Bill O'Brien Teleconference Transcript - July 24, 2012
Q: Are you more worried about losing players this summer or after the season?
A: I don't really think about it that way. I reiterate it to the team every day- to these players- why they came here, what Penn State stands for (which is world renowned in education), the ability to come in here and play football on TV in front of108,000 fans, and play for a fantastic football coaching staff. So I don't think about down the line or tomorrow when it comes down to that stuff. I just continue to think about competing and communicating with our players.
Q: Did the severity of the sanctions surprise you when you were first made aware yesterday morning?
A: I would say in coaching that one of the things you learn right away is you always have to be ready for anything. Whether you are calling plays in a game or you are in ameeting with Bill Belichick, you have to be ready for anything. At the end of the day, this is the plan we have already started to implement for these new rules and that's where we are headed. That's the approach we are taking and we really can't wait to start practice and football to be honest with you.
Q: You mentioned earlier in your interview today with Bonnie Bernstein that you want to keep the 2012 team together. What is your gut feeling on the seniors sticking around for the season?
A: I feel good about this team right now. I have had a couple team meetings with these guys. We have a bunch of stand up, smart, Penn State kids. They care about this University and they care about this football team. They have developed a lot of chemistry over the last six months with this University and this coaching staff. I feel very good with where we are at right now. At the end of the day, we will find out the type of team we have when we start practice on August 6. As of right now, we are communicating with our players that we feel good with where we are at right now.
Q: How does this change your recruiting philosophy with now only having 15 scholarships?
A: Of course it changes it based on the numbers, but the philosophy that I brought here from my experience with the New England Patriots does not change. Which mean we arebringing players here that are high character guys, good students and good football players. We are going to try and find different ways to do that. At the end of the day, these are the rules we play under. To me, it's very much like an NFL roster. That's the way we are going to approach it without getting into any details. We are moving forward and looking forward to recruiting and coaching for Penn State.
Q: This has obviously been a tough time for a lot of people. What would your message be to Penn State fans?
A: I would tell them to renew their season tickets. I would tell them to move forward. I would tell them to turn the page and get on board with a new era of Penn State football. I would tell them to continue their belief in this fantastic University that offers people a fantastic education. I would tell them to remember that they have a football team here that is working extremely hard for this upcoming season. And I would remember to tell them the mission of Penn State, which as it relates to football, the value of a world-renowned education with the ability to play football. So I would tell them all to jump on board.
Q: Are you confident that you can keep your staff intact after this season?
A: I am very confident in this staff and our ability to work together and stay together.
Q: It sounds like the NCAA has created a free agency situation with the players of your team. Howwould you compare that to what it was like in New England?
A: Yes, it is a good comparison. That is a good comparison. Obviously in professional football, you are talking about money and paychecks, which we are not talking about here.What we are talking about here is the value of an education, the ability toplay football in front of 108,000 fans and in front of people on TV. In my opinion, you get to play six or seven bowl games a year right here in StateCollege and (in front of) its great fans. There are a lot of things in the NFL that we would tell free agents as why they should stay with our team. We are telling our football team to remember why they came here, remember the relationships they've developed here, how they feel about this football staff they play for, how they feel about the guy you play next to and most importantly, how you feel about this University. The ability to take this degree when you graduate, whether it's in the NFL or the business world, the medical field, being a teacher or whatever you want to do, this degree holds a lot of weight. I think there are a lot of things we can talk to our guys about as to why they should stay at Penn State and again, I believe that's what is going to happen.
Q: Has any player informed you that they are going to be leaving or transfer?
Q: How important is it that TV was not part of the sanctions and that you guys will still be on TV?
A: I believe in the chain of the command at Penn State. So the communication process is me to my boss, Dave Joyner, to his boss, Rod Erickson, and in a lot of the communication there I asked for two things. I said, "Let us play football and let us be on TV," and at the end of the day, that is all you want to do. You want to play football in a fantastic, beautiful stadium in front of passionate fans and you want your fan base that can't get to the game to be able to see you on TV. We've got that; we are able to play football. We can't go to a bowl game, and I understand that. Like I said this morning, I am not sure that there are many bowl games that are played in front of 108,000 fans. I feel very good with where we are at right now because we do have the ability to play football on TV.
Q: Where you conferred with about not appealing the sanctions? What do you generally think of that?
A: Really, what I've known since I got here was to talk about the football program. We have really, really fine leaders at the University, men that I really respect a lot, starting with Dr. Erickson and Dave Joyner. They've had to make some very tough decisions over the past six months. I respect that, because that's what I do with the football program. I make decisions: quick, educated decisions. That's what they've had to do. At the end of the day, I've respected the decisions they've made and I'm here to run this football program.
Q: What was it like for you with the first meeting with the players yesterday morning? Can you give us a sense of what it was like for you to deliver that message and what it was like for them receiving it?
A: I can tell you it was a really good meeting. It was a positive meeting. I told the guys why I came here. The reason why I came to Penn State was I believed in the ability to play good football and to graduate with a world-renowned degree. That's why my wife and I came. I talked to these guys about adversity and about my own adversity. I talked to them about what my wife and I went through when my oldest son was born and that he was handicapped. I told them life is filledwith adversity and the way you travel through life is the way you travel through adversity. That is how you are defined as a man. So I talked to theguys about why they came here and I told them to think about the guys sitting next to them in that room and whom they're playing next to. I talked to the guys about the football staff, guys that are some of the best coaches I've ever coached with and how I'm proud to be associated with them. I talked to them about how proud I am to be their football coach. I told these guys a lot ofthings to think about. I met with them again this morning and reiterated some of the same things. I feel really strongly about this football team. We have a bunch of kids here that are good, tough and smart football players that care about education. Again, we have open lines of communication and that's what we're doing right now.
Q: There is a focus on keeping the 2012 team together. How much of an effort has your staff made to reach out to the 2013 recruiting class and has your message to them been similar to the one told to your team right now?
A: Again, I'm not going to get into the recruiting because of the rules. I will tell you we have obviously been involved in a lot of different areas of this football program over the last two days and we feel very good about where we are recruiting-wise. We continue to tell everybody involved with the Penn Statefootball program that this is what Penn State's about. It's about, again, a top-level university where you can come in and choose from 100 different majors. You have some of the best faculty in the world to teach you. You have a chance to play for what I consider one of the best staffs in the country, astaff that's going to develop you to play in the NFL and also develop you for the next stage of life if it's not the NFL. Those are the things I talked about with everybody involved with the Penn State program the last two days.
Q: Do you feel the sanctions given are worse than the death penalty?
A: No. We are playing football. We open our season on Sept. 1 in front of 108,000 strong against Ohio University and I couldn't feel better about that. We're playing football. We're on TV. We get to practice. We get to get better every day as football players and we get to do it for Penn State.
Q: What was the timing and context of asking President Rodney Erickson and acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner to be allowed to continue playing football and remaining on TV?
A: I just knew that they were in talks with the NCAA. I knew what was important to me was that we were playing football and that I'd like to do that on TV so the fans that can't get the game can see it. Those are the things that I just talked about with our athletic director and president.
Q: Have you met with players individually? Have you considered how many players the team can lose and remain competitive?
A: I've met with the team in a team setting and with individual players. Right now I'm dealing with what we have on the team, which is intact right now. At this point in time, I don't even think about those things. I think about talking to these kids every single day and every single hour of the day. I'm talking to these guys about Penn State and the value of the football program and the new era of Penn State and the education they can receive here. That's what I'm talking to them about.
Q: What would you say was the greatest challenge you had faced in football before this and how did you try to overcome that challenge?
A: Football is a challenging sport and it's a challenging sport to coach. I can't tell you one major challenge over another. I've worked with some great guys that were great teachers and demanding bosses. I've coached some players that demanded the best out of you, so I think every step of the day in football coaching is a challenge. I can tell you this: I've faced challenges personally and at the end of the day that is what's most important to me. This is football. We're going to play football and we're going to do right by these kids. We're going to continue on with our philosophy of Penn State football moving forward and we're going to do things the right way.
Q: Do you think you have enough time to prove yourself with a five-year contract and a four-year bowl ban?
A: Again, I'm the type of person that doesn't worry about contracts too much. I'm just really concerning myself about doing the best job I can every day. I'm really committed to this football team. I told our players that. At the end of theday, I'm out here to do the best job I can for Penn State and for the players and the coaching staff. That's what I try to do every day.
Q: Are there any special plans you've made to make your team competitive for the next few years?
A: I appreciate the question, but I'm not going to get into all the specifics of what we've talked about. We have a plan and it involves a lot of different things. We have a bright staff here. We have a staff that's been involved with a lot of different programs and that has been at the top of the mountain with national championship programs and Super Bowl teams. We have a pretty good idea of what we're doing as a coaching staff. We have had some good discussions and I'm going to keep those between my staff and me, but you can be assured we have a plan.
Q: How important is it to the healing process that the football team will be out on the field 12 games a year? When players are put into a situation like this, do you think there is a special bond created between them?
A: The football program is a big part of Penn State. The students love the football program. I'm sure once we start football practice and open against Ohio, I believe that everybody is going to feel good about Penn State. Now, we have to go out there and win and then we'll feel really good about Penn State. That will help people and get people moving forward, which is what we need to do. Football is thegreatest team sport out there. You've got a group of young men here that have put in a lot of time the past six months and they have also been through a lot over the past year. You have a team that feels really close to each other and has a lot of fight to it just like our coaching staff and the head coach. There is no question our football team is close and I feel they have resolve.
Q: In what ways can being accustomed to a 53-man roster help you with practice situations?
A: No question it helps. The roster size in the NFL is like you said 53 men, 45 on game day so your talking about having experience in how to put that roster together andlearning from the best in Bill Belichick and running practice learning from the best in Bill so no question that my NFL experience and Stan Hixon's NFL experience and Charles London's NFL experience are certainly going to help us with our roster.
Q: Without getting into specifics, how are you going to be able to work the kids in practice without overworking them too much?
A: We are going to run practice like a pro practice where in New England, we practiced hard, did it in right way, and that's why we won. We practiced efficiently and were on the field for a decent amount of time, unlike some teams that are out on the field for three and a half or four hours. That experience will help here at Penn State
Q: With less than six weeks before the season begins, are you hoping there is some sort of time frame that players have to make a decision if they are going to transfer and will that cause any logistical problems as it continues to get closer?
A: I've been very upfront with these kids and told them what the rules state, what they can do, what's available to them, and told them what I think is important about staying here at Penn State. There is a lot of passion for the football program and the team formed a lot of camaraderie over the past six months. We've got a group of stand-up young men and I told them to act like men, which they have done the whole six months I have been here and 95% of these kids have acted like men since I have walked onto this campus. They have to make decisions that are good for them and good for their families and at the end of the day, we will see how this comes by and can't really think about timetables. I talked to these kids about Penn State and why I'm here and why they're here.
Q: You mentioned compelling these kids to say because of the great education, what compels you to stay particularly in the coming years if someone comes up and wants to court you after this season?
A: I made a commitment to Penn State and I believe in Penn State. I believe in the people that hired me and most importantly, I'll say two things that are most important to me, which are the great staff that is here. It is one of the best staffs in college football and the other thing is that I feel very, very, close to these kids that I am the head coach of right now. I have tough kids, smart kids, kids that care about each other, the coaching staff, kids I dealt with honestly and openly. I've got a bunch of kids here that want to succeed both on and off the field and I feel very close to them.