Does anybody remember just two short years ago when Penn State hired an unknown guy to replace the legendary Joe Paterno as head coach of the Nittany Lions? There was public outcry from both fans and famous alumni. Those who were upset with the hiring felt it was rushed and not thought through. Some were also upset that someone with ties to the school was not hired for the job. Now, there is some public outcry once again. This time, it’s from now-adoring fans who don’t want to see their beloved Bill O’Brien leave the university.
With reports that NFL teams are again interested in O’Brien and the recent news that the school lowered his contract buyout, making it easier for NFL teams to lure him away, it seems a forgone conclusion that O’Brien will leave Penn State…. at some point. Whether that day comes in the coming weeks or next year, it seems to be a likely scenario.
When O’Brien was hired to coach at Penn State, few knew much about him. I’ll admit, I only knew him as the coach who got into Tom Brady’s face on the sideline during a New England Patriots game. However, O’Brien brought an impressive resume with him to Happy Valley, one that included work in both the collegiate and professional levels of football.
Despite the anonymity of O’Brien’s name and the stir he caused with some when he decided to break tradition by placing player names on the backs of the jerseys, the Penn State community quickly turned and offered praise and support to the new coach. In his first year as a head coach, he had to face unbelievable circumstances when the NCAA hammered the school with sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Instead of sulking and making excuses, O’Brien went about his business and worked hard everyday. That had work resulted in an eight-win season and earned him the respect of an entire university.
O’Brien followed up his successful 2012 campaign with a seven-win season in 2013. Things were more of a struggle for the Nittany Lions in O’Brien’s second year due to scholarship reductions and the fact that so many talented leaders had graduated from the previous team.
Now, with all the talk to O’Brien leaving for the NFL, fans are once again upset. No one wants to see the man who helped keep the program afloat when it could have totally sunk leave. I myself love the culture that O’Brien has in place and the way he does things at Penn State. However, I’m not going to be mad or blame the guy if he leaves for the NFL. He’s already done far more for the school than I could have hoped for in the wake of everything that happened.
The day that O’Brien decides to leave Penn State, whenever that may be, is sure to be a sad one. However, the Penn State community can take solace in the fact that the groundwork he has done over the past two years will set the program up for continued success in the future.
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