Penn State looks to recover image with O’Brien


By Nathan Krohn

It’s not uncommon that a major university is brought to shame by the athletic department. USC and the University of Miami were put under a negative spotlight most recently for recruitment violations committed by the athletic departments. This kind of attention is no doubt embarrassing for any proud school. That is why the scandal that occurred at Penn State University went beyond embarrassment to down right despicable.

Most people are familiar with the Penn State scandal. Jerry Sandusky, an assistant coach at Penn State under Head Coach Joe Paterno, was charged with child molestation. That would have been crime enough, but several coaches, including Paterno, were notified of the abuse and said nothing to authorities.

The scandal resulted in a mid-season firing of the 85-year-old Paterno. Paterno had been the coach of the Nittany Lions for 46 years, became the only coach to amass over 400 victories, and was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After Paterno’s firing, Penn State promoted Tom Bradley as the interim head coach to complete the season. With tremendous distractions looming, Penn State football finished the season with a record of 1-3, capped off by a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl to the University of Huston.

Despite his efforts in a near impossible situation, Bradley, a long time assistant at the school, was fired.

As the school attempts to wipe away the past and make a new name for itself, Penn State chose to bring in an outsider named Bill O’Brien to be their new head coach.

O’Brien spent this past year as the Offensive Coordinator for the New England Patriots and has been on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff since 2009.

O’Brien has coached a Patriots offense that ranks amongst the top five in almost every statistical category, and few question his ability as a coach.

At the news conference introducing O’Brien as head coach, he said, “I feel like I’m a mentally tough guy right now. I feel like I’m the right guy.” That is where the questions arise, if O’Brien is really the right coach for a program trying to bounce back from such a massive black eye.

Earlier this season, after Tom Brady threw a fourth quarter interception in the end zone, a long and expletive-filled exchange on the sideline between O’Brien and Brady was caught on camera.

When O’Brien was head coach of Duke University from 2003- 07, his former players described him as “hot-tempered but with a purpose.” He has also been labeled as an “old-school football coach.”

It seems obvious that O’Brien is a tough, no-nonsense coach, but is that really what the players and the program need after such a negative ordeal? Some feel a softer, more understanding coach would be a more appropriate choice. The players were put through a lot this season, and the school is in a delicate state. Maybe an “old-school” coach with a hot temper isn’t what they need right now. That type of coach is for underachieving and underperforming programs that need to be woken up. This school was just the center of possibly the biggest scandal in college sports history and doesn’t need waking from anything.

It will be interesting to see if O’Brien and his “hot temper” can quickly turn the Penn State program around. If he is unable to, many will question if he was in fact the right type of coach under the unique circumstances.