Gorman: O'Brien worth every penny for PSU
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The words came with an apologetic advance, as if Larry Smith knew how awful the truth sounded before he said it.
“If they start winning next season, a lot of this is going to be forgotten and forgiven,” Smith, a crisis management specialist, said of Penn State football to Business Insider in November 2011, shortly after news broke of the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal. “That sounds awful to bring this all down to whether their football team wins or loses, but that's the recent experience of colleges that have had big scandals.”
All is not forgotten or forgiven — far from it — but you can't discount how much Bill O'Brien's ability to lead the Nittany Lions to a winning season in the face of the Sandusky scandal, NCAA sanctions and subsequent player defections meant to Penn State's image.
So why should O'Brien work at a discount?
Make no mistake, O'Brien was rewarded handsomely with a $2.3 million salary and a contract with a kicker that called for an extension through the 2020 season.
For Penn State, it was a small price to pay to the man who immediately showed leadership at a university devoid of and desperate for it.
Penn State All-Big Ten defensive tackle Jordan Hill knew the program was in good hands following its first meeting with O'Brien.
“He had a plan, and he stuck to his word,” Hill told the Tribune-Review last month. “He's a leader not only by the things he says but the things he does, just how he carries himself. After the first meeting, you're like, ‘OK, this guy's not playing around.' ”
Penn State administrators knew O'Brien wasn't playing around when, after guiding the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record last fall, he interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and listened to overtures from other NFL teams.
Penn State ponied up and sweetened his salary to $3.6 million.
If O'Brien seems to be overpaid, consider what his university spends on crisis management.
By February, Penn State had incurred $5.3 million in expenses on crisis communications and the internal probe that led to the Freeh Report. In April, the university retained two communications firms for $2.5 million for the year. Penn State spends $200,000 monthly on public relations alone.
Yet who was ranked as the biggest public relations scandal of 2012 by Business Insider?
You guessed it: Penn State.
“I've seen the numbers that they spent,” said Smith, senior consultant and former president of Louisville-based Institute for Crisis Management. “It's mind-boggling.”
Let's not forget that Penn State also placed $12 million in escrow, the first of five installments for its $60 million fine from the NCAA.
As for O'Brien's raise?
Pocket change for Penn State.
A bargain, really, when you consider the precarious position Penn State was in when it hired O'Brien last January and all he's endured:
• The death of his predecessor, Joe Paterno.
• The NCAA sanctions that included the fine, a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and the allowance of players to transfer without penalty until the start of the 2013 season.
• The protests over the removal of Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium.
“He's certainly not the first coach under any circumstance to parlay interest from another organization to get a better deal,” Smith said. “That's the way the game is played, probably more than the public knows and cares.
“Any coach that treats players well and gets positive results from their players and staff, you've got to be thankful if you've got one that wins more than they lose. If they can do it without doing anything illegal, immoral or unethical — wow!”
Be upset with O'Brien, if you will, for cashing in on the season's goodwill and his Coach of the Year candidacy, then trumpeting that he's “not a one-and-done guy.”
But when it comes to his salary, don't call him anything other than an absolute bargain for Penn State.
“They're getting more from their investment in the coach's salary than almost anything they're spending money on,” Smith said. “It's still about winning, and he did. He brought a little respect back to the athletic program, and that's priceless.”
Especially at a university with such a price to pay.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers sign former star LB Harrison; Tomlin talks ‘different climate’
- Steelers’ Taylor recovering from forearm surgery
- Cranberry police trying to ID repeat burglary suspect
- West Virginia notebook: Holgorsen likes energy level as Mountaineers head into bye week
- Experts weighing in on how to fight Pa.’s heroin problem
- Jury acquits Stowe man of charges related to bar shooting
- Attorney general rejects Tribune-Review request for ‘racy’ emails
- Port Authority: Drivers ‘reckless’ before buses bumped, wrecking 1
- Steelers defense must replace 3 injured starters after victory
- Suspects in killing of 3 Israeli teens slain
- Tuseday - Sept. 23, 2014