Did PSU Learn Anything From Michigan?

Submitted by Ziff72 on January 6th, 2012 at 10:30 AM

So tradition rich PSU has made a coaching hire.   From appearances it looks like this is way down the list of choices because of the scandal.   PSU officials knowing the climate appear to have done nothing to avoid the same pitfalls Michigan went thru with their outside the family hire.

Ex- linebacker Brandon Short sent out a note saying he was unhappy they went outside the family, the coach is walking into a hornets nest and he has no idea what tradition he needs to uphold 15 minutes after the rumor broke on ESPN.

They go to talking head and famous alum Todd Blacklege who went with a pretty bland this is weird and I hope he does well no comment that basically came across as WTF?!!?

If you were the AD knowing you were in a bad situatiion wouldn't you gather your famous alums and get them behind the hire ASAP?   You have PSU guys like Millen and Blacklege to send your message and gather some enthusiasm.  They appear to have learned nothing from Michigan.   I know the circumstances around the hire are different but the handling of the hire looks to be the same.

They do not appear to have learned their lesson, unless they did and the lesson is if we bitch and complain enough we'll get our way in 3 years and we can sacrifice the next 3 classes of kids by taking shots and laughing at how bad they are going to suck as we kill whatever slim shot this guy has of recruiting decent players.

I hope this guy negotiated a 15 million dollar buyout if they fire him before 4 years.

Look for this this weekend in the player introductions

"DT Jimmy Kennedy Joe Paternos Penn St University"




January 6th, 2012 at 2:20 PM ^

If Al was even approached by PSU....

Wonder if Al will revisit the "No" answer he provided, when NCAA brings the banhammer down, and Miami gets a 5-year bowl ban, a 25 scholie-per-year reduction, and is required to play in all white uniforms w/ no logo or coloring for 5 years to eliminate the culture of the program.  When Al sees 4 and 5 star kids in Miami committing to South Florida and UCF and FIU (or is it FAU) over his program... he might go, gee, did I make the right choice.


January 6th, 2012 at 10:52 AM ^

This hire seems like it is the first step in basically starting a whole new "family" at PSU, given what various members of the old one have been accused of, and perhaps this is exactly what they needed to do even if it means that they troll the bottom of the Leaders division for a time. They'll need that time to re-invent PSU football's image. I would hope that the PSU fans and alums would band together and be supportive, because a brave new era in football was guaranteed once Paterno was fired.

Did they learn our lesson? If we're talking about handling hires outside the family, then probably not, even if theirs arose under vastly different circumstances. We had an AD that was fond of sailing, whereas they have an interim AD that took over after the previous one was let go because of an alleged cover-up. They are also bringing in someone very late who will be perpetually behind for perhaps much of the first year, making it extremely difficult to keep the class together and bring in new recruits, I would imagine. People generally aren't huge on abrupt, forced change.


January 6th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

  1. They absolutely could not hire anyone with any ties to PSU.  This situation isn't over.  There are lawsuits and possible NCAA sanctions to follow.  They needed someone who could plausibly deny any knowledge of the scandal.  They HAD to hire an outsider.
  2. No one with credible coaching experience was going to take the job, i.e. none of the fan favorites.  To those that are asking if this is the best they could do after a 2 month search, my reply is that they are lucky that it isn't worse.

Is it a sexy hire?  No.  Does NFL OC experience automatically translate to college HC success.  Not even close.  What they did do was find someone with a respectable resume who can hopefully convince quality kids and their parents to buy into the university.

PSU might struggle for a few years, and OBrien might not last past 4 years, but cleaning up their image is the number one priority. 

This is nothing like the RR situation.  If you are set on comparing it to U of M, it's a lot like the situation the Michigan basketball program was in after the Fab 5 ordeal.



January 6th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

I think PSU might just be happy that someone took the job. Maybe they aren't sure it'll go well but maybe they're hoping if he bottoms out after 3-4 years that court stuff will be settled / the house will be cleaned and if they let O'Brien go, a bigger name coach will come in


January 6th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

A very large problem no one is talking about is that he's staying to coach the Patriots through their playoff run and if they make the Super Bowl that means he's NOT recruiting until basically signing day.  How will he put together a staff AND coach New England?  Who is going to recruit and what will they tell the kids?  How will they get anybody and i mean anybody worth a damn to commit which means your'e dooming the program in years 2-5 no matter how well he does next year.

This makes our search process look the most carefully planned out and executed managerial transitiion in history by comparison.

Naked Bootlegger

January 6th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

I'm sure Hoke's first few weeks on the job in January were 24/7 dedicated to salvaging the recruiting class as much as possible.   At least he had 3-4 weeks to do so.   A deep Patriots playoff run will absolutely gut O'Brien's first recruiting class (as if recruiting wasn't going to be hard enough post-scandal this year).    How can he have any extra time in this current schedule to assemble a staff and recruit? 


January 6th, 2012 at 11:21 AM ^

It's unfair to compare the two in that 1) Michigan was a program that was (with the exception of a couple of subpar Carr recruiting classes) completely intact. There were no violations/controversy/recruits ready to jump ship.  2) Martin had a year to gameplan/research/interview/hire a coach.  PSU has a less desirable offering than we did due to circumstance (and I'd argue a less desirable offering regardless), and they had only a couple months to figure out whom to fill it with.  Fewer viable candidates and, therefore, screwed in terms of finding an "in-family" guy with appropriate credentials who might take on that difficult position.


January 6th, 2012 at 11:14 AM ^

O'Brien is not coming with an entire staff of his own, as RR did at Michigan. He is, presumably, free to hire PSU alumni for his staff. So he can mitigate this with a few quality alumni hires. The question is -- will anyone qualified be willing to come? It can't be a terribly long list -- ex-Penn State players who are assistant coaches elsewhere.

Zone Left

January 6th, 2012 at 11:07 AM ^


Dude, there is no way Penn State could have hired a member of the current staff or any staff that Sandusky was on. They would have been crucified by the media, child advocacy groups, etc--not to mention recruits' families and opposing coaches. Penn State has had extraordinary success retaining its coaching staff over the years, but right now it is working to their detriment. I can't think of a single Penn State alum/former coach (outside of the Titan's coach who turned them down) who would be qualified to take over a Big 10 program. Even if there are other people available, they probably were examined and either rejected or displayed no interest themselves, given that the search took a really long time.

This guy is going to get fired in 3-4 years and Penn State football will be a smoking crater, but given what has come to light, there's nothing anyone can do about it.


January 6th, 2012 at 11:15 AM ^

These seem to be the issues:

1. Former Penn State players wanted Tom Bradley.  Bad.

2. PSU administration knew that they needed to go outside the "family" to show that they are "ushering in a new culture" or whatever trendy phrase people are using currently.

3.  The job currently isn't as enticing as many PSU fans, alums, and former players may think.

4.  PSU fans wanted their own big splash hire that Ohio got with Urban Meyer.

5.  The administration keeps dragging this thing out trying to find someone with a great job who doesn't want to touch the situation.  All of this happening through necessary recruiting time.

6.  PSU administration may be a little too enamored with the NFL being on a resume.

7.  PSU administration has set its eyes on the "big dogs," instead of even eyeing the possibility of finding a young up and comer that is naive enough (or has a big enough ego, which most coaches do) to think he can change everything.

Because of all of this, I am kind of surprised they didn't hire Millen or some other alum just to rally the troops.  OJ McDuffie anyone?


January 6th, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

Isn't that true of almost all programs? There are only so many big name splash hires, and it usually involves Saban's eyes wandering again.  OSU just did it because they perfectly timed their scandal right when a guy who had multiple national champions and Ohio ties "retired" a year earlier.  If the scandal breaks a year earlier, they're probably scrambling to hire someone to prevent a crater there.  Heck, it's not like anyone really wanted Tressel either, even though he proved to be a good coach. Michigan came close a couple of times, but were foiled by a National Championship game, and then wandering eyes of the NFL.  But they still managed to find a good coaching fit, even though it wasn't sexy. The automatic hires are few and far between.

I'm still surprised they didn't go with the San Fran offensive coordinator, who's an east coast guy, has college experience, and seems to really want the job. Would make more sense than this, and can still separate themselves from the past without looking like a complete give up.


January 6th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

I felt the exact same last night watching the reactions on TV.  It all seemed all too familiar.  Looks like we won't have to worry about playing PSU in the BTCG the next few years at least...


January 6th, 2012 at 11:42 AM ^

Much different situation, no school has really had to deal with a coaching change anywhere near this type of situation: a coach who was with the school longer than any other head coach in Ncaa history who ended up being  fired over a gross mishandling of child sexual abuse allegations in the program. 

In essence, there was no situation in which there wouldn't be great division among alums,  fans, journalists, etc.  To compare our prior coaching situation to their's is unfair and nonequivalent on so many levels.


January 6th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

Watching this happen with the former players - it really hits home the issues RR and staff must have had recruiting with all the negative vibe around AA during his tenure.

I imagine a certail Mr. Reeves watching these comments on ESPN et al and deciding to make a call to Coach Mattison/Hoke ASAP.

I suppose PSU can still make a splash with their own "Mattison"; and a coordinator job might even be more attractive to a hot prospect with HC aspirations given with the general feeling that this will be an interim/short-tern tenure for the new HC  However, unless O'Brien (sp?) has already been lining up a staff in anticipation of this move (HC position somewhere) I do not see how it will be done smoothly given his commitments through the Patriots playoff run.


January 6th, 2012 at 12:01 PM ^

Considering the number of members from 'inside the family' who knew about this Sandusky crap and did nothing about it, I'd say it was right to look elsewhere.  The kind of mess that PSU is going through right now and is going to KEEP going through for a while means they have to take what they can get.  And who is going to actually WANT to coach there right now?

Going outside the family works and doesn't work.  Not every situation is going to be a RichRod thing.  I'm kind of glad Don Canham went outside the family in 1968.  Aren't you?


January 6th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

On one hand you want to tighten the ship...pull everyone together to work through this ordeal, but on the other hand, you want to bring in fresh blood to change the culture.  They want to get out from under Joe -Pa's shadow.    It's possible that they could've hired him, expecting him to fail, and in 3 years when the storm has died down, they acn bring it back home with someone they all love and who would be embraced a la Hoke.  Kinda far-fetched but a possibility...it's worked well for Michigan.


January 6th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

they should have kept the interim head coach. seems like psu will be down for a long time. i think he'll have less support than rich rod.


January 6th, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

This is a very flawed comparison because there is a huge difference in the situations - Michigan did not have a deeply rooted, shameful scandal within its family.  Penn State did, which created the need to go completely outside their "family".  It's a shame the Brandon Shorts of the family still don't get that.  The people in charge now, to their credit, seem to understand that even consulting anyone within the family on this could have created more problems than it was worth.  They all need to just shut up, forget their tradition for a while,  and think about the victims.

Paterno and his cabal and have trashed any PSU tradition and their own legacy.


January 6th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

Unlike Michigan, who saw a very successful head coach retire under decent circumstances, PSU is stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is still a substantial faction at PSU that is, to say the least, unhappy about Paterno's firing and wants a hire from inside the PSU family. And PSU cannot hire anyone connected to the old regime because the old regime has been irrevocably tarnished and PSU needs to make a clean break so as to take the stigma off the program as much as possible. And to top it all off, PSU has to contend with the possibility of sanctions from the NCAA and Big Ten, in addition to the massive PR issues they have, making it very difficult to find any qualified guys who actually want the job. Thus, the transition was inevitably going be messy and end up with a bunch of angry people, and the only way any potential hire can survive the storm is to win quickly, which will be very hard in the near future.


January 6th, 2012 at 12:18 PM ^

  I'm hoping that Armani doesn't like the new hire.  That is all.


  Actually, that isn't all.  I can't get my head around PSU.  I understand cheating and paying players and having hookers with blow waiting for you in your dorm room, but that the Sandusky situation I can't understand.  So, knowing you are walking into a FUBAR situation has got to make it hard to hire the right guy... you can't stay "in the family," as everyone associated with PSU is stained.  You won't get a big gun to walk into it because it is a death sentence.


  I honestly don't know how much they could learn from our situation.  The guy walking into it had better have read RichRod's account of what happened in A2 so he knows what to stay away from as far as PR blunders and understanding TRADITION, but he's going to have a mountain of working to rebuilt PSU's image.  That's something that RichRod was facing as he arrived in A2.


January 6th, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

No one should need to learn their lesson from 2008-2010 Michigan because no one should have ever acted like 2008-2010 Michigan.


January 6th, 2012 at 1:20 PM ^

just as much as the Sandusky scandal is. If JoePa hadn't let his ego make decisions for him, he would have voluntarily stepped down years ago, and would have worked with the AD dept to map out a sensible transition. If he had retired 10 years ago like he should have, it's even possible that his replacement might have recognized the time bomb that Sandusky was and done something about it.

Pride goeth before the fall, as always.


January 6th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

The guy's resume was sick, coaching Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to Super Bowls and currently killing it with the Calgary Stampeders.  PSU never interviewed him.

Nobody knows anything about O'Brien. He may be decent or even good. But Hufnagel would have been great for Penn State football.  

My gut tells me this hire of O'Brien will turn out to be a major mistake.

Yes, Hufnagel playd for Paterno, but way back in the early 1970s (1970-1972) and has no connections with Sandusky.  Hufnagel is still ranked 10th in all-time PSU passing yards, which is freaking nuts.


January 6th, 2012 at 2:33 PM ^

They basically took the Charlie Weiss situation (OC with no head coaching experience) and Rich Rod situation (totally screwed up the hiring process and hired someone no one agrees with) and combined them into one. This cannot possibly be good.


January 6th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

I've been to Happy Valley twice. Enjoyed it both times. People were friendly, warm, solid. But my impression of the place then squares presaged today: It's a deep-woods culture, one more akin to West Virginia's than Indiana's or Iowa's. We're talking Deer Hunter.


January 6th, 2012 at 3:03 PM ^

If they hired someone with any connection to the program at all, the new coach would have had to deal with constant questions from the media at every stage of the legal process with Sandusky. Did you know what was going on? When you played here were there any suspicions? Did anyone ever say something to you about it? What would make that bad isn't the worry that something might come out, it's the fact that the whole thing would never be put in the past if it kept being talked about to the new coach.

Relevant coaches who didn't go to Penn State didn't want any part of the job, and you can't blame them. With this hire they have made it easy for the coach to say: Look I'm brand new here, my goal is to restore pride to the program and win games. I can't answer any questions about the past, I've never met Joe Paterno until now, I've never met Jerry Sandusky, I've never been in any buildings here on campus. Let's just talk football.

True Blue Grit

January 6th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

He has no HC experience which is a real biggie.  And his college experience as a recruiter is kind of limited.  They must have been starting to panic and felt grabbing the first decent guy who said yes was better than waiting another week or two where they could probably kiss most of their recruiting class goodbye.  This could get pretty ugly for Penn State depending on how big a stink the former players make over the hire.  If they do, you might see how a situation you didn't think could get any worse, actually does. 


January 6th, 2012 at 3:58 PM ^

This may have been asked earlier in this lengthening thread, but what happened to Greg Shiano (sp?) .  It was always strongly rumored that he didn't leave Rutgers for several good openings (including ours) because he wanted to replace Joe.


January 6th, 2012 at 5:15 PM ^

Tom Brady has turned another OC into a head coach:Weiss,Josh McDaniel and now O'Brien...I may have missed a few.....polishing up my OC resume as we speak,I assume Tom still has a few years left in him


January 6th, 2012 at 6:27 PM ^

It looks like the new coach O'Brien will get the same treatment that RR got from some at MIchigan.  A number of previous players and some fans are already withholding support for the new coach.  We'll have to see what  Paterno does.  Does he act like Lloyd and tell the players to all leave?  I still can't believe after what Lloyd did that Michigan still caters to the clown.  I was shocked to see him on the field at the Sugar Bowl.  If Brandon and Hoke continue to make him a part of this team I will begin to lose interest.