Penn State collectively exhaled on Thursday night. On Friday, Bill O‚??Brien was back to talking about the future after ending a brief courtship from the NFL.
‚??I‚??ve got a lot of respect for the NFL. They reached out to my representative,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said Friday in a radio interview with Penn State play-by-play man Steve Jones. ‚??But at the end of the day, it‚??s right for me to do what I said I was gonna do, and that‚??s stay at Penn State and coach these players and work with this staff and do the best that I can for Penn State.‚?Ě
Approaching the one-year anniversary of his hiring in Happy Valley, O‚??Brien reportedly sat down with both the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles this week to interview for their head coaching jobs.
That news was quickly followed by O‚??Brien and his agent declaring that he would remain with the Nittany Lions.
‚??The group of players and the staff that I have there, obviously along with my family, are my three biggest influences,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??This is a unique place. It‚??s a very, very top college football program ‚?? a top-five football program, in my opinion ‚?? and we‚??ve gotta work to get back to that. And we‚??ve got a long road.‚?Ě
According to Jones, O‚??Brien will hold a press conference Monday, coinciding with the start of the spring semester. As of Friday night, Penn State had not formally announced anything.
O‚??Brien and his assistant coaches are expected to receive pay raises for 2013 and beyond. The staff O‚??Brien assembled last January remains intact for next season.
‚??These guys are top-flight coaches that have plenty of opportunities,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??And this is not gonna be the easiest of times over the next few years for Penn State. These are tough guys who‚??ve been through a lot. And they‚??ve stuck with us, they‚??ve stuck with Penn State and they‚??ve stuck with me.
‚??So I think it‚??s important for the people of Penn State to understand that and do the best we can to take care of these guys.‚?Ě
Stability is particularly important for the program as the strongest effects of the NCAA sanctions hit the Lions.
The team faces its first round of scholarship reductions with the upcoming recruiting class. Current players still have until preseason camp opens in August to transfer to another school without penalty.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Corbett filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA seeking to have the sanctions thrown out. It could, however, take years for any sort of resolution.
As much as anything, however, O‚??Brien has been annoyed at repeated references to Penn State‚??s ‚??culture,‚?Ě which NCAA president Mark Emmert chastised as being negative and too dominated by football when announcing the sanctions in July.
‚??That‚??s a ridiculous argument. A frustrating argument to deal with,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??This is a fantastic culture. A combination of student-athletes and the way they go out on the field and play extremely hard and then go to class and compete in the classroom. And the student body and what they mean to the university.
‚??This is a great place to go to school. A lot of it is obviously because of the culture. I think the athletic department, the football program has a lot to do with that.‚?Ě
One person who fully expected O‚??Brien to stick with Penn State was Christian Hackenberg, the highly touted quarterback recruit who is ready to sign with the Lions in February.
‚??He‚??s a man of his word,‚?Ě Hackenberg said during the Under Armour All-American Game on Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla. ‚??He told us (he was staying) earlier this month and he continued to reiterate it.
‚??I couldn‚??t be more proud of who I‚??m going to play for.‚?Ě
Asked if Thursday‚??s news solidified his standing with Penn State, Hackenberg replied, ‚??Definitely.‚?Ě
The Virginia prospect received high marks from scouts and analysts during the practices leading up to Friday‚??s game and was picked by ESPN as the most impressive quarterback during the week, topping recruits bound for Alabama, Michigan, Miami, Texas A&M and Georgia.
Hackenberg earned the start for his team, but had few highlights during the game while splitting time with two other quarterbacks.
Future Penn State teammate Adam Breneman was also selected for the game and made the trip to Florida, but watched the game from the sidelines as the standout tight end continues to rehab from knee surgery.
Breneman has already graduated from high school and will start classes at Penn State on Monday.