O'Brien: Money not factor in decision to stay

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 10:58 a.m.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien spent last week vacationing with his wife and one of his sons at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

“I've been on more roller coasters the last four or five days than I have been on in my whole life,” O'Brien said with a grin.

O'Brien did his best Monday to reassure anxious fans that they won't endure the same when it comes to his future at Penn State.

O'Brien reaffirmed his commitment to the school on the one-year anniversary of his hiring and denied that money was a factor in the preliminary talks he had with the Browns and Eagles last week.

O'Brien, who took himself out of contention for any NFL head coaching jobs Thursday, also refuted a report that he received a $1.3 million gift from alumni donor Terry Pegula to stay at Penn State, calling it a “bunch of malarkey.”

O'Brien and acting athletic director Dave Joyner said the former did not make any demands for him to stay at Penn State after leading the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record and winning two national coach of the year awards.

“You really don't know me if you write something that ‘this guy did it for leverage and money,' ” O'Brien said during his first news conference since speculation of his leaving for the NFL spiked last week. “If I was about money, I probably wouldn't be sitting here at Penn State. I made the decision to be here at Penn State, and I can't think of a better place to be. This is a top 10 football program and I am very, very proud to be the head football coach here.”

O'Brien acknowledged that he would like to see improvements made to the program, including hiring more people to help with recruiting. There also are strong indications that O'Brien secured or is working to get more money for his assistant coaches.

O'Brien said he talked with several teams last week out of a sense of obligation to his family and because coaching in the NFL is the pinnacle of his profession. But, O'Brien said, he never seriously considered leaving Penn State, which still has to navigate three years of NCAA sanctions that include a ban on postseason play and a significant loss of scholarships.

O'Brien, who has eight years left on a contract that pays him about $2.3 million annually, did not directly answer a question about what he will do if NFL teams are interested in him after next season.

“To me, that's a very speculative question,” O'Brien said. “I'm telling you right now, I'm committed to this 2013 team. Believe me, I plan to be at Penn State, and I'm looking forward to coaching these kids.”

Joyner said he is not surprised O'Brien turned down overtures from NFL teams.

“Bill O'Brien's committed to Penn State, and I personally believe he's going to be here for a long time,” Joyner said. “It's always a risk with any great coach, and if people weren't talking about Bill O'Brien, then we made a lousy hire,” Joyner said.

O'Brien and Joyner presented a united front Monday regarding their working relationship. There have been rumors that the two have a strained relationship.

“I've heard something about that somewhere, but that's completely untrue,” Joyner said. “We've always had a great relationship and it's the same now as it was Day One.”

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

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