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July 24, 2012Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien spoke with Bonnie Bernstein on this morning's Dan Patrick Show in his first interview following the NCAA sanctions handed down Monday.
Read the complete transcript, here:
BB: Did you know before the rest of us did?
OB: No. I found out about the sanctions at 9 a.m. with the press conference.
BB: Did you have any suspicion of how things would play out?
OB: I knew at that time, going into that press conference, I knew that there was a chance that these would be - like I said in my statement - harsh penalties. But, I didn't know exactly what they would be.
BB: What message did you share with your players yesterday?
OB: Well, the first thing I told them was, I talked about why I came to Penn State and why I brought this staff to Penn State. There's so many things that go into that, but number one was I thought that this was a place that could combine great academics with good, tough, hard-nosed football. None of that has changed. I talked to them about the discussions that I had with my family in coming to Penn State. And, I talked to them about the fact that I felt like I could coach good, tough, hard-nosed kids that really cared about getting a great education. And none of that has changed. I've been very proud of this football team, to this point, over the last few days and really, over the last six months, Bonnie. They've been through a lot of stuff and in our line of work, it's about the players. I couldn't be associated with a better group of players.
BB: Being a woman, I always think about family first. What have your discussions been like with your wife as this has played out? There were so many coaches who wouldn't have touched this. The risk you're taking is pretty extraordinary.
OB: I think the first time we spoke about Penn State, back when the job was offered to me - we're both very well-educated people, Colleen and I - and we knew that we have a very strong belief in the combination of academics and athletics, because that's the way we were brought up in our respective families. We've been faced with challenges in our personal life up to this point, and we knew that that's the most important thing, that anything that had to do with football and our football program and being a first time head coach was something that we could definitely take on. And, no matter what the circumstances were, we were positive people and we felt good about the people that were in charge here at Penn State that hired me, and none of that has changed.
BB: The question right now is, who is staying and who is going? Reports are that USC is pursuing Silas Redd. Have the two of you had a conversation?
OB: Again, when the NCAA handed down their sanctions yesterday, one of the things that they stated, as everybody knows, is that these kids could transfer without penalty, and that other schools could contact these kids virtually by just emailing our compliance office and letting them know that they're going to be contacting them. I'm not going to get into any conversations that I had with individual players. I'm going to tell you that I've been very proud of these players over the last two or three days. I know that there's some tough times that they've had to deal with over the last six, seven, eight months. They're talking to their families right now, but again, what I've reiterated to these kids over and over and over again is, why they're here. They're here to get a fantastic education. That hasn't changed. They're here to play really, really good, tough football. That hasn't changed. We're on TV. We've got the chance to play six, seven bowl games per year in front of 108,000 people at home. I don't know how many bowl games have 108,000 people, but the last time I checked, there aren't any. And so, I feel really good about where we are right now as a football team. I realize that things can change, but we're moving forward. We already have plans in place to how we're going to deal with different things, and we feel very positive about the direction of where we are right now.
BB: Have you had any conversations with current players or incoming recruits who have already said they're here to stay, we're good to go, coach?
OB: No question. I feel that we have some younger players, some players that are in the middle of their careers and certainly, older players, the leaders of our football team...
BB: Could you shed some light on who specifically we're talking about here?
OB: No, I'm not going to get into that. Again, I'm not going to get into individual conversations that I've had, but I can tell you that I've had many, many positive conversations about kids that believe in our staff, our ability to develop these kids as players and people, our ability to develop them for the next level, our ability to make sure that they go to class and receive this great education here, and I've received a great number of positive feedback from our players.
BB: As you've started to digest them, among them all, which is the hardest pill to swallow?
OB: I'll tell you that, in my opinion, the one that was the hardest is the fact that these kids can transfer without penalty, but at the end of the day, that just means that we have to reiterate to our players over and over and over again, which we are doing, why we came here, what this place is all about moving forward with me as the head football coach. I can't pick out one sanction versus another that is just that much harder, but I'll tell you that right now, my main goal is to keep this 2012 football team together, and that's what I'm working very hard to do, every single day.
BB: Who have you sought advice from? My first thought would be Lane Kiffin, because they just finished with their sanctions, but who have you sought out for advice?
OB: It's hard to seek advice from other coaches right now in college because, you know, a lot of those guys are obviously interested in our players so, it's hard to do that. But, I've always sought advice from my wife. I always seek advice from my father. And, I always seek advice from people like Bill Belichick, George O'Leary, and guys that I really have looked up to in my time in coaching. So, I seek advice from people that I've coached in the past. And, everybody that I've spoken to believes in the fact that I'm here, believes in what we're going to try to do here and has been very positive with me. I can't tell you, Bonnie, I've probably received over 150 emails, text messages that have been extremely positive about us being here and where we're headed.
BB: What do you think is the most sage piece of wisdom from all of those emails and calls you've received?
OB: The best piece of advice is, you can't dwell on the past. You've gotta move forward and you've gotta play under the rules of what you've been sanctioned under right now. So, that's what we're doing. We're not dwelling on the past. We've had two great staff meetings over the last two days. We've already put plans in place of how we're going to play under these rules, and we're going to play under these rules and we're going to field a competitive team. I hope that many of our fans are listening to this interview, because I expect our fans to understand that we're moving forward and we're not settling for anything but to try to be the best football program that we can be. And at the end of the day, we're competitive people, we've got competitive players here, and we believe, again, in the mission of Penn State, in my opinion, which is a great combination of athletics and academics.
BB: Are all of your coaches sticking around?
OB: There's no question about that. A lot of the coaches here that I've coached with before, we're in it together. We've all been in tough situations before. There's no other group of men that I'd rather be in a foxhole with and that's what we're doing right now. We've got a great staff. We've got a fantastic staff of teachers, of recruiters, of fathers, of great husbands. We've got a great mix of experience on this staff. Pro experience, college experience, and I really enjoy coming to work every day with these guys.
BB: You kept two coaches from the previous regime, Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden. Why did you decide to do that?
OB: These were two guys that, after talking with the new leaders here at Penn State, Rod Erickson and Dave Joyner, and then also talking to some of our players here at Penn State, that these were two guys that were held in high regard on this football staff, and these were two guys that were excellent teachers, had a proven track record of recruiting, and I'm proud to have them on my staff.
BB: Role playing with Bill O'Brien for a second. I'm a recruit, I'm coming with my parents out to your night game at home against Ohio State at the end of October. What's your sales pitch to me?
OB: Sales pitch?
BB: A blue-chipper.
OB: Again, where do I begin? Number one, I would tell you that you can get a fantastic education here. Bonnie, we offer over 150 different majors here at Penn State. We have so many different things to choose from. We have 45,000 undergraduate students here. They sold out the 25,000 seat section of our stadium very, very quickly, the student section of our stadium, very quickly, and this is a place where you can come and achieve all of your goals. You can come here, you can receive a great education, and you can play fantastic football. Now, what I'll say to them from a football standpoint is, again, you're not going to go to a bowl game. You're not going to be eligible for a Big Ten championship. We understand that. Let's think forward. OK? This staff will develop you to be able to play at the next level. We know what it takes to play at the next level. This staff will make sure that you understand the meaning and the value of this education here. This staff will make you, and can even show you, if it's the Ohio State game, what these fans are all about, which is 108,000 people strong, that will be coming in here this season ready to support their football team. Again, we'll come up with different ways to think about championships during the season here. We'll come up with different bowl game scenarios within our regular season here. But, again, at the end of the day, it's about being able to be developed the best you can as a football player and being able to come here and get a world-renowned education.
BB: How valuable is it of a carrot to say that you just came from being the offensive coordinator for one of the most prolific offensive systems in the NFL in the Patriots?
OB: Well, I think it's very valuable because of my relationships with the guys that I coached for there, that I coached with there, and the guys that I coached. I would never put words in anybody's mouths, but I can tell you that I learned a lot from Bill Belichick. The five years that I spent there were invaluable. He taught me a lot about putting a team together, he taught me a lot about how to strategize, he taught me a lot about evaluation of talent. I was able to coach with a great staff there, and Dante Scarnecchia and Ivan Fears and Chad O'Shea and George Godsey and Josh McDaniels. I've worked with some of the best coaches in the National Football League with the Patriots, and then, obviously, I was able to work with guys like Tom Brady and Wes Welker and Gronkowski and Hernandez and those were highly talented guys that were competitive guys. So, there's no question that I've learned a lot there. We have great relationships with those guys. I do personally. My family does. And, I've taken a lot of what I've learned with the Patriots obviously to Penn State.
BB: Agree or disagree with the Joe Paterno statue coming down? Why?
OB: Well, again, Bonnie, my job is pretty simple. I'm here to really talk to you about the football program. I have three jobs. I have to educate young men on the football field and off the football field. I have to develop young men of character. And, I've gotta win football games. Now, what I'll say about the decisions that have been made over the past six or seven months is, I support Rod Erickson, our president. I support Dave Joyner, our athletic director. They've had to make tough decisions. These are good men, these are good leaders, and that's what I'll say about that.
BB: Give me a percentage of likelihood that you will be in State College when the five years of your contract are up?
OB: I'll tell you what I told my team yesterday, and I said it to them again this morning. I'm committed to this football team. I feel very proud to be associated with this university. I'm proud to be leading this football team. And, I'm proud to be coaching these young men. These guys are fantastic kids that have been through a lot that are working extremely hard, and I'm committed to this football program.
BB: You know that's not a percentage, don't you?
OB: I'm not a mathematician. I can't even get into percentages.
BB: I might buy that if it weren't for the fact that you went to Brown, but I'll let you off the hook because you were nice enough to come on. Thank you so much.
OB: Thanks, Bonnie, I appreciate it.
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