O'Brien hopes Penn State sanctions are reduced

Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien and his Nittany Lions. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien and his Nittany Lions. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Posted: July 21, 2013

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien knows why the NCAA imposed harsh sanctions against the university almost a year ago but he feels the association may find a time to eventually "meet us halfway" on the penalties because of the way the program has conducted itself.

O'Brien, who will welcome his players to preseason camp on Aug. 4 and begin preparations for his second season as coach the next day, said Friday that he and his coaches have worked "very, very diligently to stay in compliance just like every program around the country.

"There's a lot of rules to follow and we make our mistakes but we admit them right away, whether it's like sending a text message that we shouldn't have sent," he said on a conference call. "So I think we're in compliance.

"Hopefully, at some point in time, the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, looks at that and they can meet us halfway. I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place. It's about putting an end to child abuse and it's about the victims. I get that, I really do. But at the same time, I want to do what's right for this program, and I think this program is headed in the right direction and behaving well."

The sanctions, which were handed down July 23, 2012, in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, included a four-year ban on bowls and other postseason games, the reduction of scholarships, a $60 million fine and the elimination of wins from the record of former head coach Joe Paterno from 1998 through 2011.

O'Brien said any decision to address whether a reduction in the sanctions should be sought lies with university president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner.

Joyner, who preceded O'Brien on the conference call, said the university is focused only on "dealing with the sanctions as they are right now.

"We're not planning on anything happening so we're paying attention to doing what we have to do and what we've been given to do, and doing it very, very well," Joyner said. "We continue to do that. I think we've been getting good marks for what we've done and how we're paying attention to things, and we're going to continue to be focused on that."

O'Brien met privately last week with the Penn State board of trustees. He said the board invited him to speak and he gave them his thoughts on the sanctions, but did not want to get into specifics.

"I'm not upset about anything," he said. "I'm just really excited about starting training camp."

Once practice starts on Aug. 5, the provision in the sanctions that would allow a player to transfer to another FBS program without having to sit out a year expires.

O'Brien said that quarterback Tyler Ferguson, a junior college transfer, will return from his California home in time for camp. Ferguson had skipped the second summer session to visit his mother, who has cancer, and the news led to rumors that Ferguson was seeking a school out West.

"We made a mountain out of a molehill on that one," O'Brien said.

The main purpose of Friday's conference call was to discuss Penn State's trip to Ireland for the 2014 season opener. O'Brien, whose mother and father are both of Irish ancestry, said he was hopeful that his players would have the chance to tour Dublin, the site of the game against Central Florida.

Joyner said while he kept the Big Ten apprised of all the plans being made to establish the trip, he said the trip was "completely in line" with normal NCAA policy because it was a regular-season game.

Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @JoeJulesInq

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