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January 7, 2013

O'Brien sets record straight

Penn State's Bill O'Brien is returning to coach the Nittany Lions in 2013 after entertaining a few conversations with brass from NFL organizations in the past week.

This much was already known leading into Monday morning's press conference with the 43-year old head coach, but a scarcity of detail and, more important, an overflowing surge of misinformation, led O'Brien to the Beaver Stadium media room podium before heading to the American Football Coaches Association convention.

Opening with a statement that lasted 15 minutes, O'Brien discussed his hectic week and the decision that he ultimately made to stay at Penn State, cutting conversations with NFL executives before even reaching an offer stage.

"Out of respect for what we did this year, myself and our staff and most importantly, our players - plus some of the things that I have done in the past - a few teams reached out to my representative and we had conversations. That's as far as it went," he said. "At the end of the day, the most important thing is the decision that I made.

"I made the decision to be here at Penn State just like I made that decision a year ago, and I can't think of a better place to be. This is a Top Ten football program. This is one of the best academic institutions in the country, in the world, and I am very, very proud to be the head football coach here. Very proud."

In a direct challenge to some of the opinions and reports criticizing the very nature of his having conversations with NFL teams, O'Brien went further, explaining his professional situation as well as sharing insights into his role as a husband and father of two young boys.

"Why I'm here today is to tell you a few things. Number one is, I'm a coach. I'm a coach. Coaching is my profession. Coaching is something that I love. I love to coach. I love coaching these kids here at Penn State," he said. "I enjoy coming into the office every day and strategizing and thinking about how we can get this team ready for the 2013 season. I enjoy the week to week preparation. I enjoy the practice planning, the camaraderie with our staff. We have one of the best staffs in the country. We have a fantastic staff of guys. I'm a coach. That's my profession.

"Your profession is, you guys are journalists, you guys are TV people, you men and women are at the top of your profession, whether it's here in Pennylvania or in the country. But, that's your profession.

"Respect my profession. My profession is coaching, and in my profession, the National Football League is the highest level of coaching. You don't get any higher in coaching than the National Football League.

"And, I have a family. I'm forty-three years old, I've been doing this for twenty years. I'm basically, in my opinion, about halfway through my career. I won't be coaching for forty-seven more years. I won't. I will not be coaching when I'm eighty years old. I think I can coach about twenty to twenty-five more years because that's where I see my career going. I have my wife Colleen and my son Jack and my son Michael, who I love more than anything in the world. It's my job as the father and the husband in that house, that I take care of my family first. That's my job. That's my duty as a father and a husband, and that's what I did. Again, we couldn't be happier than being at Penn State. We could not be happier."

Additionally, O'Brien went further, refuting reports that he was given an additional $1.3 million in compensation thanks to a gift from wealthy alum Terry Pegula.

"In my twenty years of coaching, you can call (coaches I coached for) - most of them probably won't call you back, but if you do get them on the phone, you can ask them - Did Bill, in his years working for you, has he ever asked you for a raise? They will unequivocally tell you, no.

"I have never asked Dr. Joyner, Dr. Erickson for a raise. No one at Penn State has ever come to me and said to me that we're going to make a donation so that you can get a raise. That's a bunch of mularky. It's not true. It's never happened, and it never will happen. That's the last thing that I'm about. If I was about money, more than likely, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now.

"It's not about money. It's about making sure that Penn State University, Penn State athletic department, Penn State football, does everything we can do in our power to make this place the best it can be for our student athletes. That's what it's about, in my mind."

Though he would not get into many specific details about his requests for the football program beyond suggestions that facilities, personnel and other aspects of the football program needed upgrading, he reiterated his support for both university president, Dr. Rodney Erickson, and athletic director, Dr. David Joyner.

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