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Penn State Football: Fans React to O'Brien's Exit

by on January 02, 2014 1:40 PM

Penn State fans dining at the State College Diner Thursday afternoon shared their thoughts on the exit of Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien.

Penn State officials confirmed Thursday morning that O'Brien left the university to become head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans. During his two years as coach, the team had 8-4 and 7-5 seasons. 

A national search is underway to select Penn State's 16th head football coach, according to Dave Joyner, director of athletics. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson will serve as interim head coach while the search is underway.

Dave Fetzer, owner of D&M Maintenance, has been a season ticket holder for 37 years. He and his partner, Bonnie Spetzer, often tailgate before the games. Fetzer says it appears O'Brien broke a promise to stay at Penn State until freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg graduates.

"You are trying to get kids to make a commitment to you and the school and you're telling lies. I lost respect for him," says Fetzer.

Spetzer added, "I hope Joyner doesn't find somebody who will use us as a springboard again to further their career in the NFL."

Fetzer says he'd like to see Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak replace O'Brien. Munchak, a Pennsylvania native, played for Penn State from 1978 to 1981. He went on to play in the NFL for the Houston Oilers.

"He's done a fairly decent job with the Titans. I think he would have more loyalty," says Fetzer.

Margaret and Lester Pennino have been married for 50 years and own Celestino Building and Remodeling. They lived in State College for more than 30 years before moving to Bellefonte.

Margaret Pennino, who used to cut Joe Paterno's hair at Allenway Barbershop, says O'Brien's departure was too sudden.

"I think it's awfully quick. Didn't he like us?" she says with a laugh. "This guy, how dedicated was he? We'd like a dedicated coach, somebody who sticks with it and makes the best team possible."

Her husband feels O'Brien left for other reasons.

"To be honest, I think it's that he can't fill Paterno's shoes. That's probably why he's leaving. You gotta have big feet to fill those shoes," says Lester Pennino.

At the end of the day, the Penninos say Penn State needs a coach who is dedicated, plans to stay long-term and is honorable.

"Penn State deserves somebody for football like Paterno was, somebody who's going to make the team the best it can be," says Margaret Pennino.

Lester Pennino has an idea as to where Penn State might want to search for the next coach.

"Go back to Brooklyn where Joe Paterno comes from," he says.

A longtime State College resident and retired engineering professor, who requested his name not be published, says it makes sense as to why O'Brien left, still, he's disappointed by the change.

"I can understand him wanting to climb up the ladder of success but at the same time I hate to see him go," he says.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government. jenn.miller@statecollege.com
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