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Tim Hyland

It's Official: O'Brien to Penn State

By January 7, 2012

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Well, it's safe to say that, when the Penn State coaching search began two months ago, there wasn't a single person on the planet who could have imagined how it would end.

Yes, college football fans, Bill O'Brien--a guy that most Nittany Lions fans had never heard of until just a few days back--is the new head coach at Penn State.

Penn State officials (finally) announced O'Brien as their guy Friday night, ending a ridiculous, overly secretive process that confounded the media,  frustrated Penn State fans and quite likely upset Nittany Lion players and coaches, too. In a statement, embattled athletic director Dave Joyner said that, in O'Brien, who currently serves as offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, Penn State had "found the man to take Penn State football forward."

"Needless to say, we have been looking for someone with some very special qualities, beginning with a heart that beats to the values and vision of Penn State University and our Penn State football legacy and tradition," Joyner said. "That was our starting point, and Coach O'Brien exemplifies those traits that Penn Staters hold so highly. In addition to his model characteristics as a man and a teacher, he's all about producing winners, and doing so the right way. He will embrace tradition, demand excellence and pursue 'Success with Honor' in every phase of our program."

Added Penn State president Rodney Erickson: ""A program of this caliber requires a special kind of leader--a leader who will embrace that legacy and maintain the University's commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. We have that leader in Coach O'Brien, and I look forward to working with him in his new role."

What kind of "leader" is O'Brien, exactly? Well, some would say "fiery;" this is the guy who publicly scolded Tom Brady earlier this year, mind you.

But it would also be more than fair to call him "inexperienced," as he's never held a college head coaching job and, importantly, has never had to recruit in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. Let's face it--O'Brien is a real reach, and he's likely to face a whole lot of questions as he tries to move the Penn State program forward.

Of course, he seems excited about the challenge. In his own statement Friday, he said he was "thrilled" to take over as the top guy in Happy Valley.

"I cannot tell you how excited I am to get started, meet the team, meet the football alumni and meet all of the people that make this University so special," O'Brien said. "As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do. That includes my coaching staff, our players and everyone involved in the football program. There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and I will never, ever take that for granted."

O'Brien is scheduled to meet the media--and answer the first of many, many tough questions to come--Saturday morning in State College.

More to come on this, folks. Much, much more to come, indeed.

Photo: Bill O'Brien is the new head coach at Penn State (Getty Images)

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