A Profile of Bill O’Brien, and Other Good Reads

August 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

I just finished reading Pete Thamel’s excellent profile of new Penn State football coach BIll O’Brien in today’s New York Times. You really should check it out if you haven’t already.

It’s not the first profile to address the role that O’Brien’s son Jack’s disability plays in the family’s life; among others, our own Ryan Jones ’95 covered that in our July-Aug cover story. Nor is it the first to show that the family’s adversity gives O’Brien a special perspective on the challenges he’s now facing as Penn State’s football coach. But it’s just a very, very good profile. Among other things, I learned that O’Brien’s best friend is Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, and I got a different perspective on O’Brien’s seeming job-hopping over the years before arriving at Penn State.

And it was kinda cool to learn that Patriots coach Bill Belichick took time to sit down with O’Brien during New England’s playoff run last season to help prep O’Brien for his Penn State interview. “I’ll never forget that,” O’Brien tells Thamel. “I’ll never be able to repay him.”

Here are a couple of other articles I’ve read in the past day or so that I’d recommend:

—A GQ interview with Joe Posnanski, author of the new book Paterno, which is getting decidedly mixed reviews.

—A Patriot-News story by Sara Ganim ’08 that contrasts two differing versions of the circumstances under which Graham Spanier stepped down as president: Spanier’s version, as told in media interviews this past week, and that of the trustees who spoke to the New York Times last January.

—An AP story by Harrisburg-based Mark Scolforo, who asked some experts in university governance about Spanier’s claims in the media that he was only on the periphery of the 1998 and 2001 allegations against Jerry Sandusky. Scolforo says the people he talked to “suggest that if Spanier truly didn’t know what was going on, he showed a willful ignorance and a disturbing lack of curiosity” about those situations.

—A Philadelphia Inquirer profile of Spanier that looks a bit at his early life and a lot at his research career before he moved into university administration. The piece quotes several of Spanier’s colleagues at other schools, who express doubt that the man they know would have looked the other way if he had known a sexual predator was on campus.

Tina Hay, editor

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