Joyner Addresses Class, Coaching Search

Acting Penn State athletic director David Joyner spoke to nearly 150 students in 101 Thomas for a little over an hour last night, and surprisingly, nearly fifty of those minutes centered around the coaching search for the late Joe Paterno’s successor.

Joyner’s lecture was part of a guest speaker series for the courses Marketing 443 (Sports Marketing) and Communications 170 (Introduction to the Sports Industry). When I found out that I would have the opportunity to listen to the man who made what he would describe as “arguably the most important hire in the history of Penn State athletics”, I was intrigued, but I had also tempered my expectations. I expected the presentation to center more around branding and Joyner’s career than the actual search. I quickly found out that I was wrong as Joyner, unprompted, began to discuss the search process which ultimately ended with the hiring of Bill O’Brien.

After reviewing the resumes of the members of the search committee who worked with him to find Joe Paterno’s successor, Joyner mentioned that the process was designed to model the search for an academic dean or department chairperson. “We were criticized because the search took a long time. If I were in your shoes, I would have felt the same way,” said Joyner, as he discussed the reasoning behind the methodical process along with the frustration from fans and media alike. “Transparency does not mean you get to know everything. When you do a search, you have to be confidential.”

Joyner stated that evaluating football success is not necessarily as difficult as determining “what a person is like inside.” Joyner mentioned that he initially had O’Brien send him a letter and resume, and he also received evaluations from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Joyner said he conducted an interview with O’Brien via Skype and came away impressed by his thought processes and organizational skills. “He respects family and people,” Joyner said, adding that O’Brien made a reference to “Success With Honor” and earlier referred to Penn State athletics as “the Stanford of the East”.

As the O’Brien news broke and the press conference neared, Joyner mentioned that he received hundreds of dissatisfied e-mails, some of which read “Idiot” in the subject line. Fortunately, those slowed down after O’Brien’s introductory press conference as “raw emotion” began to lessen.

Responding to a question that compared O’Brien to Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, Joyner pointed to the likes of Nick Saban and Kirk Ferentz as examples of Belichick disciples who went on to have success as collegiate coaches. “O’Brien totally respected what Coach Paterno had done but was a big enough person not to feel threatened. I truly believe that he wants to be here for the long haul.”

After that discussion, Joyner did indeed transition to speaking about marketing and branding, and mentioned that most of Penn State’s sponsors and partners elected to stay on despite the scandal.

Names of other candidates were not mentioned, nor were specific dates that were not already common knowledge. As the discussion concluded, I thought it attempted to reach some type of middle ground. I entered expecting nothing and exited wanting more. There are still several questions on my mind:

  • Who originally was Plan A?
  • How early in the search was Bill O’Brien contacted?
  • Was Tom Bradley given a fair opportunity?

I still do not agree with how the final few days of the search were run from a public relations standpoint, but after last night, I am beginning to realize that I will likely never know the answers to those above questions. And most of all, I am also beginning to accept that fact.

Joyner deserves credit for addressing the coaching search in an environment where it was not fully expected to be discussed. It’s never too late for a bit of transparency.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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