Bill O’Brien Introduced as Penn State Head Football Coach

Audio/Story posted January 7, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Patrick Woo Updated: January 31, 2012

Penn State introduced its 15th head coach in the 125-year history of the football program as New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien took to the podium in the ballroom of the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's campus.

"This is unbelievable," said the 42-year-old O'Brien.

O'Brien was introduced fifty-nine days after Penn State dismissed legendary head coach Joe Paterno in wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse allegations. He takes over a program trying to restore its image.

It's also never easy to replace a legend like Paterno, major college football's all-time winningest coach.

"I'm not here to be Joe Paterno," O'Brien said. "There's only one Joe Paterno. What I'm going to try to do is be Bill O'Brien."

O'Brien knows what he's up against in restoring trust in the program and following Paterno. He said he enjoyed watching Penn State football growing up because of "the helmets, the uniforms, the black cleats, no names on the back of the jerseys, and also because of the man on the sidelines, Coach Paterno."

O'Brien last coached at the college level in 2006 as the offensive coordinator at Duke. He began his coaching career at his alma-mater, Brown, as the tight ends coach in 1993 before moving on to Georgia Tech. He also spent time at Maryland under Ralph Friedgen.

Duke averaged 15.5 points per game and went 1-22 in O'Brien's two seasons. There has been a lot of criticism about O'Brien not being a part of the Penn State "family" and not having previous head coaching experience.

"I understand that there's some controversy out there right now. I can see it. I understand that," O'Brien said. "But it's my job to head it in the right direction."

O'Brien will remain with the Patriots through the NFL playoffs. If the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, O'Brien will be committed through Feb. 5. National Signing Day for recruits is Feb. 1 and it's not likely O'Brien will be able to recruit, but he is confident Penn State is still a destination for many of the nation's top players.

"What is not to sell about Penn State? Atmosphere, facilities, 108,000-seat stadium. The people here, the faculty, the students, the passion that they have for football, the ability to get a meaningful degree, to graduate from Penn State," O'Brien said. "I believe in myself. I believe in Penn State."

O'Brien acknowledged the traditions and what Penn State football should be like.

"It is my responsibility to ensure that this football program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity," he said. "There's so much pride in Penn State, and we will never, ever take that for granted, ever."

The 2012 football season will be the first for O'Brien in the Big Ten, but he said they always have the Big Ten Network on Saturdays. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz's son, Brian, is the tight ends coach in New England.

"It's an impressive league with a bunch of good coaches and a lot of great players," O'Brien said of the Big Ten.

O'Brien concluded by reading a letter he wrote to the alumni. "We want you to know that you will always be welcome and a part of our program because we are Penn State," he read.

It was also announced that defensive line coach Larry Johnson will be retained on the new staff. O'Brien expects to have this entire staff together by Wednesday and will interview all members of the current staff, he said.


The full press conference is available below. O'Brien himself begins speaking around the 3:50 mark (allow time for the player to appear and load):