O'Brien: Main goal is to keep 2012 Penn State team together

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that he is looking ahead with the Nittany Lions’ football program and that his most important goal for the moment is keeping his team together for the 2012 season.

Speaking with Bonnie Bernstein on the Dan Patrick Show, O’Brien said he felt the toughest sanction imposed Monday by the NCAA was the one that enabled current Nittany Lion players to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year.

“I can’t pick out one sanction versus another, it’s just that much harder,” he said. “But I can tell you that right now, my main goal is to keep this 2012 football team together and that’s what I’m working very hard to do every single day.”

O’Brien would not comment on reports that junior tailback Silas Redd was being pursued by Southern California, nor would he disclose any individual conversations he had with players about possible transfers.

“I’ve been very proud of these players over the last two or three days,” he said “I know that there are some tough times they’ve had to deal with over the last 6-7-8 months. They’re talking to their families right now. But again, what I’ve reiterated to these kids over and over again is why they’re here.

“They’re here to get a fantastic education. That hasn’t changed. They’re here to play really really tough football. That hasn’t changed. We’re on TV. We’ve got a chance to play six or seven bowl games per year in front of 108,000 people at home. I don’t know how many bowl games have 108,000 people but the last time I checked, there aren’t any.

“So I feel very good about where we are as a football team. I realize things can change. But we’re moving forward. We already have plans in place to how we’re going to deal with different things and we feel very positive about the direction of where we are right now.”

The Nittany Lions received a four-year ban from bowl games and are ineligible to win the Big Ten championship for the next four years. O’Brien said he and his staff plan to “come up with different ways to think about championships during the season here … (and) come up with different bowl game scenarios when we go to our regular season.”

He said there was “no question” that his entire staff would remain in place. He also said he has received more than 150 positive texts and e-mails from people.

He said the best piece of advice he received was “you can’t dwell on the past.”

“You’ve got to move forward and you’ve got to play under the rules of which you’ve been sanctioned under,” he said. “So that’s what we’re doing. We’re not dwelling on the past. We’ve had two great staff meetings over the last two days. We’ve already put plans in place on how we’re going to play under these rules. And we’re going to play under these rules and we’re going to field a competitive team.

“I expect our fans to understand that we’re moving forward and we’re not settling for anything, we’re going to be the best football program that we can be. And at the end of the day, we’re competitive people. We’ve got competitive players here. We believe in the mission of Penn State in my opinion, which is a great combination of academics and athletics.”

O’Brien did not directly address a question on what he felt about the removal of the statue of the late Joe Paterno.

“My job is pretty simple, talking about the football program,” he said. “What I’ll say about the decisions that have been made over the last six or seven months is, I support Rod Erickson, our president. I support Dave Joyner, our athletic director. They’ve had to make tough decisions. These are good men, these are good leaders, and that’s what I’ll say about that.”

--Joe Juliano