By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—It appears New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will be Penn State’s new football coach, taking over for the legendary Joe Paterno, a serious collateral casualty amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
You would think hiring O’Brien is a forward move and a good thing. To many, as it turns out, it’s not.
It looks like O’Brien will walk into the eye of an ongoing battle and may have his hands tied before he gets any chance to wipe away the considerable tarnish that’s formed on the perennial power Paterno built for close to half a century. The imminent naming of O’Brien has been greeted with tremendous backlash over how he was hired, and the fact that current Penn State players, and former Penn State players alike, are angry how this was handled and that they weren’t involved at all in the process.
Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington stated publicly to various new outlets, including the Washington Post, “I will put my Butkus [Award] in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage. Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever [Penn State interim coach] Tom Bradley goes, that’s the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I’m done. I’m done with Penn State. If they’re done with us, I’m done with them.”
Closer to home, one player who asked that his name not be used, expressed outrage over the hiring of O’Brien.
“It’s typical, really typical,” the player said. “We weren’t told anything. We had to find out by watching TV, and through word of mouth from each other. The school didn’t let us know anything, the administration didn’t let us know anything. We were all left wondering what was happening next. We weren’t informed about anything. I’m sure Coach O’Brien is a quality coach, or he wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place.
“But I can tell you this, there are a lot of guys pretty pissed off right now. It’s like the team doesn’t matter. No one has told us anything, or kept us informed as to what would happen with Coach Paterno, and what is going to happen with the current staff here now. It looks like they’re all gone. We waited two months for our new coach, and now we’re going to have to wait a few more weeks before we find out who our position coaches and coordinators will be.”
Penn State went from a program that sold recruits on stability, to a program now rife with instability. Getting a staff together and communicating with his new team has to be among O’Brien’s first priorities. To do that, it appears as if O’Brien will need industrial-strength sized scouring pads for damage control.
“But we won’t know any of that until the Patriots are finished in the playoffs, so that leaves us hanging again,” said another Penn State player. “If [Penn State] handled this in the right way to begin with, been honest and open about Sandusky from the get go, none of this would have had to happen. Now you have a bunch of guys who thought they knew were they stood, and now they don’t know anything.”
Brandon Short, a former Penn State All-American linebacker, told USA Today that he and members of the Lettermen’s Club are upset with Dave Joyner, acting Penn State athletic director and chairman of the search committee, over their exclusion in O’Brien’s hiring.
“Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they’ve turned their backs on our entire family,” Short said.
Said one source close to the Penn State program, “They thought hiring a new coach was going to smooth the chaos. It looks like they’ve only inflamed it more.”