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January 7, 2013

Joyner, O'Brien work on program improvement

This surely wasn't the ideal start to Dave Joyner's work week. But as Penn State's interim athletic director told a swarm of reporters in the back of the Beaver Stadium media room Monday morning, success has its price.

The price of Penn State's 8-4 finish this past season? A sudden surge of interest in the Nittany Lions' first-year head coach, Bill O'Brien.

"If people weren't talking about Bill O'Brien, then we made a lousy hire," Joyner said. "The fact that people are talking about how great he is and what he would do at other places, to me, that's a real compliment about the process that we went through and what we did."

O'Brien used the presser to reaffirm his commitment to the university after a week of NFL-related uncertainty, while Joyner took the opportunity to reaffirm everything the head coach had said at the front of the room a few moments earlier. Specifically, he said that he and O'Brien have an "outstanding" working relationship, a feeling of mutual respect and open lines of communication, and that they share a vision for the football program's future.

"We talk several times a week, even during the season," Joyner said. "[The coaching staff is] very busy during the season, so we pick our times carefully. … Bill and I have meetings all the time. We have a list of things we go over, just like you always do, as we do with all our coaches. I meet with coaches on a continual basis: 'What can we do to maximize your program? How can we work together with you?' We do that all the time with all the coaches. Bill and I do that continually."

Joyner said the so-called structural changes that have been discussed in recent days pertain specifically to the football program. He said the athletic department can afford to give O'Brien the additional manpower he may want in order to bolster the team's recruiting and marketing, even in the face of fiscal constraints stemming from the NCAA's $60 million fine.

"We can make those improvements and do those things," Joyner said. "I'm committed to it, and Bill's committed to it, as well. … We have a lot of momentum and can get a lot of things done that will be very, very good for football."

Joyner said he never developed a short list of potential candidates to succeed O'Brien, saying he was confident that the coach would choose to remain with the Nittany Lions.

"Bill O'Brien is committed to Penn State. I personally believe he wants to be here for a long time," Joyner said. "But life is what it is. Even with Coach Joe [Paterno], the Boston Patriots came up [to offer him their head coaching job in the early 1970s], and that was an almost-go. But I'm very confident that Bill is committed to Penn State and wants to be here for a long time."

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