Bill O’Brien mentioned it three times before questions even started but answered one more time for emphasis “Did you receive a 1.3 million dollar gift from Terry Pegula?”
“No,” he shouted.
Along with reaffirming his commitment to Penn State, that was the main point of his Monday morning press conference, which unlike weekly teleconferences during the season, began with a long prepared statement before taking questions from reporters.
“Out of respect for the year we had and some things I’ve done in the past, I had conversations with a few NFL teams.” O’Brien declined to mention the specific teams but it was reported last week that he interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles for their vacant head coaching positions. The talks never progressed beyond that.
“I made the decision to be here at Penn State, just like I did a year ago, and I can’t think of a better place to be. This is a top ten football program. It is one of the best academic institutions in the world, and I am very proud to be the head football coach here,” said O’Brien.
When O’Brien put speculation about his immediate future to rest last Thursday night when it was announced that he was staying at Penn State, a report came out that along with structural changes within the athletic department, Buffalo Sabres owner and Penn State alum Terry Pegula made a hefty donation that would have raised O’Brien’s salary to 3.6 million for the 2013 season, making him the third-highest paid coach in the Big Ten behind Urban Meyer and Kirk Ferentz.
Specifics were not discussed, but structural changes including additions to the recruiting department and academic support are likely coming. A raise is not according to the head coach. “It’s not about money. If it was about money, I likely wouldn’t be here right now. It’s about making this place the best we can for our student athletes,” said O’Brien.
A minute later he added “You really don’t know me if you write something or say something that I did it for leverage or money. It gets my blood boiling when someone says this was about money.”
During these comments, O’Brien reiterated the respect he has for university president Rodney Erickson and acting Athletic Director David Joyner, adding that he speaks with Joyner at least two to three times a week.
Joyner spoke to the media after O’Brien’s comments concluded denying that the head coach received a salary increase and called his relationship with O’Brien “outstanding” shooting down rumors over the past few days that friction exists there.
After this whirlwind week of rumors that made several fans and players anxious, will this be the same song and dance a year from now if NFL teams come calling and are there certain ways to prevent it?
O’Brien left the option open but expressed his intention to be in Happy Valley.
“That’s a speculative question. I anticipate being at Penn State. I love coaching these kids. I love being here.”
Joyner added “This is always a risk with any great coach. If people aren’t talking about Bill O’Brien, then we made a lousy hire. I personally believe he wants to be here a long time.”
- Running back Curtis Dukes is no longer with the program.
- OBrien called Steven Bench a “neat kid to be around,” adding “He’ll be the first to tell you that he has a lot of work to do.”
- Today is tight end Adam Breneman’s first day on campus. “We’ve got a great kid there who we think has fantastic potential and comes from a great family. Now he needs to put his head down and go to work.”
- In addition to Bench, Tyler Ferguson will also be on scholarship as a quarterback while D.J. Crook and Austin Whipple will be on the roster as run-ons.
- O’Brien mentioned the need to find better ways to utilize running back Bill Belton who hardly played late in the season.
- Tight end Kyle Carter is recovering from a wrist injury suffered late in the season. O’Brien is not sure if he will be ready for spring practice but has made a lot of progress.