Bill O’Brien: Removing NCAA Sanctions ‘The Right Thing To Do’
With the NFL Combine in full swing this week in Indianapolis, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien took the podium to offer his first public comments on the removal of the NCAA sanctions against Penn State — the sanctions O’Brien had to fight tooth and nail as the leader of the Nittany Lions.
Well-respected and admired by Penn Staters for helping navigate the university through its darkest times, O’Brien found a way to turn a team with limited scholarships, a free transfer clause, and bowl bans into a competitive force in one of the nation’s toughest football conferences. After the NCAA sanctions were handed down in July 2012, O’Brien overcame a two-game losing streak to start the season to finish 8-4, culminating in a thrilling OT victory over Wisconsin. In his second year, O’Brien once again put together a winning season, as Penn State knocked off No. 15 Wisconsin on the road in the season finale to finish 7-5.
After finding out along with the Penn State community that the consent decree was voided last month due to a settlement in Senator Jake Corman’s suit against the NCAA, O’Brien said he “felt great for Penn State.”
“I stated over and over again that obviously a terrible, terrible thing happened at Penn State,” O’Brien said, “but I felt like a lot of those sanctions, taking scholarships away, taking away bowl games punished a lot of kids that had nothing to do with anything other than going to class and playing good football so I thought when they brought the bowl game back and they brought the scholarships back, to me that was the right thing to do.”
Of those players he helped guide through some of the toughest times in their athletic careers, four will be participating in workouts and interviews at the NFL Combine this week. Despite being focused on helping turn the Texans franchise into a perennial playoff contender, O’Brien said he still found time to catch up with some of his old “bunch of fighters.”
“I ran into Donovan Smith and Adrian Amos at the Senior Bowl and Deion Barnes at the Senior Bowl,” O’Brien said. “Sam Ficken, his perseverance, can’t say enough about those guys. I hope they get their opportunity and you never know, maybe one of them will get their opportunity in Houston? But those guys did a lot for us and we owe a lot to all of those players there and hopefully they get an opportunity to play pro football.”
Despite all four playing under his tutelage at Penn State, O’Brien said it wouldn’t be hard to objectively evaluate their talent leading up to the NFL Draft in April.
“I have a good feel for these guys,”O’Brien said. “Those guys that are here are the combine, I’ll just speak on those guys. Those guys practiced hard for me, they showed up every Saturday and played hard, they were important members of the two teams I coached at Penn State.”
You can check out O’Brien’s full session with the media in a video on HoustonTexans.com here. Unless you’re interested in hearing about his rebuilding plan for the Texans, skip to to the 9:55-minute mark for his thoughts on Penn State.