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Bill O’Brien set for new era at Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Sporting a Nittany Lions pin on the lapel of his dark gray jacket, Bill O'Brien took the podium, looked straight ahead and introduced himself with two quick, no-nonsense sentences.
“I feel like I’m a mentally tough guy right now. I feel like I’m the right guy.”
And with that, O’Brien, 42, the New England Patriots‘ offensive coordinator the past four years, was off and running at his first briefing as Penn State’s new head football coach, the school’s first in nearly a half century.
It is his first head-coaching job.
“This is unbelievable,” he said.
Actually, for many Penn State fans and former players all over the country, how this all came to be is exactly that — unbelievable.
Until Nov. 9, the Nittany Lions had been directed by the same person for 46 seasons — Joe Paterno, who was fired that day in the aftermath of a child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The case also forced the school president to resign.
Not only is O'Brien replacing Division I’s winningest coach, he is joining a still-reeling school attempting to steer its way through federal, NCAA and Big Ten inquiries - not to mention criminal proceedings against former administrators. Sandusky, meantime, is awaiting trial after waiving a preliminary court hearing last month. He has denied the charges.
The new coach said he would pull together his staff during the next two or three days, and get the assistants on the recruiting trail immediately while he works with New England. He will retain assistant Larry Johnson from Paterno’s staff to coach the defensive line.
“I’m going to surround myself with good people,” O'Brien said, “and I’m excited to do that.”
His five-year contract, finalized Friday, included base compensation starting at $950,000, with a 5 percent increase each season. O'Brien will also collect another $1 million a year for radio and television work, as well as a $350,000 Nike contract.
The base package is roughly on par with Paterno’s compensation, which was about $1.02 million last year - a relative bargain for a coach with two national championships. Until now, Penn State never released details of salary from endorsement deals outside the school.
O’Brien joined New England in 2007 following 14 seasons on the college level, including stops at Duke, Maryland and Georgia Tech. The Patriots are third in the NFL overall in scoring (32.1 points per game), and second in total offense (428 yards) and passing (317.8 yards).
Penn State finished a 9-4 campaign with a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl to Houston on Jan. 2. The Nittany Lions relied on defense much of the year after the offense struggled with a two-quarterback system.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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