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Mitch: Musings from a Half-Informed PSU Photographer

January 4, 2014
By MITCHELL WILSTON (jsitler@timesobserver.com) , The Times Observer

And just like that, the Bill O'Brien era of Penn State football was over.

I'm pretty peeved about my now redundant photos of the ex-coach. They're not even a year old! It's like getting your favorite player's jersey only to have him traded the next week.

But it's not that he decided to leave the program; it's hard to hold that against him when O'Brien has always made it clear that he had ambitions to coach in the NFL.

Article Photos

Photo by Mitchell Wilston
Bill O’Brien

"In my profession, the National Football League is the highest level of coaching," he said last January after returning to Penn State following discussions with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

The only thing that bothers me is how he left.

O'Brien took over the Penn State program during the middle of a storm and you have to give him credit for holding the team together. He did that by pushing player loyalty. Prior to UCF's game at Penn State, O'Brien explained the impact of loyalty to Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:

Fact Box

Mitchell Wilston is an Eisenhower High School graduate, former athlete, and former or off-and-on Times Observer sports reporter and current writer/photographer for Onward State, a Penn State blog.

"The players who are here now and the guys who were here last year could've gone anywhere. They didn't have to stay at Penn State, but they committed to each other, they committed to Penn State, and they committed to our coaching staff. I felt it was important that they understand that I was committed to them. What if you're not a man of your word?"

Moving forward, I suppose we will see what happens when you're not a man of your word - when, a few months after promising your commitment, you split for the NFL.

During Tuesday's press conference to address the coaching changes, Penn State's athletic director Dave Joyner said that O'Brien had planned on being at Penn State for the long-term but, "Things change sometimes. You can't predict it."

With all of the information coming out after the fact, I'm having a hard time believing that O'Brien was ever with Penn State for the long haul.

A few days ago, after O'Brien's departure was announced, David Jones of PennLive published a conversation with O'Brien from a month ago. His quotes irked a lot of Penn Staters and for good reason.

"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."

That wasn't even the coup de gras. What really stood out from the conversation was the fact that, even a month ago, O'Brien was getting ready to leave:

"That's why, in probably about a month, they're gonna be --ing looking for a new coach."

Despite acknowledging to Jones that he was leaving, O'Brien spent the next month telling recruits he was staying at Penn State.

Safety commit Marcus Allen was quoted by PennLive saying, "When I talked to him on my official visit it was something I asked him about... He told me, 'Yes, I'll be there at least through (quarterback Christian) Hackenberg's class.'"

Hours after it leaked that O'Brien was in negotiations with the Texans, it was reported that O'Brien called four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley who said, "He said everything they have put out there is not true, and he's here for Penn Statehe's going to be here for me," said Holley.

It takes a special kind of guy to tell a recruit he's staying while he's negotiating his new contract.

A lot of people have been saying that it's just the name of the game. Don't trust a coach when he promises that he's staying - he's just doing his job. The "every coach does it" excuse doesn't cut it for me. Being in a profession filled with dishonesty does not excuse you to be dishonest. Accepting dishonesty in politics is one thing, but are we really going to stand by as it sullies the time-honored tradition of football?

You have to draw a line somewhere.

Call me naive, or call me old fashioned, but if a man's not worth his word, what's he really worth? Apparently, he's worth a five-year contract in the NFL. Hopefully our next coach will be worth the Penn State fan base and not say that they make him want to "put my fist through this windshield right now."

It always stinks getting dumped (uh, not that I ever have), and this case is no different. But it's important to remember that the only reason that Penn State is so upset about the whole thing is that we really liked him. He did a great job with Penn State, and I think he'll do a great job with the Texans.

It leaves Penn State in a tough situation; not having a head coach makes recruiting new players pretty difficult. It will be tough, but it is not the end of the world. The Penn State football program is in a much better position than it was two years ago. Some of the sanctions have been reduced already; rumor has it that they will be further reduced and we will be bowl-eligible next season, and finding a coach is going to be much easier this time around.

Two years ago, O'Brien took a job that no one wanted and righted a sinking ship.

Now we need a coach that really wants to be at Penn State for the long haul - one that we can take at his word.

 
 

 

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