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July 19, 2013The game is still more than a year away, but Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien and athletic director Dave Joyner joined reporters Friday for a teleconference to discuss the news.
The Nittany Lions are going to Ireland.
Hampered by sanctions leveled against the program a year ago, an idea that had been originally floated as a possible workaround to the NCAA's four-year bowl ban gradually took shape and, eventually, has come to fruition.
"Our players are really excited about it," O'Brien said Friday morning via teleconference. "From what I gauge, our players are very excited about going over there to Ireland and the experience, and also, playing a great opponent in UCF, and looking forward to it.
"Now, again, it's a year away, so they're really thinking about the Syracuse game. That's the priority."
Explained thoroughly by Joyner, the process evolved from a simple idea into conversations with multiple different programs and a few different destinations, then eventually, negotiations and settled contracts with head coach George O'Leary's Central Florida squad and Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland.
Now that many of the details have been sorted out and contractually signed, Joyner revealed that tentative travel plans for the team that will make the trip will likely include leaving on either Tuesday or Wednesday and staying through the weekend of the game before returning to Happy Valley, keeping class schedules in mind, of course.
While reactions to the Ireland announcement were the stated reason for the teleconference, O'Brien and Joyner were both asked about matters relating to the NCAA sanctions against the program, as well as O'Brien's presentation to Penn State's Board of Trustees a week ago.
Though neither went into great detail about any possible designs for appealing a reduction of sanctions to the NCAA, O'Brien and Joyner both talked about the progress and levels of success they believe they've made since the penalties were announced.
"I believe this football program is being run the right way. I believe that we have great kids here. I think we work very, very diligently to stay in compliance, just like every program around the country," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of rules to follow and we make our mistakes, but we admit them right away, whether it's a text message or something like that that we shouldn't have sent. So, I think we're in compliance and hopefully at some point in time, the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, hopefully they look at that and they can meet us half way."
"Again, I go back to what I've said from Day One when the sanctions came out. I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place. It's about putting an end to child abuse and it's about the victims, and I get that. I really do. We're doing our part to help put an end to child abuse, but at the same time, I want to do what's right for this program and I think this program is headed in the right direction and behaving well."
Maybe a more pressing concern, O'Brien was also asked about the status of juco transfer quarterback Tyler Ferguson following reports of a possible transfer two weeks ago.
According to O'Brien, Ferguson is still at home but is very much expected back on Penn State's campus for the start of preseason camp on August 5. Somewhat playfully chiding the media for its reaction to the story, O'Brien insisted the news is not an issue.
"I'm not sure what the big deal is with that. He's not back at school. Summer is voluntary. I don't know where we got this ball rolling on whether he was here or not. Summer workouts, summer school, is voluntary," O'Brien said. "So, Tyler has gone home. His mom is sick, he's got a great mom, and he's gone home and he'll be back here for training camp. That's something we made a mountain out of a molehill on that one."
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