STATE COLLEGE, PA - Tom Bradley met the media on Thursday for the first time as Penn State's football coach and said he took the job as Joe Paterno's interim successor with 'mixed emotions.'
Bradley, a defensive back for the Nittany Lions in the late 1970s, has been part of the Penn State coaching staff since 1979 and became the defensive coordinator in 1999 when Jerry Sandusky retired.
Sandusky, of course, is the central figure in the upheaval at Penn State after he was arrested this past Saturday on child sex abuse charges.
Paterno was fired by the university's Board of Trustees on Wednesday night in the wake of the scandal and Bradley was asked to take over for the remaining three games this season, starting with Saturday's home finale against Nebraska.
"We're in a very unprecedented area," Bradley said Thursday. "We have to find a way to restore the confidence [in the university] and start the healing process."
Bradley was very stoic and unemotional during his media session Thursday, and would not comment on anything regarding Sandusky, citing the ongoing investigation, in which he took part with testimony before the grand jury. He did, however, pay respect to Paterno, saying the 84-year-old legend has meant more to him than anyone except his own father.
"Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men," Bradley noted. "Most of you know him as a great football coach. I've had the privilege and honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such a dynamic impact on so many, so many -- I'll say it again -- so many people's and players' lives. It's with great respect that I speak of him, and I'm proud to say that I worked for him."
Bradley's task is now to guide the Nittany Lions through, not only the final three games of the season and a stunning transition in leadership, but a difficult time that has smudged the university's image.
"I grieve for the victims. I grieve for the families. I'm deeply saddened by that," Bradley stated. "It's been very difficult, very difficult to go through this. We'll find a way to heal, find a way to get back on track."
As for the football side, Bradley said the team will be ready to play.
"We have great leadership on this football team. It's their team. I'm here to help them be as good as they can possibly be," Bradley remarked. "They will be focused and it's my job to help them stay focused. They will be ready to play on Saturday."
Penn State is 8-1 overall this season and sits atop the Leaders Division of the Big Ten with a 5-0 mark. After Saturday's game against Nebraska, the Nittany Lions will play road games against Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Bradley said that assistant Mike McQueary would be part of the staff on Saturday, despite his role in the alleged 2002 incident in the Penn State football building. McQueary is said to have been the graduate assistant that saw Sandusky with a young boy in the shower and alerted Paterno the next day.
McQueary's job has come into question because of his involvement, but Bradley said the administration would determine the former Penn State quarterback's status.
In addition, Paterno's son Jay, the quarterbacks coach, is expected to be on the sideline Saturday.
"He knows he has a job to do," Bradley said. "He probably has a heavy heart, but Jay will be with the team."
Bradley, who said Thursday morning he had not yet slept after being named the interim coach, said he spoke with Joe Paterno on Wednesday night and wouldn't divulge the nature of their conversation.
"I think that's personal in nature," Bradley said.