By TPR Staff

Bill O’Brien has done a phenomenal job in 2012 in his first year as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, especially when you consider the sanctions and controversy. O’Brien has led Penn State to a 5-2 start in a season where many people did not think that the Nittany Lions would win five games all season long. Although it may be just his first year at Penn State, he will be one of the hottest college football coaching commodities after this season. But even if he decides it may be in his best coaching interest to leave the Nittany Lions, he may not be able to afford the opportunity.

Penn State can win many games over the next few years. They are not winning the Big 10 Championship. They are not going to a BCS Bowl game. They are not playing for the BCS Championship. The sanctions may not be hurting the Nittany Lions on the field, but they will still take their toll on the program for years to come.

But through it all, O’Brien has the team believing that they can win. He has helped his kids put everything behind them and has them prepared to win every game they enter, coming out on top in five straight after losing their first two games of the 2012 season. One was to the undefeated Ohio Bobcats and the other was a one point loss to Virginia Cavaliers that they rightfully should have won with a better kicker.

The schedule will not get easier for Penn State, but it does not get much more difficult either. With games against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Purdue Boilermakers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Indiana Hoosiers and Wisconsin Badgers, Penn State is likely to finish with a winning record, and could even finish as well as 8-4 or 7-5. It will be largely in part to the leadership of O’Brien through tumultuous times.

While that will make him a strong candidate for one of the top coaches this season, it will also make him a great candidate to hear his name mentioned when other schools look to replace their head coaches after this season. While none of them have made a move as of yet, some of those openings could include the Texas Longhorns, Auburn Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers. O’Brien’s name is likely to come up for any and all major openings this offseason.

Just don’t expect him to take any of them.

According to Cory Giger of, O’Brien’s agent already said that his client is not going anywhere. Not this year or next. He implied that if O’Brien had any intention of leaving Penn State, it would have been around the time that the school was hit with NCAA sanctions.

That is one point, but here is another thing to consider before thinking that it would make sense for O’Brien to jump ship for a school who is actually eligible to play meaningful postseason games any time soon.

It would be rather costly. And I don’t just mean for one year.

O’Brien’s contract stipulates that if he leaves before the contract is up, he has to buy out the remaining years on the deal. All of them.

O’Brien signed a five-year contract with a base pay of just under $1 million per season with additional compensation of $1 million per year for radio and television deals and a lucrative endorsement deal from Nike. That makes for an annual total of nearly $2.5 million.

If O’Brien leaves Penn State early, he would have to buy out that entire amount per year, not just his base pay. I’m just not sure that there is an attractive enough job out there for O’Brien to consider paying back that large of a sum.

Not Texas. Not Tennessee. Not Auburn.

Not any team.

Perhaps, not even the NFL. Even they would be unlikely to offer enough money to O’Brien to offset the amount he would have to pay back to Penn State.






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Readers Comments (16)

  1. avatar skook38i29

    Everyone acts like its such a big deal for penn state not to have bowl games for 4 years….who cares their one of the most watched teams in all of college football their home games are the equivalent of a bowl game for 90% of college football teams anyways…with the new coach winning despite all the sanctions the publicity they have you would have to be an idiot to be a player and not be dying for one of their limited scholarships…The NFL is gonna watch…Virginia tech fan out

    • avatar ggheld

      They have 100,000 people at every game. That is sick. He opened their practices to recruiters too. With most new players being red-shirted, the 2013 freshmen will have plenty of practice for the bowl games in their last year.

      • avatar AP

        Actually, if a 2013 kid redshirts he’ll be eligible for 2 bowl games. 2014 recruits will have either 2 or 3 years of eligibility, which is why I don’t think the sanctions will matter too much to them. As long as we can hold our class of ’13 as it is, we’ll be in good shape.

        • avatar K. John

          Penn State will be playing in a bowl game New Year’s Day 2014. Bank it.

  2. avatar leeddawg

    Maybe….just maybe, the guy might actually enjoy coaching at Penn State and WANT to stay. What a concept.

  3. avatar PA

    Mack Brown makes $5 million per year at Texas… just saying.

  4. avatar K. John

    In college football, there are nine tier one programs. Penn State is one of them. Texas is one of them, so are Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan and Nebraska. No coach in memory has ever voluntarily jumped from one tier one school to another much less moved down the food chain to a Busch league program like Tennessee or Auburn.

    I certainly don’t see it happening here especially given the likelihood that the NCAA’s unwarranted, unjustified and almost certainly illegal sanctions will be repealed by this time next year, if not sooner. It is essentially a question of when, not if at this point given the over-whelming volume of evidence suggesting conclusively that Penn State did nothing wrong. Joe Paterno has already been proven to have done the right thing beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    • avatar AP

      First, what is your criteria to be a “tier one” program? By most definitions, I would agree with your 8 non-PSU programs, but I don’t think PSU is one of them unless you heavily factor in attendance, alumni support and network ratings… all of which are off-the-field factors. If that’s what you’re basing it on – an equivalent to the “most valuable franchises” that we see with pro sports – then I agree. Otherwise I’m not sure PSU belongs in that first tier.

      As for the rest of your statements, I don’t think it’s a question of when, not if regarding repealing the sanctions. In fact, I think it’s highly unlikely that anything regarding the sanctions changes. Maybe the NCAA decides to “reward” PSU with a reduction of the postseason ban and scholarship limitations once they are “in compliance” with the recommendations from the Freeh report, but that’s about it. Yes, I know the Freeh report isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, but public perception deems it as gospel and, let’s be honest, this whole thing has revolved around public perception. PSU football will need a few years to completely mend its image.

      • avatar K. John

        Make no mistake, Penn State is a top tier school. As for the sanctions, they will fall. Simply put, they don’t stand a chance in court, and they will be challenged in court on multiple fronts because very likely violate state and federal law. Interstate commerce, anti-trust. Never mind the fact that Rod Erickson probably did not have legal authority to sign the consent decree and that he and the board are legally obligated to fully investigate, review and challenge the sanctions. And there are a few other laws out there that may (probably were) have been violated.

        While public perception is against Penn State, it is changing. Once Curley and Schultz go to court, the fabricated cover up story is going to go down in a heap of flames like the lie it is. Penn State does not need to mend its image because it didn’t do anything wrong. Joe Paterno’s legacy is soundly intact. The Grand Experiment is a resounding success and will prevail regardless of what the idiot masses think.

        • avatar AP

          I think we see eye-to-eye regarding what the truth is, but I think you severely underestimate the role that public perception plays in all of this. The entire truth can come out now, Paterno can be officially vindicated and yet the scandal will continue to cloud the program for the foreseeable future. Why? Because the story is slowly going away and people no longer care. The same people that were outraged beyond belief are the same people that have moved onto the next shiny story. The damage has been done and it will take an incredible amount of – something – to fix it. What that something is I’m not really sure.

          As for the legal aspects of the situation, I can’t claim to know what laws were or weren’t broken. I’ve heard a lot of speculation, but very few informed opinions, and even those were split. I hope they do have legal recourse and, if they do, I hope they exercise it. The question of who “they” are might be the biggest, however, since the school itself has shown zero inclination to do anything beyond waiting out the storm.

    • avatar G NEIDERER

      K. John,

      I could not have put it better myself. This is also my thinking. You hit the nail right on the head!

  5. avatar Glenn Shaw

    With success comes recognition. With recognition comes opportunity. I hope ALL of the coaches stay for a long time. It would be a more difficult recruiting sell if assistants (or head coach) start leaving after one or two years.

  6. avatar Kevin

    9-3 or 10-2 record is more likely

  7. avatar Ray Radlinsky

    Those kids stuck by him and played their hearts out for him and PSU . I think O’Brien should do likewise . Stick with those kids and PSU !!

  8. avatar PSU '09

    Is this article serious? Leave Penn State after one year? Do you even know O’brien’s personal story? He has a child with a serious brain disorder. The State College community has embraced him and his family. I think Billy O is here to stay for a long time.

  9. avatar PSU '09

    Also, comparing Auburn and Tennessee to Penn State is a joke.


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