For All That has Gone Wrong at Penn State the Past Year, Coach O'Brien is Someone We Should All be Thankful for
Dear Coach O'Brien,
This email is long overdue, and something I've sat down to write dozens of times since your January press conference. Ironically, the day you were introduced at PSU, you also met my husband — one of a few Pa. high school football coaches who was on campus for meetings that very day. I'm a 1988 PSU journalism grad and have spent more than 22 years as a coach's wife, mom and public relations professional. Disappointingly, we haven't been able to make many Penn State football games over those years due to my husband's and kids' schedules. But, all that changed this year.
Funny how you can make time for something that suddenly becomes primary in your life. For me, that has been defending the honor of Penn State, the value of the brand, and my education as a result of the Sandusky crimes. You see, I'm one of the many alumni who can separate enormous horror for the crimes and enormous sympathy for the victims from enormous disgust about the failure of our so-called university leaders.
For nearly a year, I've been helping lead the charge of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, and much to my own surprise, I've taken a very public (and national) stance in criticizing the Trustees for putting us — and you — in the position we are in today. They had an opportunity to defend Penn State and to compartmentalize Sandusky's actions until it could all be sorted out. But they didn't. Make no mistake: I have no plans of letting up; there is no quit in me when it comes to demanding truth and accountability where there currently is none.
But much like my ability to separate the crimes from the school, I'm also able to separate my lack of support of the Trustees from my support of Penn State. In fact, since you've come on board, I've never been more supportive of Penn State. I brought my kids up to the Temple game, and the entire family will be in the stands to cheer on you and your team Saturday vs. Wisconsin. I've increased my donations, inquired about joining the Nittany Lion Club, bolstered my PSU wardrobe, and even added more PSU magnets to my car. I've never been more proud of my Penn State diploma, Penn State academics or Penn State football. And it is all because of you. Sure that sounds dramatic, but it's very, very true.
Somehow, generations of Penn State fans who have lived, breathed and treasured "success with honor" as a way of life have been amazingly rewarded with you and your next generation of that very philosophy. What you've done this year has been nothing short of miraculous, and there is no way our school would be on its way to recovery without you as a part of it. From the minute you took the podium, you've exuded honesty, respect, and focus. In such a short time, you and your family and your team have come to represent all that is true and real and wonderful about Penn State.
During this week of giving thanks, please extend my personal, heartfelt gratitude to your wife and your boys for taking a chance on Penn State. I understand firsthand the enormity of sacrifice that is required to put you in the position you're in today, and I speak for more than a half million Penn State alumni when I say that you've become our beacon during a very dark night.
You've reminded us that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow, and that the future of our great alma mater depends not only on our support, but on a rare and special leader like you who has shown us that there's no limit to the inspiration you've so unselfishly shared with us all. While incredibly deserved, a "Coach of the Year" honor would seem almost incidental to all that you've given the Penn State community in less than a year's time. We very much look forward to supporting you for many years to come.
God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving,
Maribeth Roman Schmidt
Penn State University, Class of 1988, Journalism