Bill O’Brien Regrets ‘Paterno People’ Comment

Bill O’Brien’s departure from Penn State wasn’t the most graceful, at least if you ask some people. On the night the O’Brien-to-Texas move became imminent, Patriot News columnist David Jones published what became probably the most read piece on O’Brien ever. I critiqued both Jones and O’Brien here, but basically, the story made it seem like O’Brien left Penn State because he was frustrated with a section of the fanbase that didn’t support him — a section I’m not so sure ever existed. Here’s an excerpt:

O’Brien’s ire also was raised that day by my suggestion that a faction of Joe Paterno-era loyalists seemed to me to be miffed by Vanderlinden’s departure or dismissal, depending upon their view, and that they might want some sort of explanation. The former linebackers coach had been the second-longest-tenured member of the staff, dating to 2000, one of only two remaining staff members hired by the legendary coach. This really got O’Brien going:

“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a —- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.

“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”

That conversation, understandably, had some people irked. O’Brien addressed them publicly for the first time today on the Mike & Mike morning show, and was apologetic for the comments. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview:

On the Paterno People comment:

“Nah, that’s not accurate at all. I felt that I had a ton of support at Penn State. My staff had a lot of support at Penn State. You know, I regret that that conversation even took place. I do, I regret that. But I know that I had a ton of support there. Penn State is a special place. I believe in what we did at Penn State. I think Penn State, the football program is in a better spot now than it was two years ago.”

“I apologize to anybody that took that conversation obviously the wrong way. I regret that conversation, but again, Penn State’s a special place and they’re going to be in great shape in the coming years.”

On why he left:

“I loved Penn State, I really did. I enjoyed the players. I think it’s a very special university. I think they’ve gone and hired a fantastic coach in James Franklin. But there are many parts of the NFL game that I missed. And then the other thing was that I think that’s important to note was my family. When Houston came around and was interested in talking to me … I just felt good about this opportunity. It was also the fact that in the city of Houston they have a great medical facility here for my oldest son. It’s just a fantastic facility. I think that’s something that meant a lot to my wife and I.”

On Penn State’s future:

“I think that they’re going to take off. I think Penn State is a place where you can win national championships and Big Ten championships.”

O’Brien echoed those sentiments on ESPN Radio later in the day.


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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]


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