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Jan. 30, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien has announced the appointments of Jim Bernhardt as the Nittany Lions' Special Assistant to the Head Coach and Director of Player Development and Craig Fitzgerald as Director of Strength and Conditioning for Football.
O'Brien, who is preparing for Super Bowl XLVI as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, selected eight assistant coaches less than one week after being introduced as the Nittany Lions' 15th head football coach on Jan. 7. He is in the process of determining the Nittany Lions' final assistant coach.
The Nittany Lions' coaching staff previously announced includes: Stan Hixon (Assistant Head Coach/wide receivers), John Butler (secondary), Larry Johnson (defensive line), Charles London (running backs), Mac McWhorter (offensive line), Ted Roof (defensive coordinator), John Strollo (tight ends) and Ron Vanderlinden (linebackers).
Hixon (LSU), McWhorter (Texas) and Roof (Auburn) have been members of BCS National Championship coaching staffs the past 10 years and Vanderlinden was on the coaching staff of Colorado's 1990 national title team.
Bernhardt brings an extensive college and high school coaching resume to Happy Valley. He was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Brown University from 1990-92 and worked with O'Brien, who was a linebacker and defensive end for the Bears. Bernhardt was Brown's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1993. He was a high school head coach from 1994-2003, including at Bishop Moore, Seminole and Dr. Phillips High Schools in central Florida. A Long Island native, Bernhardt joined the UCF staff as director of football operations in early 2004. He was recruiting coordinator and coached the Golden Knights' running backs in 2005-06, including first-team All-American Kevin Smith, who left as Conference USA's No. 2 career rusher with 4,864 yards in three years. Bernhardt was head coach at Long Beach (N.Y.) High School in 2008, returning to his hometown where he had coached from 1985-87 and was Newsday Long Island Coach of the Year. A graduate of Long Island University, Bernhardt began his college career as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Hofstra (1988-89).
Fitzgerald joins the Penn State staff following three seasons as Director of Football Strength & Conditioning at South Carolina. A Philadelphia native, his efforts were instrumental in helping the Gamecocks win a school record 11 games and posting their first Top 10 finish in the polls, working with new Penn State secondary coach John Butler. O'Brien and Fitzgerald first worked together at Maryland in 2003 and `04, with O'Brien serving as the Terps' running backs coach. Fitzgerald worked at Maryland, his alma mater, from 2000-05 as an assistant director of strength and conditioning. A graduate of LaSalle College High School with Butler and former Penn State All-Big Ten tackle Keith Conlin, the three-year football letterman with the Terps graduated in 1997. He began his professional career as Catholic University's first director of strength and conditioning from 1997-99 and also had a brief stint as a graduate assistant at Arizona State. After five years back at Maryland, Fitzgerald was named director of strength and conditioning at Harvard from 2005-09, working with Butler in 2005 and `06. For the Crimson, he oversaw the training for the school's 41 varsity sports, including the football squad that captured back-to-back Ivy League titles in 2007 and 2008.
Fitzgerald is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA). In 2010, he earned the highest honor given in the strength and conditioning coaching profession with the certification of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach from the CSCCA.
The Nittany Lions shared the Big Ten Leaders Division title with Wisconsin and finished with a 9-4 mark during the 2011 season. Penn State played in its fourth consecutive New Year's bowl game and 44th overall. The Nittany Lions' 827 all-time victories rank No. 5 in the nation and their 27 bowl wins are third-highest.
Penn State opens its 126th season on Sept. 1. The Nittany Lions will host Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern (Oct. 6-Homecoming), Indiana, Navy, Temple and Ohio University in Beaver Stadium this fall. For season ticket information, fans should call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
The deadline for Nittany Lion Club contributions is Wednesday, Feb. 1, which allows fans to qualify for 2012 season football ticket and parking benefits. Penn State Athletics reminds NLC members that only those who have provided the required NLC gift amount by the Feb. 1 deadline will secure their current seats and be eligible to participate in the online seat selection process, scheduled to begin on March 1. The pricing of Penn State football game tickets and accompanying donation levels will remain the same as in 2011.