The Next Chapter of the Rivalry: Bill O’Brien vs. Urban Meyer

Story posted October 26, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Garofalo

Every year since 1990, Penn State and Ohio State have played an annual Big Ten Conference game, and it has developed into a fantastic rivalry. Whether on the field or on the sidelines this rivalry continues to grow each and every year, and this year is no different.

After disappointing seasons in which unforeseen circumstances developed, both teams entered the 2012 season with new leaders at coach. At Ohio State, the Buckeyes hired the highly successful and accomplished Urban Meyer.

Penn State, on the other hand, didn’t go out and hire a well-known, highly accomplished coach. They hired a man who earned his way to the top, in Bill O’Brien.

But their experience as head coach isn’t the only quality which separates these two aspiring coaches, who plan to add many chapters to the rivalry that is Penn State-Ohio State over the coming years. As a football coach, not only is one representing themselves and his team, but he is representing an entire university.

This right here is what makes this new dynamic of the rivalry so appealing. Both Urban Meyer and Bill O’Brien exemplify many qualities one would want in a coach, but, in the end, one clearly projects a better image for his school.

The first quality coaches are most-often judged on is also the most obvious one: winning. In Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have hired someone who is arguably the best in the business at that. With a career record of 112-23, which is a winning percentage of .828, Meyer has won two BCS National Champions and eyes to continue that success where his career began, at Ohio State.

With Bill O’Brien, Penn State has a man who over the last 20 years has coached with four universities and the New England Patriots. But unlike Meyer, he has never been a head coach before. Entering the 2012 season, many were unsure of what to expect from this rookie of a head coach with all the developments of the last twelve months at Penn State, and yet so far he has shined. After starting 0-2, the Penn State Nittany Lions have won five in a row and are anxiously awaiting Saturday’s game versus Meyer’s 8-0 squad. The public worry for O’Brien after players transferred and the sanctions, was what would he be able to get out of his players and potential recruits.

Being able to maximize your current players talents in addition to how a coach recruits, is the next important quality. Everyone knows just because an athlete coming out of high school as a five-star recruit doesn’t exactly mean they will be be very good. This is where the role of the coach comes into play.

Urban Meyer has often been labeled the best recruiter in the country, a label many use to point to his success. But, is that really why he is so successful? Not at all. Urban Meyer may bring in some of the best high school football players in the nation each year, but he is still the reason for their success. His schemes and system are designed to most perfectly fit each and every player.

For example, look at Tim Tebow. At Florida, Tebow put up statistics which rank him among the all-time greats and now he is a backup in the NFL. And while Tebow is a fantastic athlete, his success in college was partially due to Meyer.

Bill O’Brien, on the other hand, presents a different situation. As mentioned earlier, one can’t entirely say how great O’Brien will be, despite his first year success. But that first year is all we have to analyze, and in that year he has done an incredible job.

In recruiting, O’Brien has managed to maintain a top twenty-five class for the 2013 season. Including verbal commitments from the top quarterback Christian Hackenberg and top tight end Adam Breneman. Being able to secure such players is truly a testament of Coach O’Brien and the coach he is.

His coaching abilities can also be seen in how he has developed players this season. From Matt McGloin, to Allen Robinson, to even Kyle Carter, O’Brien has taken guys who hadn’t show much in the last year or two and turned them into stars in the making.

In regards to this quality, or aspect, both coaches shine as a whole. Meyer has a slight edge in recruiting, based on his longevity of success, but what O’Brien has done to get the best out of his players is remarkable. The final and arguably most important quality is how a coach represents themselves, and their university.

For much of the last decade the image of the man on the sidelines, in Paterno versus Tressel, has been advantage Penn State. Now those sidelines are roamed by two different, yet similar men. Throughout his career, Urban Meyer has had many players commit NCAA violations and had many people question his morals.

With Bill O’Brien, nothing over the course of this year has shown this to be the case. As a man who constantly preaches the importance of success in the classroom, in addition to the football field, O’Brien has continued the values and traditions many people here at Penn State and throughout the country have grown to love. The story on O’Brien still has many unwritten chapters left to be made, but thus far he has come off as a better image for a university than his counterpart in Urban Meyer.

The Penn State-Ohio State rivalry has grown to extraordinary levels over the last 20 years and the inclusion of these coaches will only continue that. In Urban Meyer, Ohio State has gotten a winner, recruiter and overall incredible football coach. In Bill O’Brien, Penn State found a man who, while unproven, exemplifies all the qualities one could want in a coach.

Over the next few years we will all be witnesses to just how great each of these men will be as head coach, and if we’re lucky their success will further the passion and heart that goes into this rivalry. For now, Meyer may be the better coach, but O’Brien is on the rise.

Joe Garofalo is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email