A few notable former Penn State football players aren't thrilled with reports that their alma mater is hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as the new head football coach to succeed Joe Paterno. The main source of the angst around the reported O'Brien hiring is that he has no ties to the university.
Before ESPN reported on Thursday evening that O'Brien had agreed to take the job in Happy Valley, former Nittany Lions linebacker LaVar Arrington shared his extreme unhappiness with the coaching search with Blue White Illustrated, going as far as to threaten severing ties with the university if O'Brien was hired over interim coach Tom Bradley, who led the team for the balance of the season after Paterno was dismissed amidst the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
"I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage. Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage," he said. "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, another former PSU linebacker, shares Arrington's hard line stance regarding the coaching search. Despite the possible complicity of members of the football establishment in the heinous crimes committed by Sandusky, a longtime defensive assistant coach, Short believes that school administrators should hire a football coach with ties to the program "because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important." Short went on to say that if a coach without ties to the program were hired then "it's no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC."
Short told USA Today that he and a few other members of the Penn State Football Lettermen's Club are specifically upset with interim athletic director and search committee chair Dave Joyner over the hiring process. He revealed that were turned down by Joyner when they offered to discuss the search.
"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," Short said.
A graduate of Penn State, Bradley played defensive back for the Nittany Lions from 1977-78 and first joined the coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1979. He was been with the school ever since, serving under Sandusky and eventually replacing him as defensive coordinator after his resignation in 1999.
Although his testimony does not appear in the original grand jury report that led to the initial arrest of Sandusky in November, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News has reported that Bradley did testify. Ganim also reports that Bradley shared a residence with Mike McQueary around 2006 or 2007, another former Penn State player and graduate assistant who eventually joined the coaching staff under Paterno. McQueary allegedly witnessed a sexual assault by Sandusky in 2002 and is a key witness in the case against the former coach. Given Bradley's longstanding ties to Paterno, Sandusky and McQueary, it has always appeared unlikely that he would remain on the staff in the long term.
Nevertheless, Arrington and many of his peers are clearly upset by the reported hiring of O'Brien, whose closest connection to the program may be playing football for Brown University as Paterno did. On Friday morning, Arrington again vented his frustrations with Penn State, this time on Twitter.
Like many of the current students who took to the streets to support Paterno in the wake of his November ouster, Arrington seems to believe that the school's administration is largely to blame for the lack of action regarding Sandusky's alleged crimes and that Paterno has been made the scapegoat. Before Paterno was fired, two school administrators were placed on administrative leave and both are currently facing perjury charges pertaining to their testimony in the grand jury investigation.