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Coach O'Brien, Nittany Lions Eager to Move Forward

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Bill O'Brien Transcript - Sept. 24

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lion football program learned on Tuesday morning that beginning with the 2014-15 academic year additional scholarships would be restored.

9262161.jpegThe announcement to gradually restore football scholarships was made by the NCAA Executive Committee and endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and former U.S. Senator.

Penn State will be able to sign 20 student-athletes in February, instead of 15, and field a roster with 75 scholarship players in 2014.  In 2015, the football program will be able to sign 25 student-athletes and field a roster with 80 scholarship players.  In 2016, Penn State will be able to sign 25 student-athletes and field a full roster of 85 scholarship players.

"I'm happy for a few groups of people," O'Brien said.  "I'm happy for our staff.  This is an excellent football staff of people here who have worked extremely hard every day since we arrived here at Penn State.  I'm happy for our players.  I think we have a resilient bunch of kids here in our program.  They've acted the right way off the field, and I believe they have performed admirably on the field.  And I'm very happy for the people here at Penn State.  It's a fantastic University, a place where you can get a world class degree and play competitive Big Ten football."

O'Brien emphasized on Tuesday that the announcement illustrated the importance of the coaching staff, administrators and current student-athletes approaching every day, on and off the field, as a models for doing the right thing.

"Every single day, we will try to do the right thing here at Penn State," O'Brien said.  "When we make a mistake, we will own up to it.  But we are going to try every single day to continue down the right path of doing the right thing both on and off the field."

"Since I was hired here, we are just trying to do what is right for the student-athletes here," O'Brien said.  "We are trying to do what is right for Penn State. 
I think it's a great life lesson, which we will continue to try to teach here at Penn State about being resilient and dealing with things in the proper way."

Tuesday's announcement is huge for the future enrollment of student-athletes.  Simply put, the additional five scholarships in 2014 and beyond will enable more individuals the opportunity to attend a world renowned university.

"It's really important for future student-athletes that there are going to be more opportunities to have more student-athletes able to come to Penn State and earn a world-class degree and to play great football.  I think it is an important day for the players here in our program and for future players here at Penn State."

From a competitive standpoint, the reduction in scholarship sanctions will put the Nittany Lions on a level playing field with the other teams in the Big Ten three years sooner than originally stated in the sanctions announced in July of 2012.  O'Brien is looking forward to playing in the Big Ten on a level playing field.

"It's always important on the competition level itself to be on a level playing field," O'Brien said.  "When you are on a level playing field then there are no excuses but to go out there and do your best, play well and do everything you can to win the game.  I think it is important now to work back to being on a level playing field to the scholarship numbers to the rest of the teams in the Big Ten.  This is a fantastic conference with great head coaches and great players.  It's good to be getting back to being on a level playing field with them in terms of scholarship numbers."

Moving forward, O'Brien noted that from a numbers standpoint, the scholarship restoration would be a big boost.  When the program was permitted to sign just 15 players, it forced the coaching staff to select potentially as few as one player for a certain position.  For the recruiting process itself, O'Brien said the message will never change, adding that Penn State is a place where a student-athlete can achieve a world-renowned education while playing football at a high level.

Additionally, the fan base at Penn State separates it from most institutions in America.  O'Brien wanted to show his appreciation for the loyal supporters of the University and football program on Tuesday.

"Our fans, I think they are the best fans in the country," O'Brien said.  "Use last week as an example, it was a rain storm and artistically, it wasn't the greatest football game ever, and those fans were out there.  I feel good for our student body.  They have been so supportive of this football program since the day I walked in here.  I can't say enough about them.  On a day like this, when some of the scholarships are restored, I think it is a good day for all of those people."

For the current Nittany Lions, the focus remains the same.  Penn State will open its 21st season in the Big Ten on Oct. 5 at Indiana (Noon on BTN).  The Lions practiced for the second time during the bye week on Tuesday afternoon in full pads.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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