New era begins at PSU
Last Modified: February 18. 2013 1:51PM
Bill O‚??Brien is officially the new leader of the Nittany Lions.
‚??I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Penn State football program,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said Friday night in a school release. ‚??I cannot tell you how excited I am to get started, meet the team, meet the football alumni and meet all of the people that make this university so special.
‚??As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do. That includes my coaching staff, our players and everyone involved in the football program. There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and (I) will never, ever take that for granted.‚?Ě
O‚??Brien, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, arrived in State College shortly before 7 p.m. Friday on a university plane and was taken to the athletic department‚??s offices at the Bryce Jordan Center to finalize the deal. Terms were not immediately available.
An introductory press conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. today at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College.
ESPN had first reported that Penn State had reached an agreement with O‚??Brien on Thursday night.
The school, however, did not announce the hiring until 9:46 p.m. Friday, hours after the rest of the sports community had confirmed it ‚?? including O‚??Brien‚??s Hall of Fame predecessor.
‚??I understand Bill O‚??Brien has been named head coach and I want to congratulate him on his appointment,‚?Ě Paterno said in a statement to The Associated Press provided by his family. ‚??I don‚??t know Bill, but I respect his coaching record, and I am particularly pleased we share a connection to my alma mater, Brown.‚?Ě
‚??Despite recent commentary to the contrary, Penn State football has always been about more than winning,‚?Ě said Paterno, who has been battling lung cancer since he was fired by Penn State on Nov. 9 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. ‚??I am hopeful this tradition will continue.‚?Ě
Beyond the coincidence of O‚??Brien and Paterno both graduating from Brown University, Paterno famously backed out of an agreement to coach the Patriots in 1972, choosing to remain at Penn State. He stayed on as head coach until he was removed by the university‚??s board of trustees in the middle of his 46th season.
Tom Bradley took over as interim coach of the Lions for the rest of the season. He and the rest of Paterno‚??s staff remained in limbo as of Friday night.
Acting athletic director Dave Joyner met with the coaching staff at the team‚??s Lasch Building head quarters on Friday afternoon. After meeting for roughly half an hour, coaches began to file out, saying they could not comment on the situation.
‚??Not now,‚?Ě an emotional Jay Paterno told reporters before getting into his car. ‚??Let me just get rolling and get home ‚?? see my dog, my wife, my kids. Thank you guys. Have a good weekend. I‚??m sure you‚??ll be busy.‚?Ě
Official confirmation from Penn State came after a full day of reports of O‚??Brien‚??s impending hire.
‚??I‚??m sad to lose him. I told him that,‚?Ě Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Boston Herald Friday morning. ‚??We have a philosophy in our company, that if anyone has an opportunity and we can‚??t match it ‚?? we did have the ability to deny him under our contract, but this is one of the great college coaching positions.
‚??Billy is a very high-quality guy. He‚??s got integrity, he‚??s honest and I‚??m sad to see him go. But I think (Penn State has) chosen wisely.‚?Ě
Kraft said he expects O‚??Brien to remain on staff with the Patriots until the end of their season. New England is the AFC‚??s top seed in the NFL playoffs and has a first-round bye this weekend.
The Patriots‚?? divisional round game is Jan. 14, the same weekend Penn State is scheduled to host a majority of its 2012 recruiting class on campus.
If the Patriots were to make it to the Super Bowl, O‚??Brien would be working both jobs through Feb. 5. National signing day is Feb. 1.
Recruiting is one of many hurdles facing O‚??Brien as he takes over for Paterno, who won an NCAA Division I record 409 games.
A few high-profile Penn State lettermen are not pleased with the two-month process that ultimately selected O‚??Brien, who has no head coaching experience.
One of those former players, star linebacker LaVar Arrington, directed his displeasure at the university‚??s board of trustees and general leadership.
‚??Alums, I will always love you and the Penn State I knew,‚?Ě Arrington posted Friday on his Twitter account. ‚??But until there‚??s a new board and new leadership they can have their corrupt/disgusting school that they‚??ve created.
‚??I‚??m done. All my PSU stuff will be down before O‚??Brien‚??s introduction! We are! No more for me!‚?Ě
Later in the day, Arrington backpedaled a bit on his Washington, D.C., area radio show, saying that he had been writing out of frustration.
Despite a high-profile job with one of the NFL‚??s most successful franchises, O‚??Brien was not a well-known name before accepting the Penn State job. Indeed, the most visible moment of his career came last month when he was involved in a shouting match with Brady, the Patriots‚?? future Hall of Fame quarterback, on the sideline after an interception.
‚??He‚??s been a great coach and friend,‚?Ě Brady said Sunday after the Patriots‚?? final regular season game, when reports first surfaced that O‚??Brien was a serious candidate for the Penn State job. ‚??We have a great relationship ‚?? probably a very unique relationship in that we communicate all the time.
‚??I always enjoy working with him and he‚??s done an incredible job with this team and this offense. He expects nothing less than our best.‚?Ě
O‚??Brien has spent the past five seasons with the Patriots, also coaching the team‚??s wide receivers and quarterbacks before being appointed offensive coordinator in 2011.
Before that, he spent the first 14 years of his coaching career in the college ranks ‚?? 12 in the ACC with Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.
‚??In addition to his model characteristics as a man and a teacher, he‚??s all about producing winners, and doing so the right way,‚?Ě said Joyner, who led the search committee that selected O‚??Brien. ‚??He will embrace tradition, demand excellence and pursue ‚??success with honor‚?? in every phase of our program.‚?Ě