For the fourth time since the 2012 regular season ended, Bill O’Brien has received a national honor for the coaching job he did at Penn State under less-than-ideal circumstances.
At a gala in Houston, Tex., Thursday night, it was announced that O’Brien was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year award. In its 27th year, the award is named in honor of the iconic head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Last year’s winner was Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.
“This is a huge honor for the Penn State program, for a great group of players and a great coaching staff,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The other coaches here are phenomenal coaches who have done this for a long time. I’ve only done this for a year. It shows what type of coaching staff and the type of players we had this year. It is a program award.”
In his first season with the Nittany Lions, and in the initial phase of stifling NCAA sanctions, O’Brien led Penn State to an 8-4 record overall and 6-2 in Big Ten play. The only conference losses were to division winners Nebraska and Ohio State.
Following the bowl-less 2012 season, O’Brien’s name was connected to multiple head-coaching vacancies at the NFL level. After at least two interviews with pro clubs, O’Brien announced earlier this month that he would be returning to the Nittany Lions.
In addition to this award, O’Brien has received coach-of-the-year honors from the prestigious Maxwell Club and the Big Ten as well as ESPN since season’s end.
Ironically enough, the first recipient of Bryant award in 1986 was Joe Paterno, the disgraced icon who O’Brien replaced last year in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal.