Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has interviewed for the Duke head coaching job, The Athletic reported on Thursday morning. Diaz joins NC State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles as primary candidates for the job.

Diaz is set to complete his second season at Penn State after being hired by James Franklin in December of 2021. The former Miami head coach has long indicated an interest in returning to the head coaching ranks one day after complicated departure from the Hurricanes two years ago. For its part, Duke is looking to replace Mike Elko, who recently left the Blue Devils for the head coaching job at Texas A&M.

Penn State will likely walk a fine line between supporting Diaz’s desires to be a head coach again while making the prospect of staying in State College as appealing as possible until he eventually leaves town. Financially, Diaz is set to take an overall pay cut this upcoming calendar year as his remaining buyout with Miami expires, a figure in the ballpark of $6.5 to $8 million that is offset by his Penn State salary. While it seems entirely possible that Diaz won’t command that much as a head coach to begin with, it stands to reason that Penn State has a limit to how much its willing to — or probably should — pay any given coordinator.

“I think what we talked about in the past is what can we do and what do we need to do here at Penn State to make sure that guys don’t leave for lateral moves,” Penn State coach James Franklin said earlier this season. “To me, that’s really the main focus. We’ve got to make sure that assistants don’t leave for assistant positions and coordinators don’t leave to be coordinators. If guys have a chance for a clear, obvious promotion, we want that for him. We’d like to create a situation here for Manny and his family that he wants to be here until he has an opportunity to get a really good head coaching job that’s going to allow him to flourish. I think Brent [Pry] handled it probably as well as any. He had a great job, turned down a bunch of jobs waiting for the right one.”

If Diaz were to leave Penn State, it would result in Franklin needing to hire new offensive and defensive coordinators in the same offseason following the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Should the Nittany Lions stay in house for a defensive coordinator, Franklin would most likely look to co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter.

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