CHICAGO – Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien told his players’ parents that if he can keep the 2012 team intact the program can remain competitive in the face of hefty NCAA sanctions.
O’Brien held a one-hour conference call Tuesday night with Penn State football parents, according to someone who was on the call.
“To me, this is the key team,” O’Brien said, according to the source. “We have a chance to be a very good team. If we can keep this team together, we can get through the next few years.”
O’Brien assured the parents that he will “fight” for their sons and will stand alongside them as the Nittany Lions face a four-year bowl ban and severe reductions in scholarships over a four-year period in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“I definitely feel a bond with your sons,” O’Brien said. “I’m here for your sons and I will continue to be here for your sons. We’ll fight through this adversity together.”
It appears that he will be at Penn State for a long while. He said Wednesday on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike Show” that an addendum automatically adds four years to his original five-year contract, meaning it now expires after the 2020 season.
The Centre Daily Times reported it had obtained a copy of the addendum, which was signed by O’Brien and acting athletic director Dave Joyner and which reads: “Any sanction by the NCAA of a loss of scholarships or bowl eligibility due to the actions of the previous staff or lack of institutional control prior to 2012 will immediately result in an automatic extension of coach’s contract at 2016 total compensation and bonus package in years equal to the number of years of the sanctions.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert slapped the Penn State football program with a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a severe loss of scholarships and the vacating of 112 wins from 1998-2011, including 111 for former coach Joe Paterno.
One father asked O’Brien if the NCAA was being abusive toward his son, a Penn State senior.
“The NCAA reserves the right to come in here and shut us down,” O’Brien answered.
Penn State president Rodney Erickson revealed Wednesday that the NCAA first wanted to hand the football program a four-year death penalty before intense negotiations resulted in the sanctions announced Monday.
O’Brien also told the parents that he has talked to Nike about changing Penn State’s plain blue and white uniforms, a staple of the program for decades under former coach Joe Paterno. He also said he’s looking to put names on the back of the jerseys.
“It might be easier said than done (for this season),” he said. “I’m not sure we can get it done this year.”
A mother asked O’Brien about security for her son and the rest of the team on road trips this season. O’Brien said extra security will be provided by Penn State and by the host teams.
“We’ll have a full complement of security and more for our team on the road,” he said.
One mother asked O’Brien if there is anything he could do about the opposing coaches who are trying to recruit her son to leave Penn State for their schools. She said her son is under a lot of stress.
“It’s what the NCAA set up,” he said. “There’s nothing we could do.”
At least 10 parents commended O’Brien for his openness, his enthusiasm and the leadership he has shown since he was hired in January. One father of a senior player made an impassioned speech about making a commitment to the Penn State program and pleaded with the other parents.
“Please, please keep your sons in our program,” he said.