06 January 2012

Penn State, Bill O'Brien, and Me

I've attended three different colleges; well, four if you include two classes at Penn State that I had to drop out of because I was deployed to Iraq. I suppose that is not enough to consider myself an alumnus, so I never have. But I worked at Penn State for three years at the NROTC unit, and I have been a Penn State fan since I can remember. I bleed blue and white. I held season tickets for several years. I consider myself as much as part of the Penn State family as any. Joe Paterno was, and still is, near the top of the list of the men I admire the most.

I felt like I was punched in the gut when Joe was fired. I felt dazed. Begrudgingly, I understood why he had to go. Anyone who has spent any time at Penn States knows that JoePa is legend, but they also quickly understand that Penn State is so much bigger than Joe or even football. So much bigger.

I held onto hope that Tom Bradley would get the job, but I figured he didn't have much of a chance. I hoped that a coach like Chris Peterson could be lured away from Boise State; under any other circumstances, he might have accepted.

So when word came down yesterday that Penn State was hiring Bill O'Brien, I didn't know what to think. Until this week he was a (mostly) anonymous coordinator in the NFL. I suspect few people even knew who he was, if they weren't Patriots fans. I didn't.

Many former players are upset about the process. They are members of a close-knit fraternity that we in the public can never understand, so they ought to have their say.

Under other circumstances, the head coaching job at Penn State is probably one of the top ten coaching jobs in college football. Could you really disagree? But the combination of the Sandusky scandal and following in the footsteps of a legend makes this job a very tough climb.

Bill O'Brien had the guts to step up to a monumental challenge that others passed by, and for that he deserves a clean slate. As a fan, I am ready to lend him my support.

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