Penn State Sex Scandal: Dave Joyner Tabs Bill O’Brien of Patriots to Guide Restoration of Nittany Lions’ Proud Football Program

January 13, 2012 – 5:20 am by Eric Schmoldt

It seems that most people are finally over the initial shock that Penn State hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to replace the legendary Joe Paterno as head coach of the Nittany Lions football program. When the hiring was first announced over the weekend however, the news was met with some pretty negative reaction from Penn State students, alums and boosters. Dave Joyner, PSU’s recently appointed athletics director, believes that emotions have cooled off and that the school’s far-reaching community has toned down their complaints quite quickly since the press conference where O’Brien was introduced as head coach.

As soon as the Patriots’ season is over, it’ll be up to O’Brien and Joyner to pick up the pieces of a shattered Nittany Lions program. Joyner says he picked O’Brien because he has a Penn State heart and can win national championships.

Dave Joyner joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Vinnie and Cook to discuss why he picked Bill O’Brien to be the new head coach of the Penn State football program once the Patriots season is over with, the negative reactions with the choice initially, why he and the rest of the hiring committee opted to not name longtime assistant Tom Bradley as the full time head coach following his interim stint at the helm of the program, why a program like Penn State can continue to legitimately emphasize academics while also competing on the football field with the country’s best teams, if he believes that Penn State football perhaps became too big, O’Brien finishing out his duties with the Patriots before joining the program, and convincing folks it’s okay and still an incredible opportunity to attend Penn State in the wake of the disturbing Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

What went into the coaching search and what led you to pick Bill O’Brien?:

“We took a long time and that was on purpose because we were looking for somebody that I said had a Penn State heart, whether that was from within our coaching staff or [not]. We conducted the search, mirrored after how Penn State does academic searches, if you were looking for the dean or the chairman of a department. The search was very, very similar to that. … What we were looking for was somebody that appreciated the foundation from which Penn State football has come. … After that, somebody that could win us national championships. We felt that we had the best mix of those things with Bill O’Brien.”

Were you surprised at some of the negative reactions?:

“The more vocal of the football alumni were, in my opinion, were the much smaller. I got tremendous support and tremendous outreach from the football lettermen’s club and football alumni. … I also got, I think, a gut reaction from a number of people when it was surmised that Bill O’Brien was going to be the next coach. … Prior to having the press conference on Saturday, there certainly was some objection to not hiring an internal coach. … Virtually immediately after Bill gave that first press conference, the negativity has stopped about Bill O’Brien.”

How tough was it to not hire Tom Bradley?:

“I’ve know Tom Bradley for a long time. Two of my sons played here, one of them played directly for Tom. … It’s very difficult. In the end, we just made a decision that we felt was the best for Penn State going forward. It should not be construed in any way as a slam on Tom Bradley or anyone else for that matter, that wasn’t named head coach. I have a lot of respect for Tom. We had a good talk when it was apparent that this hire was going to happen.”

Can you have great academics and have a great football program at the same time?:

“We can have great academics and have a great football program. Our present football team is a great testament to that. I guess probably two weeks ago, prior to the bowl games, we were ranked No. 1 in the BCS top 25 for academics, for graduation rates. … I think that makes a statement that not only can you have it, we already have been doing it and we’re going to continue.”

Are people perhaps correct in thinking Penn State football became too big?:

“It’s difficult for me to speak about what may have been going on. … However, going forward, we’re going to have the proper balance. We have some great people here. We had great people then. … We were success with honor before and we’re going to continue to be that way.”

On O’Brien continuing to coach with New England instead of taking over at Penn State right away:

“I think there’s a plus and minus. I can imagine that shaking hands with a recruit with a Super Bowl ring on your hand is certainly not going to be a negative issue if the Patriots win. On the other end of it, I’m a big believer in commitment. He had committed to the Patriots; he has an obligation to them. I fully support that. That’s one of the reasons why I like him. I’m not a fan of people leaving in the middle. I never personally asked him to consider that. … He’s doing two 80-hour-a-week jobs. … His organizational skills are so astute. That’s one of the things that impressed us.”

What do you say to those kids and parents that are leery of attending Penn State?:

“I’ve said this from the beginning, even my first day on the job: I had two sons play here and I wouldn’t hesitate for one second for both of them to come back and play again and sign up tomorrow. My wife agrees with that; my whole family agrees with that.”

Listen to Dave Joyner on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh here

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