Penn State Football

How Long Can Penn State Football Realistically Expect to Keep Manny Diaz?

After Manny Diaz was relieved of his head coaching duties at the University of Miami in December 2021, Penn State Football head coach James Franklin quickly brought the defensive mastermind to Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions‘ defensive coordinator.

In his almost season and a half in Happy Valley, Diaz has taken a Penn State defense that had been great for years under Franklin to another level entirely; elite.

In 2022, Penn State Football finished 10th in total defense, 9th in scoring defense, and 11th in turnovers across college football.

So far in 2023, the unit has been even better, ranking 3rd in scoring defense, 1st in opponent yards per game, and 5th in turnovers.

On Tuesday, Diaz told the media that the defense is “having a lot of fun right now,” Diaz told reporters during his media availability Tuesday. “We’re starting to feel the soul of the defense.”

The elite play by the defense has certainly backed that up.

But, with a defensive mastermind like Diaz, who has been a head coach and has potentially large career aspirations, the question is how long Penn State can keep Diaz around.

Upon his hiring Diaz mentioned that Penn State “checked all the boxes” for him in a job, but the possibility of running his own program again could entice Diaz to leave.


Let’s break down the reasons Manny Diaz could leave and a few reasons that could keep him in Happy Valley longer:

Reasons Diaz could leave Penn State Football

Opportunity to be a head coach

Manny Diaz has had the opportunity to be both a head coach and a defensive coordinator in the college ranks.

This fall, Diaz was asked about the potential of being a head coach again. Diaz sounded, at the time, like he wasn’t in much of a rush to leave Happy Valley.

“Being the defensive coordinator at Penn State is a better job than being the head coach at a lot of different schools,” He said.

Diaz further noted that this gives him the opportunity to be “selective.” Diaz did not rule out wanting to be a head coach again, instead suggesting that it would just take the right program and the right opportunity.

If the right program came knocking at the right time, Diaz would once again move up to the top job.


Penn State Football does not release the salaries of assistant coaches, so it is hard to know exactly how much Penn State is paying Diaz for his services.

However, a look across college football suggests that an elite defensive coordinator could be paid in the realm of $2 million per year.

Ohio State is paying Jim Knowles $1.9 million per year. Brent Venables made $2.4 million per year before leaving for Oklahoma. So the ballpark of $2 million is there for top defensive assistants. In 2023, according to the USA Today Head Coach Salary Database, a head coach making $2 million per year would rank 68th in the nation.

The 25th ranked head coach in the database, Eliah Drinkwitz at Missouri, makes $6 million per year.

If Diaz could secure a top tier job and be paid as a top 25 head coach, he would stand to make at least close to three times what he is making as a defensive coordinator.

While everything is not about the money, $4 million per year is hard to pass up.

Penn State Football, Manny Diaz
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz of the Penn State Nittany Lions(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Reasons Diaz could stay longer at Penn State Football

Diaz has already been a power five head coach

Having already been a power five head coach, Manny Diaz knows the importance of finding the right program to lead to find success.

In his second stint as a head coach, Diaz will likely be more selective on the program and leave only for the right position this time around.

Diaz has been given the keys to the defense with little interference

When James Franklin hired Manny Diaz, Franklin noted that Diaz’s experience as a head coach was important, as he wanted someone to act as the head coach of the defense.

Diaz has taken that approach and run with it, taking control of the entire unit and transforming them from great to elite.

Franklin noted last week that Diaz has “done a really good job of not just from a scheme standpoint, but leading that side of the ball.”

Diaz has been given the keys to operate the defense with little interference from Franklin. That type of control over the defense and autonomy could keep Diaz around longer if the perfect head coaching job does not pop up.


The staff at Penn State has been working well together

In late September, James Franklin spoke about the working relationship between Manny Diaz and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Franklin noted that in some places, the relationship between an offensive and defensive coordinator “can be divisive.”

However, Franklin made it a point to mention that this is not the case between Diaz and Yurcich.

Diaz and Yurcich “talked in the offseason about what they wanted their offenses and defenses to be—winning offenses and defenses.”

On Tuesday, Diaz also mentioned the benefit of having a “legend” in Anthony Poindexter coaching in the secondary.

The relationship between Diaz and the other assistant coaches (and James Franklin) seems to be a positive situation that could keep Diaz in the fold working with great minds instead of leaving to run his own program.

Manny Diaz has lead Penn State’s defense to be one of the top units in all of college football.

Whether Diaz leaves Penn State after this season for another head coaching gig or sticks around a few more years in Happy Valley remains to be seen, but Penn State fans should appreciate what Diaz is doing with the defense before its too late.


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About Author

Robert Casturo

Expertise: College Football, Penn State Football Education: Saint Vincent College, Penn State Law School Location: Washington, DC Experience: Robert Casturo has covered Penn State football for NittanyCentral since 2022. Casturo previously covered Penn State football through a social media presence (@PSU_FB_Thoughts on X) since 2019. Casturo earned his bachelor's degree from Saint Vincent College in 2015, where he was a punter for 1 season on the Saint Vincent College football team and worked in the athletic department for 2 years as a student manager. Casturo earned his JD from Penn State Law in 2018 where he was a senior editor of the Penn State Law Review.