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Report: no out in O’Brien’s Penn State contract

Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania Reuters

One of myriad storylines heading into today’s historic announcement of sanctions on Penn State football was what impact debilitating and crippling penalties would have on Bill O’ Brien‘s future as the Nittany Lions’ head coach.

Specifically, the thought was that, if the sanctions were severe enough, O’ Brien may look to bolt the job he took less than seven months ago.  Technically that could very well happen, although it would cost the coach millions of dollars.

According to Sara Ganim of the Patriot-News, O’ Brien’s five-year contract with Penn State contains no out clause, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer wrote, “that would allow him to leave if the football program is suspended… or if the NCAA imposed unprecedented and harsh sanctions.”

If O’ Brien were to resign, his contract calls for the coach to repay the university his annual base salary for every year remaining on the deal.  As his base salary is $950,000, he would owe the university $4.75 million.

Alas, it doesn’t appear a search for a new head football coach will be in Penn State’s future.

In a statement released shortly after the sanctions were announced, O’ Brien reiterated his dedication to both the football program and the university, saying in part that “I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead.”

“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.”

O’Brien’s first order of business will be to attempt to keep as many of his current players and members of his 2012 recruiting class from bolting. As part of the NCAA sanctions, current players are free to transfer anywhere and be eligible to play immediately, while incoming freshman can be released from their Letters of Intent if they so desire.

That process began at 10 a.m. this morning with a team meeting, which concluded shortly before 10:30.

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18 Responses to “Report: no out in O’Brien’s Penn State contract”
  1. allmyteamsareterrible says: Jul 23, 2012 10:42 AM

    Good luck Mr. O’Brien, the Lord knows you’re going to need it.

  2. stoutfiles says: Jul 23, 2012 10:43 AM

    All the players should leave. No one should want to play for such a dirty school right now.

  3. bauman007 says: Jul 23, 2012 10:46 AM

    If you think about it though, he has all the pressure of winning off of him, however he’s got a tough road ahead to recruit.

  4. bustermcthunderstick1 says: Jul 23, 2012 10:50 AM

    I would love to sit here and comment on this but I now have a chance to be a starting “whatever I want” at Penn St once all of these players bail….

  5. rajbais says: Jul 23, 2012 11:06 AM

    You see people!!

    That’s why suspending the program because of a predecessor’s offense was a bad idea!!!

    O’Brien is a person too and deserves praise for not seeking a sleazy sneak-out clause in his contract!!!

    Give this guy a chance and some courtesy for a change!!!

    My God!!! If everyone was so smart they would’ve known that Joe Paterno was behind all this crap before the Freeh Report!!! Then the pressure to suspend football would’ve made more sense because you don’t have to hire a coach or recruit players!!!

    Again, Jerry Sandusky’s mess was a personal and individual problem and not a football team problem!!! Teams have coaches and players and if it were a football team problem players would’ve been implicated and eventually punished by the NCAA as well!!!

  6. houndofthebaskervols says: Jul 23, 2012 11:14 AM

    That explains the look on OBrien’s face. “I signed what???” LOL

    Well it looks like PSU at least has a head coach for the next several years, now where are the assistants going to come from ?

  7. huskersrock1 says: Jul 23, 2012 11:16 AM

    This has the makings of a movie about O’brien trying to get fired.

  8. alligatorsnapper says: Jul 23, 2012 11:35 AM

    With Penn State players now allowed to leave and a reduction of scholarships from 25 to 15, with the $60 Million fine to establish a fund to help those children who suffer sexual child abuse, and the other sanctions will truly make O’Brien’s next 4 years or more at Penn State quite a challenge. This directly affects his team (or the team he is left to coach).

    There are a few coaches nearby who will try to gobble up all the cream of Penn State’s offense and defense. If O’Brien can do reasonably well, he needs a bonus, just like Al Golden needs one for handling the mess he inherited. It is going to be a rough next 4 years or more for O’Brien.

  9. righton989 says: Jul 23, 2012 11:47 AM

    Mike McQuery ready to offer his coaching, recruiting and leadership qualities to rebuild Penn State’s reputation. Mike’s commitment is evident when he tells the coach, “I’m ready to walk that Second Mile with you.”

  10. j0esixpack says: Jul 23, 2012 12:00 PM

    Maybe he wanted to be there come hell or high water –

    But I get the feeling O’Brien and his agent screwed up on this one by not only failing to give him an “out” that would have paid him well even if the program were suspended – but by screwing up even more by forcing O’Brien HIMSELF to pay out millions if he wanted to get on with his football coaching career.

    It seems to me if they had correctly gauged the potential of the program being suspended, this contract would read very differently.

  11. muir6 says: Jul 23, 2012 12:08 PM

    Weak right on not even funny

  12. mountaineer50415 says: Jul 23, 2012 12:12 PM

    Are you kidding me. When did a contract stop any one. Can we have a comment from RichRod?
    If he wants out I believe there is a lawyer somewhere that can get him out. If he stays, just maybe some of the kids will stay also.
    Can not immagine anyone with a pro dream staying. But you never know.

  13. rickrock6661982 says: Jul 23, 2012 12:39 PM

    Bill needs to pull a George Costanza in trying to get fired.

    No one would blame him and it would be funny to watch.

  14. mvp43 says: Jul 23, 2012 1:33 PM

    Well, on the brightside all he needs now is 299 wins to surpass Paterno…

  15. raysfan1 says: Jul 23, 2012 1:33 PM

    I feel (a little) bad for the guy. His contract is not up for renewal until the probation is done. However, he really should have been able to anticipate something like this.

    I agree with ‘eers above to an extent. I doubt O’Brien will be the head coach in 5 years. However, for the RichRod example to work, someone else has to want him bad enough to help pay the exit penalty. O’Brien simply does not yet have the kind of track record RichRod did when UM went after him, so that scenario is unlikely. I also don’t think he has much shot at putting up eye-popping numbers at PSU the next few years either. I think the most likely is he either gets let go at some point and goes back to the NFL as an assistant coach, or leaves on his own to go back to the NFL as an assistant in after 3-4 years when the exit fee won’t be so high.

  16. CBFAN says: Jul 23, 2012 1:38 PM

    I can’t imagine any of the players would want to stay at this point, unless maybe they are going into their senior year or are not good enough to transfer and play at another school.

  17. gifforrh says: Jul 23, 2012 2:09 PM

    Quite honestly unless Mr. O’Brien wants to relegate himself to a caretaker, I believe he is doing himself and his family a disservice by staying. He is giving up a promising career in the NFL or major college program to continue in a position where he has no opportunity to achieve the provisions of his contract because of the sanctions. (I am certain any quality football organization could mitigate the penalties in his contract with PSU ) In addition he will be going from dealing with All-Pros at New England to second or third tier football players who will not be able to play at the level necessary to successfully implement his offensive schemes. He had nothing to do with PSU and although altruism is the Kool-Aid of the day he needs to think of what is best for himself and his family. The longer he stays at PSU, the more difficult it will be to move to a quality program. Of course if his career aspirations are to work in a lower stress job with little chance of advancement, he is probably in the right place. And I am a PSU graduate with season tickets.

  18. granadafan says: Jul 23, 2012 2:28 PM

    Of course the NCAA has to punish the schools. They are the employers and have to be held accountable. They received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations and built fabulous facilities. If the schools were no punished there would be no incentive to comply with rules. They’d just let the coaches run rampant recruiting wise with lots of extra cheating benefits and just “fire” the coach. There HAS to be consequences.

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