Bill O’Brien Lands in Happy Valley

January 7, 2012 at 2:17 am 3 comments

Nearly 24 hours after his hiring was reported by the media, and nearly two months after Joe Paterno’s six-decade tenure came to an end, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on Friday was officially announced as the 15th head coach in Penn State football history.

O’Brien, who reportedly signed a five-year contract, will be introduced Saturday morning in a press conference at the Nittany Lion Inn. The press conference will be carried live at 11:30 a.m. on Big Ten Network and BTN.com.

O’Brien, 42, is wrapping up his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Patriots, his first NFL team after 14 seasons as a college assistant. (There’s a nice career summary here.) His first coaching gig was as an assistant at Brown, his alma mater. Of course, Brown is Joe Paterno’s alma mater, as well.

Paterno released a statement Friday evening congratulating O’Brien, a subtle but symbolically prominent message that contrasted with the disgruntled response of former Nittany Lion players like Brandon Short and LaVar Arrington. Other former Lions, notably All-Americans Kerry Collins and Shane Conlan, went on the record with their support for O’Brien and their hope that Penn Staters would rally around the new hire.

What’s certain is that the emotional strain of the past two months, compounded by a lengthy and largely secretive hiring process led by acting athletic director Dave Joyner, brought out a variety of responses from former players, and from the broader Penn State family. What’s less certain is the fate of the current coaching staff: As of late Friday, Tom Bradley no longer held the interim head coach title, but it appeared he and the rest of the Lions coaches were still employed and remained candidates for the new staff.

The other uncertainty? Whether O’Brien, who’s never been a head coach at any level, is ultimately the right guy for the job. On Saturday, he’ll start the task of convincing Penn Staters.

In the meantime, here are a few links that shed some light on just who Bill O’Brien is: a profile that mentions the health challenges endured by the older of his two sons; a few from the steady stream of references vouching for O’Brien’s personality and coaching acumen; and coverage of O’Brien’s heated sideline argument this season with Patriots all-pro quarterback Tom Brady (you can see it here, although don’t read lips if you’re easily offended), after which Brady said, “I deserved to be yelled at.” That public tiff was the first time most football fans knew O’Brien’s name.

He’ll never be so anonymous again.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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Reports: Bill O’Brien Is Penn State’s Next Football Coach A Note About an ‘Unknown’ Coach

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Vince Verbeke  |  January 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I will welcome our new coach. Please recall that our previous head coach, Joe Paterno, was not hired as a “Penn Stater” either. He came from the ‘outside’ as well. Joe became a Penn Stater as he lived here and raised his family.

    I was not raised as a “Penn Stater” either. I attended both the DuBois and University Park campuses. From there I have developed my love and committment for Penn State (which is now being tested).

    I can only hope that Coach O’Brien will take his family up Mt. Nittany on a nice spring weekend, look out over the valley, and feel the call of “home” that we as “Penn Staters” all feel. (and if he needs a guide, please send me an email).

  • 2. MJ  |  January 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    As a proud Penn Stater, I stand behind our University, our Alumni Association, and our teams. I hope we will all welcome the new football coach.

    It’s time to move forward, to concentrate on and promote all the wonderful things our University does…we have such incredible faculty and research and accomplishment.

    I am astonished that some folks would withdraw support of our University because they disagree with how the crisis has been/is being handled. We are….so much more than football.

  • 3. John Willson  |  January 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    How can one express their extreme displeasure with the despicable manner that Joe Paterno was treated except by withholding their monetary support. After all, the Trustees rule the University.

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