Joyner: Interest in Penn State job was 'extremely high'

New Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien (center), stands with acting athletic director Dave Joyner (left) and president Rodney A. Erickson after his introductory news conference.
New Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien (center), stands with acting athletic director Dave Joyner (left) and president Rodney A. Erickson after his introductory news conference. (ABBY DREY / Centre Daily Times)
Posted: January 08, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Critics of Penn State's oh-so-deliberate selection process for a new head football coach attributed its duration to the fact that inquiring candidates were rejecting the university's job offer for a host of reasons.

It could have been the child sexual-abuse scandal that arose following the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky; or a belief that Penn State would not reach deeply into its vault for salary funding; or the daunting task of replacing Joe Paterno, the NCAA's all-time leader for victories.

But acting athletic director Dave Joyner ignored the complaints and meticulously led his search committee through a 39-day odyssey of telephone, Skype, and face-to-face interviews before finding his man in New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

Joyner insisted that interest from "very high-level" coaches was extremely high but that, in the end, O'Brien was the only candidate offered the job. The 42-year-old New England native signed a five-year contract worth $2.5 million the first year and made his debut Saturday as the new head coach.

"Bill O'Brien was my first choice and the committee's first choice, and it was a unanimous decision," Joyner said. "We took our time on purpose. Several times I talked to him individually. Every time I talked to him, the more impressed I was. He's a humble guy. He has a lot of fire in his belly and those things came out as we talked through this process."

O'Brien apparently was not affected by the uncertainty around the program - Sandusky's impending trial on child sexual-abuse charges or inquiries by the NCAA and the Big Ten into institutional-control issues - but would not comment on any discussions with Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson.

"Those conversations will stay between myself and the people that I spoke with," he said. "There are a lot of tough questions. I received very honest answers."

Reports surfaced in recent days that former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, an analyst for Monday Night Football on ESPN, gave a strong recommendation in favor of O'Brien to Penn State trustee and committee member Ira Lubert, who is said to be an investor in Jaworski's businesses.

Jaworski did not return a call seeking comment. Joyner said he never spoke to Jaworski.

Joe Nichols, a retired professor who served on the selection committee, declined comment on Jaworski due to confidentiality issues. But he said "some of the best football minds in the country" spoke with members of the panel.

"Understanding the special significance of Penn State and the special importance of this hire, they were more than happy to weigh in and express their views," Nichols said.

Candidates who were reported to have been considered for the job included Tennessee Titans head coach (and former Penn State star) Mike Munchak, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Green Bay Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements, and interim head coach Tom Bradley.

Bradley, who took over the Nittany Lions for the final four games after the firing of Paterno, received "a lot of serious consideration" from the committee, according to Joyner.

"Tom Bradley is a fine person, he's a great coach," Joyner said. "When I talked to him [Friday], as expected, he was very magnanimous. He was very gracious. He talked to me about maintaining the Penn State family."


 

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