When he left the offensive coordinator position with the New England Patriots to succeed Joe Paterno at Penn State, Bill O'Brien knew that he was taking a severe gamble. But no one could ever have anticipated that something like this would happen.
On Monday, NCAA president Mark Emmert handed down severe punishment to the University for the alleged cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky incidents. As a result, Penn State has been given a $60 million fine, handed down a four-year postseason ban, placed on five years of probation, and has suffered a severe scholarship hit.
Even though he, nor his staff or players, were directly involved in the Sandusky scandal, O'Brien will be the one that will have to pay the harsh penalty. While this sort of setback might provoke someone to leave as quickly as they can, O'Brien says he remains committed to the University and to reshaping Penn State Football. He released the following statement:
Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as head coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.
I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country. I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university.
When looking at this as a Patriots fan, I believe this is a spot where being a Bill Belichick pupil really comes into play. O'Brien came to New England in 2007, during the midst of the Spygate scandal. He was able to hopefully learn from his former boss on how to handle harsh penalties and severe national scrutiny.
Although all of the football related stuff that Bill Belichick passed on to O'Brien will hopefully come into play, I really believe his ability to handle public scrutiny will be very key to his success with the Nittany Lions. There is no school that is more under the microscope than Penn State is right now, but I firmly believe that they chose the best man to help guide this program out of hole that it is in.
Good luck, Billy. We're pulling for you!