- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - In Bill O'Brien, Penn State picked a Happy Valley outsider to take over a storied program that had run into turbulent times in the final days of longtime coach Joe Paterno.

One of O'Brien’s tasks as the Nittany Lions’ first new coach in nearly a half-century will be to win over several former players and alumni who are skeptical about the hiring of a replacement without Penn State ties or angered by the search process triggered by Paterno’s firing Nov. 9.

Good luck.

The New England Patriots‘ offensive coordinator will be formally introduced at a news conference on campus in the Nittany Lion Inn ballroom at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

“I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Penn State football program,” the 42-year-old O'Brien said in a statement. “As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do.”

He said that encompassed coaches, players and anyone else involved in the 125-year-old football program.

“There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and (we) will never, ever take that for granted,” O'Brien said.

Former NFL linebacker Brandon Short, now an investment banker in New York, supported interim coach Tom Bradley, citing the longtime assistant’s role in helping to maintain the program’s high academic standards. He also praised Bradley’s ability to guide the team through the crisis that enveloped the program starting two months ago when child sex abuse charges were filed against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Short and fellow standout linebacker LaVar Arrington had organized a petition in support of Bradley’s candidacy. Before the announcement Friday night of O'Brien’s hiring, Short had said he would consider cutting his relationship with the school if someone without Penn State ties was hired, and that there might be a “large backlash” from other former players.

“I guess we’ll just have to see how it works out,” Short said Friday morning, hours before O'Brien’s hiring was made official. “For Penn State’s sake _ hopefully they end up making the right decision.”

Others, including former quarterback Kerry Collins, asked lettermen to give O'Brien a chance.

“Whether you agree or disagree with his hiring, we should support him,” Collins said in a statement Friday night, according to the Reading Eagle. “Instead of chastising him for not being a Penn Stater, let’s show him what it means to be a Penn Stater. … Let’s support him in any way we can.”

Some fickle, fed-up Penn State fans also took to social media to debate O'Brien’s resume and qualifications. While instrumental in running the Patriots‘ prolific offense, O'Brien has never been a head coach.

Now he’s replacing Paterno, a Hall of Fame coach who won 409 games, the most in Division I, in 46 seasons on the job. And he’ll be taking over a proud program tarnished by a scandal that also led to the departure of President Graham Spanier.

O’Brien and Paterno do share one connection _ both attended Brown University.

Story Continues →