Coach Bill O'Brien Press Conference
Jan. 7, 2013
Bill O'Brien: So listen, I threw you guys off base because I don't have my sweatsuit on. Don't think I'm dressed up for you guys. I have to go to the AFCA convention right after this. I think it's an honor for our program because I've been asked to speak at the AFCA convention, to the whole convention, which I think is a really neat deal. That's the college coaches convention down there (Nashville) where I think there's upwards of 3,000 people. That's why for me this is dressed up.
Obviously, I think we sit here a year to the date today Jeff and Greg Myford and I were just out there talking about this, I think it was January 7th when I was hired, so obviously a lot can happen in a year.
One of the main reasons I wanted to come in here today and talk to you guys is because I think over this year I can say that we've developed a very honest and open relationship with especially the local guys around here, the local men and women around here, as far as the writers go and the TV people here.
And I'd really like that to continue, and I think it's been refreshing for me to get to know you, and I think it's been refreshing for you guys to get to know what we're all about. And that was one of the things that we wanted to do when we came in here was open it up and let people come in and see the staff that we have here and the type of kids that we're coaching here. Obviously I'd like to continue that relationship, and I really think it's an important one. So I just want to tell everyone here, especially the local people, that it's been an enjoyable year. It's been a very enjoyable year.
Obviously, a lot has happened over the last week, and many of the things that happened over the last week are out of my control, but this is in my control. This day, today, is in my control. And I want to make sure that everybody leaves here with a sense of exactly where I stand and what exactly happened and how I feel about Penn State.
When the season ended, we had a great victory over Wisconsin, and the season ended, we immediately went on the road as a staff and began to recruit, and then obviously you go into what they call a dead period where you can't recruit anymore, so I gave the staff vacation.
I took my family, my wife Colleen and my son Michael, my in laws came and stayed with my son Jack here in Boalsburg, and we took Michael to Disney World. Just so you know about that trip, I've been on more roller coasters in the last four days or five days than I've been on in my whole life. It was just back and forth roller coasters. But anyways, we had a fun time down there, and while we were down there obviously the NFL season ended, and I believe there were seven openings at the end of the NFL season.
Many of those organizations contacted my representative, Joe Linta, with interest in talking to me about being their head football coach. I don't want to get into which organizations and all those things. That's not why I'm here today.
Why I'm here today is to tell you a few things. Number one is, I'm a coach. I'm a coach. And the National Football League and coaching is my profession. Coaching is something that I love. I love to coach. I love coaching these kids here at Penn State. I enjoy coming into the office every day and strategizing and thinking about how we can get this team ready for the 2013 season. I enjoy the week to week preparation. I enjoy the practice planning, the camaraderie with our staff -- one of the best staffs in the country. We have a fantastic staff of guys, and I am a coach. That's my profession. Your profession is you guys are journalists, you guys are TV people, you men and women are at the top of your profession, whether it's here in Pennsylvania or in the country. But that's your profession.
Respect my profession. My profession is coaching, and in my profession, the National Football League is the highest level of coaching. You don't get any higher in coaching than the National Football League.
And so out of respect for what we did this year, myself and our staff, and most importantly our players, and plus some of the things that I have done in the past, a few teams reached out to my representative, and we had conversations. That's as far as it went.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is the decision that I made. I made the decision to be here at Penn State, just like I made that decision a year ago, and I can't think of a better place to be. This is a top 10 football program. This is one of the best academic institutions in the country, in the world, and I am very, very proud to be the head football coach here. Very proud.
And I have a family. I'm 43 years old. I've been doing this for 20 years. I'm basically, in my opinion, about halfway through my career. I won't be coaching for 47 more years. I won't. I will not be coaching when I'm 80 years old. I think I can coach about 20 to 25 more years, because that's where I see my career going. I have my wife Colleen and my son Jack and my son Michael who I love more than anything in the world, and it's my job as the father and the husband in that house that I take care of my family first. And that's my job. That's my duty as a father and a husband, and that's what I did.
And again, we couldn't be happier than being at Penn State. Could not be happier.
In my 20 years of coaching, and you can go back and you can call Mickey Kwiatkowski, Mark Whipple, George O'Leary, Ralph Friedgen, Ted Roof and Bill Belichick, you can call them all, but most of them probably won't call you back, but if you do get them on the phone, you can ask them, "Did Bill, in his years working for you, has he ever asked you for a raise?" and they will unequivocally tell you no. I have never asked Dr. Joyner, Dr. Erickson for a raise. No one at Penn State has ever come to me and said to me that we're going to make a donation so you can get a raise. That's a bunch of malarkey. It's not true, it's never happened, and it never will happen. That's the last thing that I'm about.
If I was about money, if I was about money, more than likely I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now. It's not about money. It's about making sure that Penn State, Penn State University, the Penn State athletic department, Penn State football, does everything we can do in our power to make this place the best it can be for our student athletes. That's what it's about in my mind.
So what does that mean? People have asked me over the past few days about structural changes and things like that. Number one is, I believe in a chain of command. Dr. Erickson is the president of this University, and I have a ton of respect for him. Dr. Joyner is our athletic director, and I have a ton of respect for him. And I follow their lead. I look at it this way: Dr. Erickson is like the CEO, Dr. Joyner is the captain of the athletic department, and those guys are my bosses, my immediate boss being Dr. Joyner, and Dr. Erickson being my ultimate boss.
And I stand in line behind them, and I support them. I think about on a daily basis, part of my day is anything about what those two men have meant to this University and what they've been through, the decisions they've had to make. So I stand behind them.
And my horses in the race here at Penn State are my players and my coaching staff, and that's the number one thing as it relates to Penn State. And so I want to make sure that we do everything we can, whether it's in the weight room or our coaching meeting rooms or maybe we could add a few people in our recruiting department, or maybe we could help our academic staff by adding some people or maybe we can help our sports information staff, or whatever it has to do that relates to football at Penn State, I want to make sure that every year we do the best we can to be on the cutting edge of having the best football program that we can possibly have. That's my job. My job is as the head football coach of Penn State is to make sure that we field the best football team we possibly can, that we graduate our players, and that we continue to attract some of the top notch character, academic disciplined kids, student athletes, that are out there. That's my job.
I absolutely enjoy every single day coming to work here. I'll tell you my routine. I get up I'm an early morning guy, a lot of you guys know that. I get up early, I go to the Dunkin' Donuts I trade off. There's two Dunkin' Donuts here in State College, I go to one of them I try to trade off so I don't make the other one mad (laughter). I get my coffee, and I come into work, and I watch tape, I meet with our staff, I talk to our kids. I do everything I can to make sure that I'm making sure that Penn State is in the most successful position it can be as it relates to the football program.
So that's something that I wanted to make sure everybody knew here.
Again, going back to money and all these other things, I really find it and I have a lot of respect for everyone in here, I really do, but you really don't know me if you write something or you say something that, "this guy did it for leverage and money." I didn't do anything. I had a conversation in the best interest of my family with a few people, and at the end of the day, this is the decision I made. We're all faced with choices. I chose Penn State because I love coaching these players. I really like our staff, and I like the direction that we're headed.
I have never asked anyone for a raise, and no one has ever even brought up the fact that you get a raise. Hey, look, six months down the road, if I get a raise, would you like a raise? Everybody would like a raise every once in a while. Yeah, of course I'd like a raise. I'm just like everybody else. But I have never asked anybody for a raise. So to me it really borderlines on you guys know me, the guys that have been around me, a little bit of an Irish temper, it gets my blood boiling a little bit when somebody tells somebody else or writes something that this was about money. It wasn't about anything other than making sure that I saw the opportunities out there and that I do the best job I can for my Penn State football players and my Penn State football staff.
So with that being said, I will end on this: I just want to make sure that everybody knows, too, there are many, many alums that I've come into contact here over the last year, some of the highest character, most disciplined, some of the best people I've ever met. One of the things that was really neat when the sanctions came out last summer is we invited our Lettermen to come speak to our team, and we have over 1,000 members of our Letterman's organization, and I sent out an invitation, I think, on a Wednesday for them to be here on a Monday. I only gave them about four or five days' advance notice because we had to get going. The sanctions were coming and kids were making decisions.
And I think almost 500 Lettermen showed up to that. That's incredible. And many of those men I had met for the first time there. That's incredible. There's really not many programs around the country that are like that, and that's where I really I had met a lot of those guys, including Dr. Joyner and Paul Suhey and a lot of those guys, and that's where I met a lot more. And in addition to them, I've gotten to know Terry Pegula and Ira Lubert and Peter Tombros and many, many people here, and not one time, not one time have I ever asked them for more money for me or have they ever said to me, "hey, we're going to give you more money." It's never happened. Never will; it's never happened.
Sure, would I like them to donate money to our football program so we can get a new couple new treadmills and new squat rack or something maybe new in the training room? Sure. But again, these are some of the most outstanding people I've ever met, and I'm proud to know them, and I have a good relationship with them.
And so, again, I'm very, very thrilled to be the head football coach at Penn State. I'm really looking forward to watching the development of this team going forward. You know, it's about I don't know, it's a few months here before spring practice. Can't wait for spring practice. Over the next month and a half here you won't really be able to get a hold of me because I'll be out recruiting. I'm really excited about the direction of recruiting.
I think people have to understand the situation that we're in right now, I would tell you that recruiting is going very well. Obviously I can't mention anybody's name because that's illegal, but I can tell you that you think about the situation that we're in, and you think about the type of guys that we're being able to recruit and that are receptive to us, it's really an outstanding job by our football staff. And our football staff is outstanding. And that's a group of men that I'm proud to be associated with and that hopefully we can take care of them, too, and make sure that we do right by our football staff.
But those are just some things I wanted to say. And again, I didn't dress up for you guys, I have a couple other places to go after this. That's why I don't have my sweatsuit on today.
So I guess with that, we'll open it up to questions.
Q. Talking about you said that your horse in the race is the coaches and the players. You want to make sure that everything that you're doing is state of the art for them.
Q. Has what you're doing for them changed in the last couple weeks as a result of the last couple weeks? And could you talk about what those things are?
Q. I just wanted to ask you just to clarify, you did not receive $1.3 million gift from Mr. Pegula?
Q. Last Sunday, ESPN reported that you were unhappy that you received, quote unquote, bad information during your interview process, that the NCAA would not impose sanctions on the program, that it was just a criminal matter, and I think that got everybody thinking, oh, my God, he's angry, he's going to leave. Was that true?
So it wasn't anybody that gave me bad information. It was just nobody really knew, and so I took somewhat of a leap of faith. Penn State took a leap of faith, and I shook their hand and became the head football coach here, and that's exactly what happened.
Q. Expanding on that, could you give your reaction to Governor Corbett's lawsuit against the NCAA and where you're going from here?
Q. Like you were saying earlier, wanting to make sure everything is in the best place for your assistants and your players, and you've always had ongoing discussions. What are some things you would like to see put in place that would enrich the experience for them?
And in pro football, the same thing. The best organizations in pro football are always the ones that are thinking about ways to do things differently, from year to year. Every year is different. I just met with the team here at 7:00 a.m., and I said, look, 2012 has been over for a couple months now, that season, and we've got to create a new identity.
So, we will constantly here at Penn State talk about new ways of, maybe there's new weight lifting equipment or can I have a few more guys in the recruiting department to help Billy Kavanaugh with recruiting. Maybe there's different ways to do study hall, maybe there's different ways to help with our marketing department as it relates to football. You know, those are all things that we need to constantly be talking about at Penn State as we move year to year because we can't just sit and stay the same, we've got to be creative, we've got to think out of the box, we've got to do the best job we can for our players and for our staff to make sure that we're putting them in the best situation to get a great degree and to win football games.
Q. But nothing new or changed yet in these last couple weeks, though?
Q. What would you do if an NFL team called you next year at this time?
Q. Is coaching in the NFL one of your goals still?
Q. I think everybody that's married knows that our happiness is directly correlated with our wife's happiness. How did family play a role in wanting to stay here at Penn State?
Q. With regards to recruiting, did it concern you when word came out that you were having interviews with these teams, the kind of effect it would have on the recruits, not knowing what you were going to do?
The NCAA test is an open book test, so I don't know the rule book back and forth. It's open book. So we've got to be careful about how we go down this road. I've had very honest and open discussions in recruiting with all the families and prospects that we recruit, and there's a lot of trust there. That's all I'll say about that.
Q. Whatever transpired last week, talk about the impact on fans, alumni, who have grown to support the program.
Q. Obviously there's some uncertainty over the direction of the administration here in the next couple years. Is that something that you're anxious to see resolved in terms of who will be the athletic director going forward and also when a new president is named how that affects you?
So whatever people above me decide to do, I have bosses and that's who I work for, and I'm going to follow that lead.
Q. Would you be able to elaborate at this point in time about some of the interactions you've had with recruits who have enrolled early on campus now?
Bill O'Brien: I think I'm allowed to do that.
Q. You mentioned a couple times adding support people for recruiting. Can you give us a feel for maybe where you stand? You talk about keeping up with the Joneses with some of the other programs that are at your level.
Q. If you're able to comment on this, having Adam Breneman on campus now, obviously his presence with the recruiting was pretty big. Are you able to comment on just what his presence is finally joining the team and also how his recovery process has been?
Q. You had exit interviews with players following the regular season. Did you glean any insight from that process?
I think every time you meet with these guys, you learn something new about those guys, and that's what I try to do.
Q. As a follow up to that, is there anyone who didn't return for the spring semester, any academic problems that you're aware of?
Q. What are some things over the past year you're proud of, and what are some of the things over the past year you wish you would have done differently and have learned from?
And then some things, I'm just really proud to be associated with these players. I'm proud of the way that they played last year. I think it was a good start to a new era. I think we've got tough kids that care about Penn State, and I'm looking forward like I said, I really enjoy coaching these kids. I'm just proud to be associated with these guys, and I'm proud to be with this University.
Q. Could you just talk a little bit about the quarterback position as you see it heading into spring? And were there any kids you redshirted in the fall who maybe impressed you and the staff on the practice field and you think have positioned themselves maybe to get some playing time?
We brought in a junior college transfer, so to speak, named Tyler Ferguson, who comes from the College of The Sequoias out there in California, and am really excited about working with him. He was a guy that we felt really was smart and productive, and had some great conversations with him, and he's been here the last couple days, and met him and talked to him a little bit. Just really excited about him.
We have two run on guys, Austin Whipple, whose dad, Mark Whipple, is a great friend of mine, who was the quarterback coach of the Cleveland Browns, and I worked for Mark at Brown, and Austin is his youngest son, and really looking forward to working with him.
And then we have a young man named D.J. Crook from Massachusetts that's a run on that's coming in here, and just being around those two guys the last couple days, two athletic looking guys that are ready to go to work. So we're excited there.
Some guys as far as that we redshirted, I'll start on offense. Obviously we can't wait to see what Akeel Lynch does. We think he's got a really good future for us. Go to the tight end position, Brent Wilkerson really impressed us on the practice field.
The thing with those guys now is you're going from reading a card to actually having to learn the system. You can look at a card in the Dirty Show (scout team), and they say, "run this curl at 14 yards" and you run the curl. Now it's about going out there and learning the system and doing it.
We're looking forward to seeing how those guys adapt to it and get going.
Geno Lewis, Malik Golden at the receiver position, really looking forward to watching those guys, watching what they do.
Offensive line, we've got a couple guys there, Wendy Laurent, looking forward to seeing him, what he does.
Defensively, a guy like Austin Johnson, really think he's got a great future for us. Nyeem Wartman, even though he played a little bit and was injured, really think he's got a great future for us. Secondary-wise, Da'Quan Davis, looking forward to seeing how he improves after year one here.
Those are guys Jake Kiley...I could go right down the list for you, but there's a lot of good young talent in this program that we think bodes well for the future, and now we just can't wait to get out there and start coaching them.
Q. Can you talk about where Bill Belton stands heading into the winter workouts, and do you still see him as a running back, or is he a guy you might look at for other positions?
Looking forward to putting those plans into place here in spring practice. But Billy is ready to go, I think, as far as working at it this off season.
Q. How important is it to keep your staff intact, and also, how high a priority is it to make their salaries more competitive?
I think that these guys are paid well. I think that they can always be paid better, and I think there's things that we've talked about from day one here, Dr. Joyner and I, about ways that we can do that, whether it's a bowl bonus or what bowl would we have gone to if we win a certain amount of games, things like that. So those are conversations that take place, and like I said, in the inner circle, and we'll do the best we can to continue to try to make it attractive to coach here.
Q. Did you inform your current players that you planned to have conversations with a couple teams before you did last week, and did any of them express concern to you during the process?
Q. Your decision to stay, was that on the condition of anything? Did some of these changes have to take place in order for you to stay?
Q. Can you give up an update on Kyle Carter, and do you expect him to be ready for full go this winter?
Q. You mentioned (Nyeem) Wartman before. Do you plan to use the medical redshirt, plan to pursue the medical red shirt for him after last season?
Q. A follow up, but when you go through a public process or it becomes public, can it be is it gone for the foreseeable future, or is it something that can come up again on an annual basis?
I have a lot of respect for that league. I love that league. Again, this is my profession. I'm a coach. And that's the highest level, and so but at the same time, like I've said, I really, really I can't be more clear about this: I love coaching these kids. I enjoy being the head football coach at Penn State, and I enjoy working here. I enjoy the people I work for, the people I work with, all the people I've met, the student body is incredible here, and I enjoy being here. And I plan to be here.