There aren’t many conversations about Penn State football these days that don’t eventually lead to a discussion of sanctions the NCAA handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
So it was really no surprise that topic came up on Friday when athletic director Dave Joyner and coach Bill O’Brien got together to discuss the Nittany Lions’ trip to Ireland to open the 2014 season.
Bill O’Brien made it clear that he had no problem with the media learning about his closed-door meeting with Penn State’s board of trustees last week.
“I was invited to present my thoughts on the sanctions, so I accepted that invitation,” O’Brien said. “I don’t have anything to hide.
“I just try to make sure people know what is best for the Penn State football program.”
While details of O’Brien’s presentation to the board of trustees has not been made public, it was reportedly critical lawsuits filed against the NCAA trying to lessen the sanctions.
Still, O’Brien believes those historic sanctions — including a four-year bowl ban and a massive reduction of scholarships — may be reduced one day.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, but I believe that this football program is being run the right way. I believe that we have great kids here,” O’Brien said. “I think we’ve worked very, very diligently to stay in compliance, just like every other program around the country.
“I think we are in compliance and at some point the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, hopefully they look at that, and they can meet us halfway.”
O’Brien was sure to add that he knows why Penn State was hit with such severe sanctions in the first place.
“I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place,” O’Brien said. “It’s about putting an end to child abuse and I get that.”
For his part, Joyner didn’t want to get into a discussion about whether or not Penn State would seek to have the measures reduced.
“We are focused on dealing with the sanctions as they are right now,” Joyner said.
When the conversation finally turned back to the Ireland trip, the second-year coach also made it perfectly clear he is looking forward to heading to the Emerald Isle.
“From a personal aspect, I’m really excited about going over,” O’Brien said.
“My dad’s an O’Brien and my mom’s a Murphy,” he added just in case anyone doubted his ethnic background.
The Nittany Lions will open the 2014 season against Central Florida in the Corke Park Classic on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland.
It’s the type of game O’Brien talked about adding to the schedule shortly after the bowl ban was announced. And it’s the type of game that can only mean good things for Penn State, according to Joyner.
“It is going to give Penn State a lot of national exposure, which I think it already has with all the talk about it,” Joyner said. “The Irish are very excited about this. It will get a lot of play from Ireland.
“I think our fans are excited about it and I think it’s just a great way to give our football team and University a marquee place to play and a focus on us.”
People being excited about Penn State playing in Ireland was a common theme.
O’Brien said that although he has limited contact with the players during the summer due to NCAA rules, he knows the team is looking forward to the trip. Still he was quick to add that the trip is a year away and that, “right now their focus is on Syracuse.”
The Nittany Lions open the 2013 season against the Orange on Aug. 31 in a nationally televised game at MetLife Stadium.
NOTES: O’Brien downplayed quarterback Tyler Ferguson’s absence from campus during the summer. Ferguson is home in California because his mother is ill. “Summer is voluntary,” O’Brien said. “I think we’ve really made a mountain out of a molehill here.” … Joyner said that although Penn State had also looked at playing games in Hawaii and California, neither one of those options was explored too closely because the game in Ireland came about so quickly. … The Nittany Lions had no extra hurdles to clear to play a game overseas because it’s not considered a postseason game and teams are allowed one overseas game every four years.