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Colin Dunlap: Bill O’Brien’s Internal Fight Is Embarrassing

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(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Bill O’Brien is gone and he isn’t coming back.

After two seasons at Penn State — and amassing a 15-9 record under incredibly obstructing NCAA sanctions — O’Brien bolted the school for the job with the Houston Texans.

Certainly, there’s that NFL money and the chance to command a team at the highest level of football in the universe — O’Brien could never get either of those at Penn State.

Know what he did get at Penn State from some, however? A hard time. How shameful.

On the first day of 2014, the college football world — and definitely Nittany Nation — awoke to a column (http://bit.ly/JKfmEz) by David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News. For me, Jones — and Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror — have long been in the minority of journalists in that part of the world who report on Penn State in unbiased form.

In short, Jones and Rudel subscribe to truth, period — if that’s what you want, read their stuff. Too many others granted credentials in Happy Valley bow at the Joe Paterno and Penn State altar, unwilling to see reality through homerism of their own or the news outlet they work for.

In Wednesday’s column by Jones, one quote jumped off the page more than anything in the piece. It was when Jones detailed a portion of a 20-minute phone call he had with O’Brien on Dec. 4.

According to Jones, O’Brien said:

“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a —- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.

“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”

There you have it.

This wasn’t some report, put together by Louis Freeh, with a quote contained therein.

This wasn’t an anonymous source, either.

This wasn’t some two-bit, hackneyed reporter no one ever heard of posting nonsense on Twitter.

This wasn’t Jones telling us what he might have heard, could have heard, might be hearing or will probably hear in the future.

No, this was the (now former) head coach at Penn State being directly quoted as to just how fed up he was with a certain sect of the fan base that just cannot — and probably never will be able to — move on from their Lord and Savior, Joe Paterno.

There’s no level of quantification that can accurately measure just how much the Paterno loyalist drove O’Brien to leave Penn State, but there’s something that is abundantly clear — they didn’t help the cause of swaying O’Brien to stay. Also, they couldn’t have made his existence all that much fun when he was trying to push a program into the future but constantly being reminded, by some, that he wasn’t (in their eyes) the man he replaced.

A man seen as a deity by those Paterno loyalists who are so willing to glowingly shout about his 409 wins, but so unwilling to accept the stark truth that he was fired.

Ask yourself another question as you read that striking and significant quote in the Jones piece by O’Brien: What do you really think O’Brien thought as he looked up in the stands during the very first game he coached at Penn State on Sept. 1, 2012 — or saw news reports later — and saw Franco Harris, one of the school’s all-time greats, hanging a cardboard cutout of Paterno from his seating area?

Go read that O’Brien quote again. See the part where he tells Jones “it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now” — well, on that September day, when O’Brien was trying to push the program beyond some unspeakable actions of the past, it’s probably accurate to say he wouldn’t have minded Harris playing the windshield role. And who could blame him? Check that — who of sound mind, who isn’t a Paterno loyalist, could blame him?

Penn State is full of plenty of great people.

The next head coach at Penn State will quickly realize this. Whether it’s James Franklin, Greg Schiano, Al Golden, Mike Munchak or someone else, they will swiftly — especially if they are a Penn Stater — become (re)acquainted with many of the fine people around the program and university.

Again, Penn State is a university that has turned out innumerable kind, loyal, generous and successful people. I’m a better person to be able to call more than a few — some who played football for Paterno — my friends.

But there are also those Paterno people who will never get it.

Ever.

They will try to make your life there as head coach hell because your name isn’t Joe Paterno.

Need proof? Talk to Bill O’Brien.

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