PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Both Penn State fans and rivals are reacting to the Associated Press report that Nittany Lions’ coach Bill O’Brien has agreed to become head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
“I think if the coaches are allowed to go any time they choose, that players should be able to go whenever they choose,” says Penn State fan Mike Zito, from Nashville, who is a native of Washington, Pa.
Zito grew up attending Penn State football camps.
So he paid very close attention to the decades Joe Paterno spent as Penn State’s coach, the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal that brought down Paterno and top Penn State administrators, and the arrival of Bill O’Brien to pick up the pieces.
Not long after that, the NCAA took away recruits and bowl game opportunities as a punishment to the university.
But Zito also watched O’Brien end up with two winning seasons.
“It’s sad to see him leave, but I think that he’s restored the program to the point where they can achieve success going forward,” said Zito.
As holiday visitors to Pittsburgh brought in the New Year, they reacted to the latest development in a story that’s captured headlines for years with mixed emotion.
Robert Persuit, a native of Sewickley, is an Ohio State guy but O’Brien earned his respect.
“I tell you what, taking over a program in that condition and what he did with it, I think he’s to be commended and I think it’s why he got a head coaching job in the NFL,” said Persuit.
But shouldn’t fans expect a longer term commitment?
They’re getting used to the way things are in the sports marketplace.
Contracts come and go,” says Chris Sullivan of Morgantown, W. Va. “If you can make it in the pros you can, if not I’m sure he can go back to the collegiate level.”
The group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which has been critical of the university administration, issued a statement on the news story:
“There’s no denying Bill O’Brien came to Penn State at a critical time, and he has certainly earned his place in Penn State’s history. He gave us two seasons we will never forget, and provided a much needed beacon during the darkest days we’ve ever known. At the time he was hired, it seemed like the only thing our so-called university leaders did right. But, in the end, it seems that their dysfunction was more than he could take. It’s high time we resolve the lack of leadership at Penn State, or it will soon cost us more than a football coach.”
O’Brien is expected to be named the Texans coach by the weekend.