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Bill O'Brien Hired by Penn State: Lavar Arrington and Others are Wrong to Criticize the Decision

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Former All-American linebacker Lavar Arrington was a great player during his three years at Penn State.  He became the second pick in the 2000 National Football League draft and was a solid pro for the Washington Redskins.bill o'brien

Near as I can tell he is an intelligent guy and has made a name for himself on sports talk radio in D.C.  But Arrington's position on new Nittany-Lions head coach Bill O’Brien is sad and misguided. It is precisely the mindset that laid the foundation for the child-sex scandal embroiling un-happy valley.   

What are he and others thinking? Has Penn State’s cult following gleaned nothing from the fallout of the last couple of months? Haven’t they realized the nickname Nittany-Lions has a vastly different meaning to those outside the compound than it once did? One can no longer think of Penn State without thoughts of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary and alleged crimes against children.   

Appropriately, Penn State’s interim athletic director and search committee chair Dave Joyner, went outside the university’s family in choosing the New England Patriot’s offensive coordinator. Naturally, Penn State’s kool-aid drinkers are angered and disillusioned by the selection. Said Arrington via Twitter, “I'm done, all my PSU stuff will be down before O’Brien’s introduction!  We are! No more for me!”

What is the problem? Is it Bill O’Brien’s lack of head coaching experience?  If so, that is completely understandable. A program of Penn State’s ilk will be difficult for a seasoned coach so it will certainly be a challenge for O’Brien. However, I sense the backlash stems from the fear of a man totally unfamiliar with Nittany-Lion values. Fear he will arrive at State College and begin correcting the years of dysfunction that has been Penn State. Fear he won’t run things the same way JoePa did.      

Surely Penn State contacted higher profile coaches than O’Brien and San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman.  But if you’re Boise St. head coach Chris Peterson, Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy or any successful football coach, why would you want to lead this mess right now?  It might be different if the proverbial page had been turned. But it hasn’t, not by a long shot.

Unfortunately for those affiliated with the Nittany-Lions, Sandusky refuses to relent. He has maintained his innocence and wants his day in court.

That’s his right. He is expected to be arraigned on January 11th, which means we are months away from closure.  It also virtually guarantees there is plenty of ugliness still to come once witnesses and alleged victims testify at trial.

Still, the hovering dark cloud isn’t enough to quell the noise emanating from State College. Brandon Short, an All-American linebacker at Penn State from 1996-1999, also publicly criticized the decision to hire O’Brien. He claims, “by not hiring (defensive coordinator Tom) Bradley or a Penn Stater what they have effectively done is turn their backs on 100 years of tradition.”  Short wasn’t finished, “There is a tangible standard at Penn State that this poor guy [O’Brien] knows nothing about.”  

Does Short include alleged wrestling with children by the architect of his, and so many other Nittany-Lion defenses, part of that standard?  

Maybe Joyner saw this as an opportunity to distance the program from “horsing around with kids…and showers with them after workouts,” as Jerry Sandusky explained in a November 2011 interview with Bob Costas on NBC’s Rock Center.                

I certainly understand the concern with asking a man with no head coaching experience to take over a storied program like Penn State. But this is a time to stray from the reservation. Alums don’t like it but they must begin to understand how the world now views the program. They need to realize an unprecedented shadow has been cast over all of happy valley and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.    

Evidently, one of the largest alumni associations in the country has moved far beyond Sandusky’s alleged indignities and expects everyone else to do the same. Their initial reaction to the scandal defied logic and months later it’s still scary and troubling.

But clear thinking and rational minds can’t move forward until the alleged victims have had their say or Sandusky reaches a plea agreement.  

Meanwhile, those of us who attended other schools are still perturbed and wonder about the depth of the cover-up.  We want to know who did what to whom and when.

A head coaching hire with ties to Paterno and Penn State would have been met with cynicism by anyone who bleeds red instead of blue.

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Photo of Bill O'Brien from usatoday.com