previous stop, Cincinnati. Coach Murphy is also a guy that, while a great coach, doesn't seek the spotlight like others in the industry do. Consensus is that he enjoys coaching at Harvard, where he is generally out of the spotlight. Most of us thought and still think Harvard will be his last stop for this reason.
AB: How does Murphy handle off-field team issues (i.e. academics, legal issues, NCAA rules)?
SR: It is tough to say from Murphy's coaching career because at Harvard that hasn't been much of an issue, but knowing the kind of person he is I believe he would handle it well.
AB: Is Murphy prepared to become the face of a program in this kind of turmoil?
SR: Not sure if he will even want to face that turmoil - everything is pretty rosy for him right now at Harvard, where he is pretty comfortable, winning big, and presiding over a mostly peaceful program.
AB: Any general thoughts about Murphy and Penn State?
At first I was surprised to hear Coach Murphy's name in talks about Penn State, if only because I didn't think PSU would look to the Ivy League. Part of me would be very, very surprised if he ended up at State College, because seems for happy at Harvard. Many believe Harvard is Murphy's dream job. But I also never thought Penn state might come calling, and with the pay raise they likely would bring. As a Harvard broadcaster, I hope Murphy stays in Cambridge but am proud of the job he's done here over the last two decades either way.