Woof. Looks like Penn State has hired Bill O'Brien as the next football coach, making O'Brien the second hire in roughly six hundred years. Hyperbole aside, I've been all around the blogosphere today and I cannot find any positive reactions to the hire. This is troubling for Penn State's football future, both immediately and down the road.
Dave Joyner and the rest of the search committee down there had two choices:
- Appease the fan base and hire someone with ties to the Penn State program, like Tom Bradley
- Sever all ties with the past coaching staff and start anew
It looks like they went with the latter. It's clear what their motivations were - the cloud hanging over Penn State is immense, and the sooner they could purge the better. But was that the best option to actually win games and preserve the program? On first glance, that answer is no. Here's why, via LaVar Arrington (former linebacker, radio show host in DC) via Twitter:
Wait, sorry. This one:
This guy isn't the minority. Penn State alumni are pissed, and there's not a lot anyone in the administration can do about it now. The fanbase is incensed, and one of the key reasons is that this O'Brien guy has no ties to Penn State or the legendary JoePa coaching tree. Sound familiar?
Seriously, can anyone think of any examples of a tradition-rich program with a legendary former head coach that went off the grid for a hire? How did it turn out? Why did it turn out that way? Did the alumni have anything to do with it?
I'm not saying the situations are that similar or that the reason Rich Rodriguez didn't succeed was the lack of alumni support. But that couldn't have helped him, right? Anyone who slogged through Three and Out or followed the news at all since 2008 knows that Rodriguez wasn't exactly welcomed. That had to have some kind of impact, right? So the Penn State administration has basically done the same thing to their alumni network - and some influential alumni are already sounding off, abandoning their alma mater 24 hours after the hiring broke. Arrington has influence and a loud microphone to make his views apparent. More will follow.
I'm sorry. This whole thing just screams Rich Rodriguez to me. I hope for the sake of Penn State football that I'm wrong. So let's say O'Brien wins. He'll win people back. That's the great thing about winning. But if he doesn't, at a school like Penn State, I'd say he's got about a three-year leash. What happens if he doesn't win and gets fired? Penn State's administration has two options:
- Go back to its roots, hiring a former Penn State coach or someone with ties to the program. Restoring tradition.
- Hire another outsider and risk the ire of its fanbase/LaVar Arrington again.
Doesn't this put them right back where they started? I know I'm assuming a lot of negatives, but Penn State has to be worried that they have no contingency plan if O'Brien doesn't succeed.
As a fan of college football, the Paterno/Sandusky scandal has been horrendous, and as a fan of humanity, Sandusky's alleged actions have been scarring to the very core. I hope PSU can get past this - they will, eventually. There's an old Onion article about healing and winning that kind of goes along with this - link here.
So, Penn State, I'd suggest at least trying to support your new coach. Bad things happen if you don't.
And Coach O'Brien, this is all you can do right now - please don't try any Josh Groban.