• O’Brien staying at Penn State

     After flirting with at least two NFL teams this week, Bill O’Brien decided to stay as Penn State football coach Thursday night after the university made a huge push to keep him, according to several reports.

     The possibility of O’Brien leaving Penn State after one season for an NFL head coaching job seemed to be a rumor, fueled by leaks to national media by his agent, Joe Linta.

     That was until the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Thursday night that O’Brien had interviewed with the Browns this week. Later, several outlets reported that he also had interviewed Thursday with the Philadelphia Eagles in Massachusetts, where he has been vacationing.

     “I’m not a one-and-done guy,” O’Brien told pennlive.com Thursday night. “I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that’s what I am going to do. I’m not gonna cut and run after one year, that’s for sure.”

     Penn State officials met with O’Brien and Linta Thursday night and apparently increased salaries for him and his assistant coaches. Pennlive.com reported that PSU alumnus Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres and benefactor of the Nittany Lions men’s and women’s hockey programs, made a $1.3 million donation to be added to O’Brien’s 2013 salary, which will bump his pay to $3.6 million.

     “The temptations were strong, but not strong enough,” freshman running back Akeel Lynch tweeted about O’Brien. “Thank God.”

     By putting O’Brien’s name out there and making it appear that he was a valuable commodity to the NFL, the thought was that Linta was hoping to pressure Penn State into doing some other things that O’Brien wanted.

     That might be naming a permanent athletic director (even if it’s Dave Joyner, the acting athletic director), so that the football program has a stronger advocate, and negotiating a new agreement on O’Brien’s contract buyout.

     Make no mistake: O’Brien had leverage with Penn State. He took over the program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season, including a 6-2 record in the Big Ten and a thrilling overtime win over Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the season finale.

     He has been named the national Coach of the Year by ESPN and the Maxwell Club.

     O’Brien impressed the Penn State administration and fan base with his leadership, organization, discipline and innovation in his first season as a head coach. Losing him and the momentum he’s created would have been a setback.

     Linta told The Associated Press that the “heartstrings” of O’Brien’s experience from his first season at Penn State outweighed the potentially big raise he could have received as an NFL head coach.

     Even though O’Brien is staying, the road ahead will not be smooth.

     When O’Brien was hired a year ago, university officials assured him that there would be no NCAA sanctions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

     Six months later, though, the NCAA used the Freeh Report as its basis to levy heavy sanctions against Penn State, which included a four-year postseason ban, severe scholarship limitations and a $60 million fine.

     And this week out of the blue, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett decided to sue the NCAA over the sanctions, saying it “piled on” Penn State, even though he had endorsed them in July.

     The lawsuit could take years to be settled or heard, so it’s hard to imagine that it affected O’Brien’s decision to stay.

     O’Brien has said several times that he, his wife, Colleen, and their two sons, Jack and Michael, quickly found contentment living in the State College area.

     The reports about O’Brien possibly leaving Penn State had Nittany Lions fans freaking out on social media, such as Twitter.

     Many don’t remember that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno received offers from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots early in his head coaching career. Paterno decided to stay for 46 seasons until he was fired in November 2011 in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

     For Penn State’s sake, O’Brien’s status needed to be resolved quickly. Early enrollees, such as Cedar Cliff tight end Adam Breneman, begin class Monday, and national letter of intent day is Feb. 6. That would have left little time for a new head coach to keep the Lions’ recruiting class intact.

     “Now pay the man and his staff,” tweeted cornerback Stephon Morris, a senior on last year’s team. “Y’all ppl (people) panic too damn much. Always in panic attack. Relax take a deep breath and hush.”

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