Thursday, January 2, 2014
PSU's Joyner talks O'Brien, coach search
By Adam Rittenberg
Penn State made it official Thursday, announcing Bill O'Brien's resignation as head coach to take the same post with the NFL's Houston Texans. The school also confirmed that longtime assistant Larry Johnson will serve as interim head coach.
Athletics director Dave Joyner then held a news conference to discuss the upcoming national coaching search.
Here are some notes from Joyner:
- Joyner will chair a search committee that includes five others: Tom Poole, Penn State's vice president for administration; associate athletics director Charmelle Green; faculty athletic representative Linda Caldwell; men's soccer coach Bob Warming; and Wally Richardson, director of the Penn State football letterman's club. Green and Caldwell are the only holdovers from the committee used to hire O'Brien. A new school policy prevents trustees from serving on search committees for athletic coaches, Joyner said.
- The search will be "very timely," Joyner said, and will take days, not weeks. He added Penn State's prolonged and exhaustive search for O'Brien took place under extraordinary circumstances. The job is more attractive this time around, despite the lingering NCAA sanctions, and "a number of very prominent head coaches" already have reached out to Penn State.
- Joyner said the school made every effort in recent weeks to keep O'Brien but that the Texans job was too good for him to pass up. He confirmed O'Brien's NFL buyout is in the $6.5-6.7 million range, and that reducing it this past summer was "the appropriate thing to do for Bill." While many expected O'Brien to jump to the NFL, Joyner said several times that O'Brien saw Penn State as a long-term option. He didn't believe the environment surrounding the program or the so-called Paterno people significantly impacted O'Brien's decision to leave.
- Integrity, academics and the ability to win championships will serve as PSU's main criteria for identifying its next coach. Previous head-coaching experience is a "very desirable requisite," Joyner said, but not a requirement for candidates. Previous ties to PSU will be part of the committee's thought process, but unaffiliated candidates also will be considered. It's "very important" for Penn State's next coach to remain in his post for a while.
- Joyner isn't sure which assistants O'Brien will take with him to Houston and which ones could remain at Penn State. The new coach will have freedom to select his staff, although Joyner does carry veto power.
- Joyner didn't directly answer a question about his long-term future as AD, only saying he'll serve as long as he's needed. His term had been linked with that of university president Rodney Erickson, who will step down no later than June 30. The instability at AD and president could impact candidates, but Joyner plans to sell Penn State's "great tradition" of administrative leadership. Yikes.
- Johnson could be considered for the permanent head-coaching job if he expresses interest, Joyner said. Defensive end Deion Barnes tweeted during the news conference that he and many other players would love to have Johnson as their coach. This seems pretty unlikely, though. Joyner praised Johnson for his service to Penn State and called him the "glue" for the team during a transition period.
- Joyner called standout quarterback Christian Hackenberg a "tremendous asset" for Penn State but stopped short of saying the next coach will be hired with only Hackenberg's interests in mind.
- Not surprisingly, the search process and any potential names will be kept confidential.