Bill O’Brien was hired to take over the head coaching position for the Penn State Nittany Lions football program during a time that seemed like the end of days for a program with an extremely rich history and tradition. Even though the Jerry Sandusky scandal was already in full force, O’Brien and the rest of the Nittany Lions program had no idea that the sanctions that were soon to hit them would be to such a devastating level. The sanctions Penn State would receive would be viewed as “worse than the death penalty,” as they were program crippling.
O’Brien was able to take a hold of his team, both the players that were already on the roster and the incoming recruits, and — for the most part — keep the team together. He spent two seasons at Penn State, going 15-9, when most thought he would be lucky to win 10 games in two years under those sanctions. He was able to get two great recruiting classes, including top quarterback Christian Hackenberg, despite sanctions that would prevent the players from playing in postseason games for the majority of their careers.
But yet a small portion of the Penn State fan base — the Joe Paterno loyalists — never accepted O’Brien. They never even gave him a chance. The majority of the fan base, myself included, was able to accept that O’Brien was the new coach, however, the “Paterno people,” as O’Brien himself would later call them, had a much louder voice. They essentially tried their best to drive O’Brien away. I don’t know if they blamed him for Paterno being fired, which would be ludicrous, or if they just never accepted the fact that the football program relinquished its stone-aged ways that Paterno preferred. Regardless, that portion of the fan base never gave O’Brien a chance, simply because he wasn’t “a true Penn Stater” — give me a break.
David Jones, a local reporter that covers Penn State athletics, interviewed O’Brien in early December. O’Brien’s words went as follows:
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a [expletive] what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.”
O’Brien also included this at the end of his statement:
“That’s why, in probably about a month, they’re gonna be [expletive] looking for a new coach.”
So, yes, it does appear that — to an extent — the Paterno loyalists drove O’Brien away. They certainly didn’t help convince him to stay. Those folks need to move on, and they had better not continue to do the same to the rest of the coaches to follow Paterno. With the way some people treated O’Brien, why would he have even wanted to stay?