When he decided to take on the job as Joe Paterno's successor as Penn State head coach, former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien knew that there would be trouble ahead in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. But there's no way that he could have ever imagined what transpired on Monday.
Yesterday, the NCAA made their voice heard as they handed down harsh and unprecedented penalties to the University. NCAA President Mike Emmert, with the help of several advisers, made life a whole lot harder for O'Brien and the new era of Penn State Football. He handed handed down these sanctions:
- A four-year postseason ban for Penn State Football
- The loss of several available scholarships for the next four years
- A hefty fine of $60 million
- The right for current Penn State players to transfer to any school of their choice (penalty free)
- Five years of University probation
- The vacation of every win, dating back to 1998
Say what you want about about the severity of the punishment, but when I look at this, only one of these punishes someone connected to the Sandusky Scandal. The rest, clear setbacks for a University and a new coach who are trying to move forward.
Because of these sanctions, which the University did fully accept, the future of Nittany Lion football is clearly in jeopardy. Not only is the program losing opportunity to go out and recruit new talent, they are also likely to lose grasp on current players, as some will likely seek a transfer.
Because of one sick human being and a bunch of cowardly high-ranking school officials, Penn State Football has officially reached rock bottom. Recruits will no longer look at Penn State as the place it once was with the lovable "JoePa" leading the way. They look at this program as a dead end road--a program with little to no opportunity.
But one thing that Penn State did very well through all of this, was to appoint the right person to lead this football team through this challenge. That person is Bill O'Brien.
When O'Brien joined the Patriots back in 2007 as an offensive assistant, the team was in the middle of the infamous Spygate Scandal. While O'Brien had nothing to do with the scandal itself, he was able to observe just how well Robert Kraft and mentor Bill Belichick handled all of the scrutiny.
During the Spygate Scandal, Belichick was fined $500,000 and lost his first-round draft choice in the next year's draft. How did he come out of it? Pretty well, if you ask me.
Because he's already been a part of a program that has faced severe public scrutiny, O'Brien should at least be prepared to handle the negative vibe that will surround Penn State for years to come.
Belichick has also benefited O'Brien through his way of running his football team. Through the midst of the Spygate Scandal, Belichick was able to keep his players' trust and devotion. While some extremists believe the Belichick is a "cheater", players don't seem to think so. Last time I checked, a lot of NFL stars still have desire to play for the New England Patriots.
For O'Brien, lessons from his mentor will be key in retaining and recruiting new players to Penn State. He needs to let his current players know that he's got their backs, and that under his direction, they will clear all of the hurdles that they face the next four seasons. There is no doubt in my mind that O'Brien will consult his former boss during these tough times.
As for the recruiting aspect, O'Brien is probably the most important asset Penn State has. He's a Belichick pupil who is a hard-nosed coach who isn't afraid to stand up to the likes of Tom Brady. He's arguably one of the best offensive minds in College Football who has NFL ties that aspiring players can take advantage of.
For Penn State, a tough road lies ahead. Their reputation as a great football institution is clearly in jeopardy. But in order to get back to where they were, they are going to need strong leadership at the helm of their football team to help guide them through these tough times. Bill O'Brien is the kind of coach who can help restore order in Happy Valley.