The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local Sports

January 7, 2014

As Paterno's successor, O'Brien didn't get his due at Penn State

The drama surrounding Penn State University's football program added a revealing chapter last week. Bill O’Brien - who stepped in to coach during a difficult, if not impossible, time in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal - traded his Nittany Lions attire for that of the Houston Texans.

O'Brien has spent his time in purgatory, so a jump to the National Football League makes sense, at least professionally.

What makes his departure even more interesting was revealed in an interview he gave in early December - a month before the move was announced - with sports columnist David Jones of The Patriot News, a newspaper in central Pennsylvania.

O’Brien discussed the difficulties of winning in the world of big-time college football, let alone under NCAA-imposed sanctions that have included scholarship reductions and a ban on post-season play.

Living in the shadow of late coach Joe Paterno - even though his reputation was soiled by the Sandusky scandal - became too much. Penn State went 7-5 last season, and O’Brien’s overall record stood at 15-9. That would have been good enough for two bowl appearances if not for the post-season ban.

“I’m trying to field the most competitive football team I can with near death-penalty (expletive) sanctions,” O'Brien told Jones in a phone call. “Every time I say something like that and somebody prints it, it’s skewed as an excuse. And I’m not an excuse maker. I’m trying to do the best I can for the kids in that program. That’s all I care about is the kids in that program - as long as I’m the head football coach here.”

Then O’Brien hinted that his tenure at Penn State might be ending.

Coaches, especially those in high-powered programs, have two jobs: Produce teams that win, and woo influential alums and friends of the university.

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