Penn State's Bill O'Brien has earned another coaching honor for his Year 1 success in State College, and the latest award has a link to his predecessor.
O'Brien on Thursday night was named the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year winner at a ceremony in Houston. It's the third national coaching honor for O'Brien, who also earned the Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year award and ESPN AT&T Coach of the Year award. O'Brien swept both Big Ten Coach of the Year awards after guiding Penn State to an 8-4 record, including wins in eight of its final 10 games. The first-time head coach guided Penn State through a difficult offseason that included the announcement of severe NCAA sanctions and the departures of several key players.
He beat out Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Stanford's David Shaw, Kansas State's Bill Snyder and Vanderbilt's James Franklin for the Bryant award, which recognizes coaching excellence both on and off the field.
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was the initial recipient of the Bryant award in 1986. Paterno had several famous matchups against Bryant's Alabama teams and had a friendship with the longtime coach. In 2001, Paterno broke Bryant's record for career coaching wins at a major conference (the record later was removed after the NCAA vacated Paterno's wins between 1998-2011).
O'Brien is the first Big Ten coach to win the Bryant award since Ohio State's Jim Tressel in 2002.