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Author shares insight on Bill O’Brien’s departure from Penn State

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

Bill O’Brien left Penn State for the Houston Texans for a number of reasons. The first is likely because it has been a long time dream and ultimate goal of O’Brien to be a head coach in the NFL. After that may be the unstable state of the leadership in place at Penn State and the broken promises left behind after two years on the job.

John U. Bacon, author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, outlined what he believed to be the logic that helped lead O’Brien to accepting an offer made by the Texans earlier this month. His thoughts are mapped out in a column on The Post Game. As a number of Penn State fans may tell you, the assumptions are not all that surprising. Bacon blames the failed leadership at Penn State almost as much as the inviting nature of the sales pitch made by Houston.

From the infighting Penn State Board of Trustees and the handling and response to the somewhat infamous Freeh Report to the apparent lack of concern for O’Brien’s résumé, Bacon suggests there were a number of reasons O’Brien may have been concerned about the job. Many who read Bacon’s book will recognize some of the points illustrated in his column outlining the O’Brien departure. Much of the criticism is aimed at athletics director David Joyner. It didn’t stop there though. Bacon says O’Brien was made promises that simply were not kept by Joyner, including increased pay for assistant coaches and facilities and more. Those promises were not kept, according to Bacon. Perhaps having to pay off a $60 million fine and decreased attendance figures had something to do with that.

“I want to be clear: I love the Penn State fans and always will,” O’Brien told Bacon. “They were incredibly supportive, and the players were great. I love those guys. I just felt that this was the best move for me and my family.”

O’Brien was never a long-term solution for Penn State. He was always going to be more of a transition piece for Penn State from the downfall of the Joe Paterno era to the next face of the program (James Franklin?). O’Brien thrived under the pressure of the situation but always had the NFL on his to-do list. While he did some great things, miraculous even to some extent considering the circumstances, Penn State never should have believed O’Brien would be there for too long.

That said, that does not mean Penn State should not have done their part to hold up their end of the deal.

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13 Responses to “Author shares insight on Bill O’Brien’s departure from Penn State”
  1. scbaby2013 says: Jan 23, 2014 8:36 PM

    I love the expression on his face lol

  2. mrlaloosh says: Jan 23, 2014 8:37 PM

    What? People at Penn State lied? I’m flabbergasted! Cesspool.

  3. cometkazie says: Jan 23, 2014 8:48 PM

    Here we go again . . .

  4. ningenito78 says: Jan 23, 2014 11:33 PM

    It probably really just comes down to the fact that his dream was always to be an NFL head coach. A big time college head coach and and NFL head coach are so different they can almost be considered completely different positions. It makes some sense in that if his heart wasn’t completely into being a college HC it would make it increasingly difficult to deal with boosters, parents, class attendance, recruiting, NCAA compliance officers, sanctions, lawsuits, the friggin Paterno family and their ‘supporters’, etc unless you really LOVED being a college HC. His departure was probably more about his true love as opposed to any kind of reflection on PSU. That being said, as much as I hate to admit it, they most likely found the right guy to take the torch home. In the long run this will have been a good thing for PSU. As much as I hate to admit it….

  5. normtide says: Jan 23, 2014 11:42 PM

    O’Brian did about as good a good that could be done at psu. I can’t think of how anything he did could have been done better. PSU sold have done everything they could to keep him happy. Now they get a chance to do it right with another coach that should thrive there. The football program can’t be run like it’s the 50′s any longer. College football in 2014 is an arms race, and everything moves at the speed of lightning.

  6. cranespy says: Jan 24, 2014 12:40 AM

    And they actually believe James Franklin is the long term solution?

  7. tommy57 says: Jan 24, 2014 6:18 AM

    I doubt ‘…decreased attendance had something to do with it.”

    For the 23rd consecutive season, Penn State’s attendance total for the season ranked in the top five nationally of all 124 Football Bowl Subdivision programs. The 2013 season hit its peak in Happy Valley as 107,884 packed Beaver Stadium for a primetime four-overtime thriller against then undefeated Michigan.

    Penn State drew a total of 676,112 fans at an average of 96,587 per game, off by just 143 fans per game (996 total, 0.1 percent) compared to the 2012 average of 96,730.

    http://www.statecollege.com/news/local-news/penn-state-football-attendance-ranked-no-5-nationally-in-2013,1418111/

  8. corvusrex96 says: Jan 24, 2014 7:01 AM

    He was staying on the job until offerred an NFL HC position. It was really that simple.The only thing surprising was how quickly he was offered job. If he went 2-10 next year at PSU he likley would never get another sniff at an NFL HC he had strike while the iron was hot

  9. mgmac says: Jan 24, 2014 7:38 AM

    O’Brien it has been reported, despised the pro-paterno people.

  10. drsportsjock says: Jan 24, 2014 8:48 AM

    It’s an emotional time! Thanks.
    -drsportsjock

  11. babyfarkmcgeezax says: Jan 24, 2014 10:09 AM

    Bite me, drsportsjock

  12. mogogo1 says: Jan 24, 2014 12:47 PM

    If they actually continued to believe there was a multitude of coaches who could surpass what O’Brien had done, then PSU leadership is totally nuts. Does anybody really see Franklin as a step up? And that’s no criticism of Franklin but just an observation of how well O’Brien did.

  13. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Jan 25, 2014 9:28 PM

    “That said, that does not mean Penn State should not have done their part to hold up their end of the deal.”

    The article did not say Penn State failed to do their part to hold up their end of the deal.

    The article merely stated that was alleged to be O’Brien’s contention.

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