Penn State Football: Bill O'Brien and Dave Joyner Talk Sanction Reductions
For the past two years Penn State alumni have long called for transparency from the highest reaches of university's administration. Just a week ago those alums had their wish granted, albeit unintentionally, as an executive session of the Board of Trustees was held in a closed door session, in a room that featured many large glass panels.
Inside, Nittany Lion head coach Bill O'Brien addressed the board for more than an hour at the Penn State's Fayette branch campus talking broadly about the sanctions and any possible attempts to have them reduced.
Friday morning, O'Brien had no qualms with the fact that his allegedly "closed door" meeting was public knowledge. Contrary to his usual information controlling nature, O'Brien was quite open to addressing the meeting on a conference call Friday morning.
"I was invited down to the Board of Trustees to present to them the sanctions and my thoughts on the sanctions," O'Brien said "I have been asked many, many questions over the last 19 months about the sanctions so I accepted the invitation and I went down there. I don’t have anything to hide; I just want to do what’s right for these kids and this football program. So no, I am not upset about anything, I’m just really excited about starting training camp."
For Penn State, the prospect of having the sanction reduced by the NCAA is a welcome dialogue, although the chances of that happening are difficult to gauge. Penn State President Rodney Erickson's signing of the consent decree limited future negotiations at least in theory. The NCAA's somewhat arbitrary justice system means nothing is out of the question, but Penn State would likely need to establish some forward momentum for serious talks to take place.
Those talks -- at least publicly -- don't seem to be on the horizon.
"We are focused on dealing with the sanctions as they are right now," Athletic Director David Joyner said. "So whatever may or may not happen down the line is always contingent. We are not planning on anything happening, so we are paying attention to doing what we have to do with what we have been given to do and doing it very well.
"We continue to do that and we continue to get good marks for what we have done and how we are paying attention to things and we are going to continue to be focused on that."
When asked about his thoughts on the sanctions at this particular juncture, O'Brien was, as expected, guarded but sneaked in a brief pitch in favor of his program.
"I believe that this football program is being run the right way and I believe that we have great kids here," O'Brien said. "I think we've worked very, very diligently to stay in compliance, just like every other program around the country. There are a lot of rules to follow and, again, we make our mistakes but we admit them right away, whether it’s a text message or something that we shouldn't have sent. I think we are in compliance and hopefully at some point the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, hopefully they look at that, and they can meet us halfway.
"I go back to what I said from day one when the sanctions came out. I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place. It’s about putting an end to child abuse and it’s about the victims. I get that, I do, and we are doing our part to help put an end to child abuse. But at the same time I want to do what’s right for this program and I think that this program is headed in the right direction."
Moving forward there is no immediate timeline of event surrounding any possible appeal process. Ultimately if anything were to happen it would likely not be without the assistance of some outside sources. Were Penn State to formally request a reduction it would be interesting to see what role Senator George Mitchell, Penn State's NCAA appointed Athletics Integrity Monitor, would play. Mitchell, who writes regular reports regarding Penn State's integration of Freeh Report recommendations, has praised the university for its steps taken to "better the university."
In the meantime, O'Brien is focusing on what he can control; a rapidly approaching season opener against Syracuse at Met Life Stadium on August 31.