STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — When Bill O’Brien was announced as Penn State’s new head football coach this morning, he made sure to tell his new school about his commitment to see his current job through as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but it’s something that’s been done before,” O’Brien said. “I’m concerned about the next 10 to 20 years here. So I think the best thing that I can do is show our team the kind of loyalty and commitment I have for the Patriots. And then go there and do the best job I can for the Patriots. It’s a one game season.”
Penn State officials are hoping the school’s first new head football coaching hire in 46 years will usher in a brand new phase of the school’s legacy.
But before that can happen, the coach is still aiming for a Super Bowl.
Twenty-four hours after ESPN broke the news, Penn State informally announced the move by a tweet from assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson, saying “#PennState Names Bill O’Brien 15th Head Football Coach in Storied 125-Year History of Program.”
But the new coach’s formal announcement was held in the ballroom of Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn in front of about 200 members of the media, the school and people important to him, including his family.
“After a careful and deliberative search, we have found the right man to lead our football program. He’s a person or great integrity, leadership and skills, who will lead the Nittany Lions to many more winning seasons,” Penn State president Rodney Erickson said. “He understands the relationship between athletics and our core educational mission. And he’s committed to continue our tradition of academic excellence.”
In the days preceding the announcement, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft extended best wishes to the soon-to-be-departing coach. And Saturday, O’Brien reciprocated his well-wishes.
“I can’t go any further without thanking the Patriots organization, led by Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, they have been nothing but supportive of me during this whole process,” O’Brien said. “I can’t wait to see them again and thank them in person.”
During a 25-minute session, O’Brien addressed issues ranging from his current duties for the Patriots, how he will begin recruiting and how he will handle his first head coaching job after handling offensive duties for the Patriots as well as 14 college seasons between Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.
“We have found that person who has Penn State integrity and Penn State ideals, who can mold young men and lead our program to compete and win at the highest level. He comes with the expertise and passion to lead this important next chapter in Penn State football history,” acting athletics director Dave Joyner said.
O’Brien refused to talk about several topics in detail, including his first contact with the school, recruiting and the scandal that has plagued both the football team and the school since early November.
But he talked about how he intends to split his time until the end of the NFL season — time during which he won’t get many breaks.
“There’s no way I can stand up in front of our football team and talk about loyalty and commitment and then leave the Patriots at the start of a playoff run. I have committed to the New England Patriots to see them through this playoff run,” O’Brien said. “There’s not going to be a lot of sleep over the next two-to-three weeks. Any break I have, to make sure I have as much time as I can for Penn State. I’m in the process of putting together a staff, the best staff for Penn State … Once I get that staff in place in the next two-to-three weeks, those guys will hit the ground running with recruiting and those types of things.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued a statement regarding O’Brien’s move.
“Over the course of his long coaching career, Bill O’Brien has met every personal and professional challenge head on with great passion and competitiveness. I expect Bill to draw on his deep background in college football and the NFL to continue attracting and developing top players. For five years, Bill’s outstanding work with our quarterbacks and entire offense has led to record-setting performances. His presence and command before our team has grown into that of a inspirational leader. This is a great match between a storied program and a old-school football coach. Bill will be up to the task and I couldn’t be happier for him, Colleen and the O’Brien family.”