O'Brien leaves Penn State for Houston Texans
Updated: Friday, January 3 2014, 07:15 AM EST
By: Marc Stempka
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Just two seasons into his contract with Penn State University, the school’s head football coach, Bill O'Brien, has told university officials that he will be leaving Happy Valley to become the head coach of the Houston Texans.
Penn State Athletic Director Dave Joyner announced Thursday at Beaver Stadium that O'Brien will be leaving to take job with the Texans, confirming days of speculation that O'Brien was poised to take over the head coaching duties for the NFL team.
Joyner said a six-person search committee was formed to begin an immediate search for a new Nittany Lions head football coach, and also said several prominent people have contacted the school about the position. Joyner declined to say who those individuals were.
Members of the search committee include Joyner, Vice President for Administration Tom Poole, Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women's Administrator Charmelle Green, Faculty Representative from the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management Linda Caldwell, men's soccer head coach Bob Warming and Football Letterman's Club Director Wally Richardson.
Joyner also confirmed that longtime defensive line coach Larry Johnson was named the team’s interim head coach.
“We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student athletes during this period,” Joyner said. “I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits.”
Joyner said the committee would move quickly to identify candidates for the head coaching job, someone who will be only the 16th head football coach in the school’s history.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Joyner issued a joint statement about O'Brien and his departure, wishing him well with his future coaching position.
“Penn State would like to extend its best wishes to Bill O'Brien. Coach O'Brien was a tremendous leader during a challenging time at our university, guiding our student athletes to success both on and off the field and in the classroom,” Erickson and Joyner said.
“We will also be grateful to him for his time here at Penn State. We wish Bill, Colleen and their family the very best as they embark on this next phase of their lives,” Erickson and Joyner said.
In two seasons with the Nittany Lions, O'Brien led the team to a 15-9 record, going 8-4 in his first season and 7-5 in his second season.
O'Brien was hired in the spring of 2012, amid the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. O’Brien took the job and faced unprecedented sanctions levied against the school by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, including a large reduction in football scholarships, a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine.
Some of those football scholarships were reinstated by the NCAA over a several-year basis.
O'Brien assumed the coaching duties after coach Joe Paterno was fired as the scandal was first developing in November 2011. This will be Penn State's second football head coaching job search in two years. Previous to that, the last one was before Rip Engle took over the team in 1950.
Following the 2012 season, O'Brien was named the Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN National Coach of the Year. He was also named the Big Ten-Dave McClain and the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year. His eight wins were the most by a first-year coach in the history of PSU football.
O'Brien came to Penn State after five seasons on the New England Patriot's coaching staff. O'Brien was the team's quarterbacks coach from 2009-11 and its offensive coordinator in 2011. He previously coached at the college level at Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.
O'Brien will take over a Texans team that ended the 2013 season with an NFL-worst 2-14 record. The Texans will have the number one pick in the 2014 draft.
The Texans will reportedly pay between $6.5 and $6.7 million to buy out O'Brien's remaining contract time at PSU.