ShareThis Page

Penn State moving forward with O'Brien

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

A couple of hours before Bill O'Brien publicly reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State on Thursday night, Nittany Lions defensive backs received a text message from their position coach.

John Butler told them that their coaches weren't going anywhere. He also reminded the players to be ready for the start of offseason training Monday.

Penn State forges ahead with O'Brien after the first-year coach talked with two NFL teams and was linked to several others that have head-coaching openings. All indications are O'Brien never seriously considered leaving Penn State despite speculation that caused panic among many Nittany Lions fans.

O'Brien told recruits at the beginning of the week to brace for reports of his leaving for the NFL but not to give them credence. O'Brien met with the Browns and Eagles earlier this week, but agent Joe Linta said talks were relatively short and never advanced “past first base.”

A buyout that has been reported as anywhere from $9 million to $18 million was believed to be a possible deterrent to an NFL team hiring O'Brien. But Linta said the buyout never became an issue because O'Brien did not seriously consider leaving Penn State after one season.

“Any report that said the buyout entered into the decision (to stay) is patently false,” Linta told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “This decision was based on integrity and commitment.”

Linta declined to talk specifics of the buyout in O'Brien's contract.

O'Brien received a $1.3 million gift from Penn State alumnus Terry Pegula for staying, but Linta said O'Brien did not have any part of his contract reworked as part of the deal.

O'Brien's decision didn't come as a surprise to Erick Hackenberg, father of prized quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg.

The elder Hackenberg said he spoke with O'Brien at the beginning of the week and that “Bill gave us absolute assurance that he would coach Penn State next year.”

Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman headline the recruits who have given Penn State a verbal commitment and can sign with the school Feb. 6.

Each talked to O'Brien on Thursday night from Orlando, Fla., where they have been all week preparing for the 2013 Under Amour All-American Game.

“Nothing's changed,” Erick Hackenberg said.

O'Brien's flirtation with the NFL, brief as it was, could raise questions about his long-term commitment to Penn State.

O'Brien, who has eight years left on his contract, still has to recruit on two fronts because current Penn State players are allowed to transfer without penalty until the start of the 2013 season.

Cornerback Stephon Morris, one of the senior leaders on the 2012 team, said he doesn't believe O'Brien talking with two NFL teams will be an issue with current and future players.

“You should want to play for a coach that is getting NFL buzz,” said Morris, who is training at Penn State and will graduate this spring. “As a young guy I wouldn't be worried at all. He's honest and loyal. I never thought he was going to leave anyway.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.