Bill O’Brien repeated himself a few times as he tried to drive home a point — his decision to stay at Penn State was not about getting himself more money.
O’Brien said he has never asked for a raise in his 20 years of coaching, and that didn’t change last week when O’Brien met with some NFL teams about head coaching vacancies before deciding to remain at Penn State.
Rumors of O’Brien meeting with a few NFL teams surfaced all over the Internet on Thursday night before the coach confirmed he was staying at Penn State. Then, there was a report that O’Brien would receive a considerable pay bump because of a donation.
O’Brien, who led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record in his first season as a head coach, said he did talk with a few professional teams. But he denied he ever asked acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner or Penn State President Rodney Erickson for a personal pay increase.
“No one at Penn State has ever come to me and said to me, ‘We’re going to make a donation so you can get a raise,’ ” O’Brien said. “That’s a bunch of malarkey. It’s not true, it’s never happened and it never will happen. That’s the last thing I’m about.”
The 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year added it made his blood boil that people would write and talk about him using his position to get himself financial gain.
“If I was about money, more than likely, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” O’Brien said. “It’s not about money. It’s about making sure Penn State University, Penn State’s athletic department, Penn State football does everything we can do in our power to make this place the best it can be for our student-athletes.”
O’Brien spoke with the media for the first time since Penn State’s season-finale against Wisconsin on Nov. 24, and he used a nearly 15-minute long opening statement in an attempt to set the record straight of his last week.
Though he didn’t disclose which teams, O’Brien said “many” of the seven NFL teams with head coaching vacancies reached out to his agent, Joe Linta. O’Brien was on a family vacation at Disney World when the NFL season concluded, and though he did have some talks with NFL teams, but was never offered a job.
“A few teams reached out to my representative and we had conversations, that’s as far as it went,” O’Brien said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is the decision that I made. I made the decision to be here at Penn State, just like I made that decision a year ago. And I can’t think of a better place to be.”
O’Brien didn’t want to talk about money at his press conference, but he did mention a few possible structural changes he would consider for the program.
He didn’t go into the specifics, as he kept those inside what he called the “inner circle,” but O’Brien said there could be some extra personnel joining Penn State’s staff among other potential changes.
“My horses in the race here at Penn State are my players and my coaching staff, and that’s the number one thing as it relates to Penn State,” O’Brien said. “I want to make sure we do everything we can… I want to make sure we do the best we can to be on the cutting edge of having the best football program we can possibly have. That’s my job.”
O’Brien also discussed his relationship with both Joyner and Erickson. The coach says he supports both men, and noted he and Joyner typically share ideas with one another a few times a week.
Joyner was in attendance at the press conference, and also spoke with the media after O’Brien was finished. He said he didn’t have any list of potential candidates ready to replace O’Brien at Penn State because he was sure he was coming back.
“I was very confident in Bill and I believed in Bill,” Joyner said. “And I believed that we would be sitting here talking this way today.”
Dukes no longer with team
O’Brien said running back Curtis Dukes is no longer with the football team.
Dukes carried the ball 26 times for 98 yards in the 2012 season, but did not receive a handoff in any of the Lions’ final seven games or play in the last three. O’Brien said Dukes was the only player not to return to the team for the spring semester.