Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley and interim athletic director Mark Sherburne held conference calls with recruits and their families Thursday night and told them the “national search is on” for a new head football coach.
This according to Joe O’Connor Sr., who was on the call on behalf of his son Joey. An offensive lineman from Windsor, Colo., Joey O’Connor became the first player to decommit from Penn State on Thursday night.
“The main message was 'we’re working through the issues and obviously we’re at a loss for what the direction the university is going in right now with the football program,'" Joe Sr. said of the conference call. "'But there’s opportunity for the coaching program, [it’s] going to be evaluated swiftly and quickly and the national search is on.' And that was about it.”
Earlier on Thursday, Bradley was asked about the possibility that the entire football staff would be replaced amid the scandal that has rocked Penn State.
“That’s a decision that is up to the Board of Trustees and Penn State University,” he said. “It’s not my decision. I’ve been asked to do a job and I’m going to do it.”
O’Connor, who alerted offensive line coach Bill Kenney of his decision around 7 p.m. Thursday, said Penn State is not out of the picture. After discussing it with his parents for three hours Wednesday night – starting when then-head coach Joe Paterno under the impression he was retiring at the end of the season and concluding after Paterno had been fired – O’Connor thought it was best for him to open up his recruitment and focus on his current football season.
“It’s a huge shock,” O’Connor said of the scandal at Penn State. “The first thing I think is my heart goes out to those families and those victims. They’re in my thoughts and in my prayers. It’s shocking and it’s almost surreal. You sit back and you’re like ‘Holy cow, this is actually happening.’ ”
Both scout.com and rivals.com rank O'Connor, who had verbally committed to the Nittany Lions in June, a four-star recruit. His father fully supports his son’s decision to decommit.
“Based on the extremely quick turn of events that has happened in the last five days, your expectations as a parent go from complete buy-in and respect and then all of a sudden everything is just exposed for what it is,” Joe Sr. said. “It’s just such a tragedy up there for those little kids and those parents. We would have to associate ourselves with something like that so you have to really take a good hard look at your values.”