Penn State's O'Brien opening up to the press

fielded questions from reporters and plans to open practice. ABBY DREY / Centre Daily Times
fielded questions from reporters and plans to open practice. ABBY DREY / Centre Daily Times (Coach Bill O'Brien)
Posted: April 11, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - On Friday, Bill O'Brien will allow reporters to watch a portion of the Nittany Lions' practice for the third time in as many weeks.

In a new era of Penn State football, O'Brien's openness is a welcome change for many reporters as well as for fans clamoring for the latest information on the team. Practices open to the media were a rarity during the Joe Paterno era.

O'Brien said opening practice allows people to see how hard his players are working, the new coaching staff, and the top-notch facilities. O'Brien said he has had a "positive relationship" with the media.

"What you'll find from me is that what you see is what you get," O'Brien told a room of about 30 people at the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) Mid-Atlantic Region meeting Tuesday at Penn State.

"And so, hopefully, our relationship will stay that way, and we'll be open and honest, and we'll have good communication."

Dressed in a navy blue suit, O'Brien sat at the front of a classroom-size room and answered questions from sports editors and reporters on many topics, ranging from the groundwork of the school's football program set forth by Paterno to his recent reception at Penn State, which he called "fantastic."

O'Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator who took over at Penn State on a full-time basis after the Super Bowl, said the foundation of Penn State football will always be academics, football, respect, and integrity.

"This university stands for everything that I'm about, which is the balance between academics and football," he said. "You can win many, many games. You can win championships here. And you can graduate kids here. And the players that play here should be very, very proud of the fact that they are Penn State football players."

Other speakers at Tuesday's meeting included Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, the last reporter to interview Paterno before he died, and Harrisburg Patriot-News crime reporter Sara Ganim, who has been at the forefront of the coverage of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal.

John Nichols, the cochairman and one of the founders of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics and a member of Penn State's six-person search committee that recommended O'Brien's hire, also spoke and answered questions. Nichols appeared already impressed with O'Brien.

"Being on that search committee was one of the most challenging, difficult, complicated, stressful experiences of my 35 years at Penn State," said Nichols, a former communications professor. "But by the same token, it was one of the most interesting and ultimately one of the most rewarding things I've done."

Throughout the process, Nichols said acting athletic director Dave Joyner frequently reminded the committee that the hire needed to be a person of the highest integrity.

"He said, 'The Penn State faithful will forgive us a loss or two next season,' " Nichols recalled. " 'They will not forgive another scandal.' "

After living out of a suitcase at the Penn Stater Hotel for the first couple of months, O'Brien appears to be settling in to his new hometown. The coach said his wife and two sons arrived about a week ago, and the family recently moved into a house in nearby Boalsburg.

"My wife, she's unpacking boxes. I could say that I've helped, but that would be a complete lie," O'Brien joked.

"But it's obvious that there are so many people here that have reached out to us, whether it's in our neighborhood or in State College or Penn State people. It's been great to this point."

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