STATE COLLEGE – This was a glare that Bill O'Brien had previously reserved for Big Ten referees. Asked point blank if he had received a raise from Penn State after electing to stay in Happy Valley in light of interest from multiple NFL teams, the Nittany Lions coach was as emphatic as ever.
No, O'Brien said with a scowl and a firm shake of his head. No.
Just four days after it leaked out that he had interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles for their vacant head coaching jobs, O'Brien said he wanted to set the record straight at a press conference at Beaver Stadium.
Exactly one year to the date of his introductory press conference at the other end of campus after his hiring, O'Brien opened Monday's proceedings with a 15-minute, off-the-cuff soliloquy about his motivations for talking to NFL teams.
He denied a Pennlive.com report that he was to receive a $1.3 million raise via a donation to the university to return for the 2013 season.
I have never asked for a raise, O'Brien said. And no one at Penn State has ever come to me and said to me, ‘We're going to make a donation so you can get a raise.' That's a bunch of malarkey. It's not true. It's never happened. It never will happen. That's the last thing I'm about.
If I was about money, more than likely I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now. It's not about money. … You really don't know me if you write something or say something (like), ‘This guy did it for leverage and money.' I didn't do anything. I had a conversation in the best interest of my family with a few (NFL) people.
What Bill said about that is exactly true, Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner said. There were no demands. There was no ‘If you're going to do this, I'm going to do that.' There was none of that.
Of course, if Penn State were to come along at a later date and offer a little something extra ...
Hey, look, six months down the road, if I get a raise ... O'Brien said. Would you like a raise? Everybody would like a raise every once in a while. Yeah, of course, I'd like a raise. I'm just like everybody else.
But it gets my blood boiling a little bit when somebody tells somebody else or writes something that this was about money.
As a point of fact, O'Brien's contract calls for annual base salary increases of 5 percent on July 1 of each year.
O'Brien said he was vacationing at Disney World with his wife, Colleen, and his youngest son, Michael, when many of the seven NFL teams who fired their head coaches at season's end contacted his agent to gauge his interest.
Though O'Brien would not mention specific teams by name, he acknowledged that he did talk to them because it's my job as the father and the husband in that house that I take care of my family first.
That family, he said, couldn't be happier than being at Penn State.
If O'Brien did receive some sort of remuneration for sticking with the Lions, he wasn't about to say.
He said he talks regularly with acting athletic director Dave Joyner about ways to improve the program and that he also has talked with Penn State president Rod Erickson.
I want to make sure that we do everything we can, O'Brien said. Whether it's in the weight room or our coaching meeting rooms, or maybe we can add a few people in our recruiting department. Or maybe we could help our academic staff by adding a few people. Maybe we can help our sports information staff.
Whatever it has to do with football at Penn State, I want to make sure that every year that we do the best we can to be on the cutting edge of having the best football program we can possibly have. That's my job.
For at least another year, at any rate. The NFL clearly has interest in O'Brien, who repeatedly talked Monday about his tremendous respect for the league. And with the half-dozen ritual coach firings that take place there every winter, Penn State could find itself in the same situation next January, trying to fend off NFL suitors.
O'Brien, for his part, called that scenario speculative and reiterated that he remains committed to Penn State.
I plan to be the head football coach here, he said. I love living here. I love coaching here. … I can't be more clear about this.