Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:52PM - 334 Views

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Bill O'Brien, who took over a Penn State program that appeared headed to oblivion and steered the Nittany Lions to a surprisingly successful season, was named coach of the year Wednesday by the Maxwell Football Club.

O'Brien, then the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator, was hired as Joe Paterno's successor in January, two months after the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal broke and a month before Paterno's death.

He took a demoralized team, diminished by harsh NCAA penalties and the transfers of several key players, and despite an 0-2 start transformed it into one of the Big Ten's best. The Nittany Lions, bowl-ineligible, finished 8-4, second in the conference's Leaders Division with a 6-2 mark.

Those achievements were unimaginable in July, when, as a result of allegations about Penn State's response to Sandusky's crimes, the NCAA slapped the university with a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, and the loss of 80 scholarships over that span.

Before the 2012 season, several players, including running back Silas Redd and kicker Anthony Fera, departed. Things looked even bleaker when the Nittany Lions began O'Brien's inaugural season by dropping their first two games, to Ohio University and Virginia.

But, relying heavily on senior leadership, O'Brien not only held together a team most expected to finish with a losing record, but inspired the Nittany Lions to win eight of their final 10 games.

Coach O'Brien has engineered a tremendous season ... while overcoming obstacles that many considered insurmountable, Mark Wolpert, the Maxwell Club's executive director, said in a news release.

The club will honor O'Brien at its annual dinner March 1 in Atlantic City. The Nittany Lions will also be recognized as recipients of the organization's Brookshier Spirit Award.

O'Brien, a 49-year-old Massachusetts native, graduated from Paterno's alma mater, Brown University. Earlier this offseason, he was named coach of the year by the Big Ten and ESPN.

The Associated Press on Wednesday named Notre Dame's Brian Kelly as coach of the year, with O'Brien second.

While O'Brien was engineering an on-field revival, Penn State's football program could not avoid a financial hit. In part because of reaction to the scandal, average attendance fell below 100,000 a game, and the value of the school's once-pristine brand declined sharply.

According to Forbes magazine, Penn State fell from No. 3 in 2011 to No. 13 on its list of the most valuable college football programs. That value, the magazine estimated, dropped from $100 million to $79 million.

Kelly wins AP coach of the year

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has been voted Associated Press coach of the year after leading the Fighting Irish to a spot in the BCS championship game.

No. 1 Notre Dame is 12-0 and will play No. 2 Alabama for the national title on Jan. 7 in Miami. The Fighting Irish are playing for their first championship since 1988.

Kelly received 25 votes from the AP college football poll panel. Penn State's Bill O'Brien was second with 14 votes. Stanford's David Shaw (four), Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin (three), Kansas State's Bill Snyder (two) and Alabama's Nick Saban (one) also received votes. Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to win the award, which started in 1998.

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