Unsolicited Advice For Penn State Fans Comment Count

Brian January 6th, 2012 at 2:29 PM


LEFT: Nittany the Lion drinks hemlock. RIGHT: why Tom Bradley is not an option.



I am a fan of Michigan, a team that used to be in your conference. I have just been informed that due to unapproved activities involving… well, nevermind what the activities involve. That's not really the issue here.

The issue is that longtime coach Joe Paterno was ignominiously forced out after at least six years as the head coach at Penn State, and that many people who remember this halycon half decade or so are peevish that unapproved activities have led to the firing of the hallowed JoePa. You probably know this bit.

The activities are so unapproved that they have irradiated the rest of the coaching staff with fatal doses of public relations. Coaches at other schools not currently suffering fatal doses of PR are so leery about getting irradiated themselves that they refuse to take millions of dollars to coach a football program that's still in a pretty damn good spot long term.

So the Penn State administration hired one of the more tenuous branches off the sickly Belichick coaching tree in the full expectation he'll fail massively, and soon. They would have hired Charlie Weis but—and you're probably not going to believe this—someone beat them to it. I know. Funny ol' world. They would have hired Ron Zook but Ron Zook is a chronic disease. So they hired some guy unreassuringly named Bill O'Brien who sponsors a bowl in St. Petersburg.

This caused the world to implode. So here's some advice.

Do not look on Bill O'Brien as a head coach. Bill O'Brien is pickled ginger. Like the snake at the base of the tree that holds up the world, you have just finished consuming the largest piece of nigiri ever made. It was made of yourself. There's more, but for the full experience you must spend the next three to five years cleansing and preparing your palate.

Do not regard Bill O'Brien as a person who can succeed or fail. He is doomed. You will put him in your mouth and gnaw on him and once you swallow him and dissolve him in your stomach acids you can get on with things. Bill O'Brien is football pickled Jesus ginger. He will die for your sins… someone's, anyway.

Prepare thine heart for a messy one-way divorce. You may think Penn State is a school. You may have attended it, and loved it, and thought of the football program as the bit of the iceberg above the water: the most accessible part of your much greater love for the institution as a whole.

This must be true. I have been to State College in the summer, when no one is around. It is pretty. There are bars there with good microbrews in which weird cover bands play as you try to determine whether the sax guy is literally a muppet or just impossibly muppet-like. It is an outcrop of something in the middle of nowhere, easy to fall in love with.

Unfortunately, you're about to find out that a lot of your favorite people on the iceberg think Penn State is literally one dude. Lavar Arrington:

"I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage," Arrington said. "Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that's the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I'm done. I'm done with Penn State. If they're done with us, I'm done with them."

Brandon Short [ibid]:

"I don't want to be affiliated with the university if they don't choose a Penn State guy because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important... it's no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC. They are intent on turning it into a booster culture. Ira Lubert went out and purchased a national title with wrestling and he's under the illusion that he can do that in football. Well, ask (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder about that."

"Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they've turned their backs on our entire family."

More Short:

“I feel badly for him (because) he is clueless and will not have the support of the majority of the Lettermen. This is a hornet’s nest (for him).”

There is no one in the world who did not play for members of the Penn State coaching staff who believes anyone on staff during the time in which the unapproved activities occurred can stay at PSU. Instead of acknowledging this reality, certain players you loved are going to firebomb the program until Football Pickled Jesus Ginger is gone and someone with a tangential relationship to Paterno is found, whereupon they will say they knew it all along. They will not acknowledge their contributions to the situation.

This is going to piss you off and sour some of your fond memories. Nothing can change this, but you can be prepared. Latch on to the current players, who have done nothing other than not leave when they maybe should.

Look… just… don't. You may be inclined to say something about the enormous hissy fit being thrown by certain players as indicative of the problems with the culture that got you in this spot in the first place. This is probably not a good idea even if you secretly think it's true.

Don't extrapolate your problems across the whole of college football since your worldview has been so jaundiced that hope and joy experienced by others only serves to reinforce the existentialist dread that overwhelms your existence. Looking at you, Weinreb.

In lieu of on-field substance prepare for cheesy pro-style stadium exper— oh, right, I see you've got this one covered. Let's form a support group. I need help coping with these things.

MANTRAS FOR HOPE. It is not going to be fun. By saying these things over and over again you might find some modicum of serenity:

  • Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno.
  • How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten.
  • At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame.

Good luck, and godspeed.

Brian Cook



January 6th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

My advice to PSU fans -- make sure that you have hobbies other than following college football.  And make sure that you don't overly identify with the success of your football team.  You're going to need this advice for a few years.


January 6th, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

he'll take a cold, hard look at the situation and realize he's about to jump into a six-foot-deep hole filled to the brim with fresh, steaming dog shit. And then tell PSU "ummm, no thanks."

• Should we hold literally every PSU player who saw the field from the time Sandusky joined the staff to be morally responsible for what happened?

• Do we know that each and every one of them knew about what was going on?

• If we (or far more importantly, the PSU administration and AD) conclude they did, then PSU might as well kill the program for about a decade, because you can't have a functional big-time football program without the active involvement of alumni players. They play too many important roles in PR, fund-raising, and recruiting. It's hypocritical to automatically deny guys like Hufnagel the opportunity to coach there because of alleged or assumed moral culpability for Sandusky, but then turn around and expect the loyalty of alumni players. If alumni players are permanently tainted by virtue of their involvement with the program during Sandusky's presence, that should prevent them from being active supporters as well as being active coaches.

The choice of O'Brien is idiotic not necessarily because he has no connection to PSU, but because he's never been a head coach at any level, and because his current job will prevent him from actively getting out on the recruiting trail right away.

I can believe that the obvious big-name candidates that would normally be on PSU's list aren't interested, but I don't believe for one second that there aren't some very promising and successful young coaches at the MAC, MWC, Sun Belt, or even D1AA level who wouldn't jump at the chance. PSU needed to find their Schembechler—a guy that nobody had heard of at the time—and I have the feeling that they didn't even try to identify any candidates in that category.


January 6th, 2012 at 4:17 PM ^

Thank you, Michigan, this one time, for your sneering disdain of bloggers and all of our thoughts. I was the man exactly one year ago carrying around a Tom Bradley flag for Michigan's head coach under the assumption that he was basically running Penn State the last 8 years anyway.

Had I been listened to, and that was never really a thing that could happen but anyway, Michigan would now be mired in the midst of Penn State's whole ugly thing instead of Magic and Mattison.

I'm happy I was wrong.


January 6th, 2012 at 4:23 PM ^

Dear God, what kind of mess would the Big Ten be in with scandals of varying levels at OSU, Penn State, AND Michigan? And it'd be a hole that'd be hard to dig out of after one year....do you fire another coach that fast? Or carry on in damage control?

Hoke not only looks better coaching games, he looks better every day just doing nothing and letting the college football landscape implode around him.


January 6th, 2012 at 4:32 PM ^

Meh, if he wins they'll love him, if not then they'll run him out.  I mean, he can't be any worse at developing quarterbacks than Paterno, right?


January 6th, 2012 at 4:35 PM ^

What's novel about the PSU situation is that the former players didn't even wait for the new coach to make a faux misstep before jumping all over him.  At least our crazed fans and Lloyd loyalists waited for RichRod to open his mouth before attacking him.  (Not that the criticisms were fair at that point, but we have principles darn it!  We may pre-judge people, but we will at least wait for evidence to support our pre-judgments before indicting the guy).

Seriously though, how misguided can Arrington and Short be to jump on this guy before he even has a press conference?  In what world does that make any sense at all?

Not that it matters of course.  Brian is right, O'Brien is there to bring bad apples like Arrington and Short to the surface, so that a new hope can be brought along to squash them.  He is not pickled ginger, he is Anakin Skywalker -- there to be demonized but then to (incidentally, not through his direct action) bring balance to the force.


January 6th, 2012 at 5:56 PM ^

The lesson here is that if you haven't actually had to hire a new coach in, oh I don't know, over three decades, the chances that you'll get it right the first time are pretty small. First Ohio State, then Nebraska, then us, now Penn State.


January 6th, 2012 at 10:49 PM ^

I'm guessing Brian made the quip about "used to be in the same conference" as a tongue-in-cheek type thing, but, in all seriousness what are the chances of Penn St. being booted from the conference?

I recall there being rumblings of about half the B1G University presidents wanting them out, and lots of the CIC people.  Has it cooled down since then or is there an actual chance they'll still be shown the door?  


January 7th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

Penn State will never be kicked out of the Big Ten. Notwithstanding their current problems, they have a storied, elite football program with a valuable brand name that generates a ton of money for the conference. And there isn't a groundswell of sentiment in favor of such a move either within the Big Ten or in the public at large. Though the institutional failures that led to the current crisis are staggering, I think most people are satisfied with the way the Board of Trustees and the interim officials they've appointed are now handling it.


January 6th, 2012 at 11:54 PM ^

PSU is not doomed to failure. It's possible that someone, O'Brien or someone else, could do an amazing job in terrible circumstances and keep PSU in the top 25 consistently.

There was no undeniable force dooming RR to failure here. He didn't have it easy. But he could have played the cards he was dealt far, far better. I was a big supporter of his hire, but it went rapidly downhill for me when I saw that he thought his system was more important than his players, that he thought he didn't have to try hard to win his share of games at Michigan ("I was like anyone else, I thought if you just rolled them out there, it's Michigan, you'll win your share"), and that he made the same mistakes repeatedly.

This post implies that RR was great and that forces beyond his control made success at UM impossible. That is not true. RR had a lot of great qualities, without a doubt. And there were forces working against him here, without a doubt. But faced with that adversity, he did a bad job, period.


January 7th, 2012 at 1:24 AM ^

You say "adversity" as if it were some unavoidable act of god. It wasn't - it was conscious actions taken by those who should have been the programs biggest supporters, individuals who placed their egos and opinions above the success of the team. That RR should have handled it better doesn't excuse the fact that he shouldn't have had to handle it in the first place.
<br>This behavior was wrong but sort of understandable when Lloyd retired. Given the reason Joe Pa had to leave, it's inexcusable. Penn State needs everyone to work together and support the young men on the team who have been stuck in the middle of a disgusting scandal through no fault of their own. The public hissy fit is selfish and extremely counterproductive.


January 7th, 2012 at 12:20 PM ^

I agree with everything you said. The "adversity" at UM for RR was conscious actions taken by people who should have been big supporters but instead chose to do the wrong thing. Yep. He should have handled it better. Yep.

It's even worse at Penn State. The culplable parties at UM, LC and various alums/supporters/ADpersonnel, were stubborn, close-minded, treacherous, and deceptive. But at PSU, it's really WTF R U CRAZY? time when LaVarrrrrr and BS and others are advocating keeping ties to the ancien regime. It's disgusting.

My objection was not to any of that but to Brian's ideas that a) PSU is doomed and b) he knows this because of a similar, equally ineluctable Doom that befell RR at UM. My response to a) is "Probably the new coach won't be successful, but this situation is an order of magnitude worse than what RR faced at UM, and even so, it's possible though unlikely that a genius coach could come in and succeed." My response to b) is "Enough already. RR did a bad job handling a very tough situation. The End, I'm done reading, I don't want to hear any more about it."

matty blue

January 9th, 2012 at 10:50 AM ^

levar arrington is putting his alamo bowl mvp trophy in storage? wherever will penn state fans GO for their pilgrimage? will the rest of the arrington museum stay open? will the penn state tourism companies remove his house from their itineraries?