Possible replacements for Joe Paterno

The Joe Paterno era soon will be over and for the first time since 1965, Penn State has to find a football coach.

The school doesn't have a permanent athletic director and its administration has been rocked by the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But at some point, the school will begin its search.

Here are some potential candidates for the job:

Tom Bradley

Bradley, 55, who has worked on Paterno's staff for the last 33 seasons, including the last 12 as defensive coordinator, has long been considered a potential successor for Paterno. But it's unclear whether Penn State would be willing to promote a Paterno assistant because of the ongoing investigation into the Sandusky case.

A native of Johnstown, Pa., Bradley played at Penn State in 1977-78 and two of his brothers also played for the Nittany Lions. He was a graduate assistant in 1979 and coached defensive backs, linebackers, defensive ends and special teams until he was named Sandusky's replacement in 2000.

A strong recruiter, particularly in the Pittsburgh area, Bradley is credited with bringing many of Penn State's best players to State College. He was a candidate for the recent head-coaching vacancy at Pitt.

Kirk Ferentz

Ferentz, 56, is in his 13th season as Iowa's coach. He's the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten behind Paterno. Ferentz has guided Iowa to nine bowl appearances, including BCS games in 2002 and 2009, and owns a 6-3 record in the postseason.

Ferentz grew up in the Pittsburgh area and idolized Paterno as a young player. He was a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh before joining Iowa as a full-time assistant in 1981. He and Paterno are extremely close, although Ferentz's Iowa teams have dominated the recent series against Penn State, winning eight of the past 10 games with the Nittany Lions.

Pat Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, 36, in in his sixth season as Northwestern's head coach. He's viewed as one of the nation's top young coaches and was pursued by Michigan for its coaching vacancy last year. He received a 10-year contract with Northwestern in the spring and has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to his alma mater, so we don't expect Fitzgerald to jump at the opportunity to leave. However, he's very close with Paterno and has admired the Penn State program from a distance. Penn State's academic reputation certainly appeals to Fitzgerald, who played for current Lions linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden at Northwestern.

Fitzgerald is 38-34 at Northwestern and has guided the Wildcats to bowl games in each of the past three seasons -- a team record. Northwestern is 4-5 this season.

Al Golden

Golden, 42, is in his first season as Miami's coach, guiding the Hurricanes to a 5-4 record through a storm of controversy. Before Golden coached his first game at Miami, the Hurricanes were hit with allegations of multiple NCAA rules violations involving rogue booster Nevin Shapiro, who showered current and former players with thousands of dollars in improper benefits. Miami officials failed to notify Golden of an ongoing investigation of Shapiro before he accepted the job.

Although Miami officials have indicated they would like to extend Golden's contract, he might be willing to take another job because of looming NCAA probation.

Golden played tight end at Penn State from 1987 to 1991 and was team captain during his senior season. He was linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator under Paterno in 2000, before leaving the next season to become defensive coordinator under Al Groh at Virginia. Golden is widely regarded as a tireless recruiter with strong ties to the Northeast, which has been a traditional recruiting ground for the Nittany Lions.

In 2006, Golden took over Temple, one of the worst programs in the country, after the Owls had compiled a 3-31 record in the three seasons before he arrived. Golden guided the Owls to winning seasons in 2009 and 2010 and their first bowl game since 1979.

Mike London

London, 51, is in his second season as Virginia's coach. The Cavaliers are 6-3 this season, including a victory against Golden's Miami squad. While London doesn't have direct ties to Penn State, he has recruited a region -- Virginia/Maryland -- where the Nittany Lions have had success in the past.

London played at Richmond and served as the Spiders' coach in 2008-09. He has served as an assistant at Virginia and Boston College, among other places.

Urban Meyer

Meyer, 47, is a current ESPN college football analyst who coached Florida from 2005-10. He guided the Gators to national championships in 2006 and 2008 and boasts a 104-23 record in 10 seasons as a coach at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green. He retired from Florida following the 2011 Outback Bowl, a 37-24 victory against Penn State.

An Ohio native, Meyer has recorded eight or more wins in every season he has coached. He guided Utah to consecutive bowl appearances, including the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, where the Utes beat Pitt. He guided Florida to six consecutive bowl appearances and had a 5-1 record, including a 3-0 mark in BCS bowls.

Meyer is close with Paterno and has made several trips to State College since joining ESPN. Meyer also is mentioned as a potential candidate at Ohio State if the school doesn't retain Luke Fickell.

Dan Mullen

Mullen, 39, is the coach at Mississippi State, a position he has held since 2009. He boasts a 19-15 record in two-plus seasons with the Bulldogs, highlighted by a 9-4 mark and a Gator Bowl victory against Michigan last year. Mullen previously served as the offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green.

Mullen played college ball at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. He has served as an assistant at Syracuse and Notre Dame, among other places.

Greg Schiano

Schiano, 45, is the coach at Rutgers, a position he has held since 2001. The New Jersey native played college football at Bucknell before serving as a Penn State graduate assistant in 1990 and the Nittany Lions' defensive backs coach from 1991-95. He then moved on to the NFL's Chicago Bears and served as defensive coordinator at the University of Miami before taking the Rutgers job.

Schiano is 65-66 at Rutgers. He guided the Scarlet Knights to five consecutive bowl appearances between 2005-09, highlighted by an 11-2 season in 2006. Schiano is 4-1 in bowl games and his team likely will be heading back to the postseason this year (Rutgers is 6-3). His Rutgers team consistently ranks among the national leaders in graduation rate, and he has avoided problems with the NCAA.

Kevin Sumlin

Sumlin, 47, is in his fourth year as Houston's coach. He boasts a record of 32-16 with the Cougars, who are 9-0 this season and ranked No. 11 nationally. If Penn State wants a coach on the rise, Sumlin could be an excellent choice. His name has been mentioned for several top openings in the last few years.

Sumlin doesn't have Penn State ties but played in the Big Ten at Purdue and served as an assistant coach both with his alma mater and with Minnesota.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com. Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.