O’Brien said he found out about the sanctions at 9 a.m. Monday morning with the rest of us. He said he knew it was going to be harsh.
O’Brien told Bonnie what he told his players after the sanctions were announced: “I talked about why I came to Penn State and why I brought this staff to Penn State. There’s so many things that go into that, but No. 1 was that I thought this was a place that could combine great academics with good, tough, hard-nosed football and none of that’s changed. I talked to them about the discussions that I had with my family and coming to Penn State, and the fact that I can coach good tough hard- nosed kids that really care about getting good education and none of that’s changed.”
Bonnie asked O’Brien about players possibly leaving. He wouldn’t get into conversations about individual players, but said that he’s very proud of his players and several have told him they remain committed to the program. And he said his coaches are staying.
“I’m going to tell you that I’ve been very proud of these players the last two or three days and I know there’s some tough times that they’ve had to deal with,” O’Brien said. “They’re talking to their families right now. But I’ve reiterated why they’re here and they’re here to get a fantastic education and that hasn’t changed.”
O’Brien said he thinks the sanctions that hurts the most is the NCAA’s ruling on transfers. “The one that’s the hardest is that these kids could transfer without penalties,” O’Brien said. “That just means we have to reiterate to our players which we’re doing why we came here, what this is all about moving forward with me as the head football coach.”
Regarding the bowl ban, O’Brien said that the school is still playing about six bowl games a year in front of 108,000 people at home – referring to their regular home games — and no bowl games can claim that.
O’Brien said he sough advice from Bill Belichick and other coaches, and people have been extremely positive about him being at Penn State. “I learned a lot from Bill Belichick,” O’Brien said. “He taught me a lot about how to put a team together. … I’ll bring a lot of what I learned from the Patriots to Penn State.”
Bonnie asked O’Brien his thoughts on taking down the Joe Paterno statue. O’Brien said that he supports Penn State president Rodney Erickson and left it at that.
Bonnie asked if he plans to be at Penn State in five years. “I’m committed to this football team and I feel proud to be associated with this University,” O’Brien said. “I’m proud to be leading this football team and I’m proud to be coaching these young men.”