Bill O’Brien opened things up in the Beaver Stadium meeting room by cracking about his dark blazer and striped dress shirt, a rather formal look for the warm-up jacket-kind-of-guy.
He was on his way to a speaking engagement at the annual convention of college coaches.
But make no mistake, this Monday morning press conference featuring the first-year Penn State head coach and then his athletic director, was, truly, about appearances.
This was Penn State officials’ opportunity to tell their side of the story of the past week.
Mostly, it was a session to attempt to stamp out days of supposed rumors, innuendos and even print and Internet stories relating to O’Brien’s flirting with the NFL, his eventual re-commitment to Penn State and his relationship with university hierarchy.
Before taking questions, O’Brien gave a lengthy statement in which he denied reports that he accepted a booster’s gift to increase his salary. Plus, multiple times he confirmed a strong working relationship with athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson.
O’Brien said he has never asked for a raise in his 20-year coaching career. He talked of his love of coaching, admitted to a fondness for the NFL and declined to give any specific guarantees of how long he would remain at Penn State.
He has at least eight years left on a contract extended by NCAA sanctions.
Though an NFL team could buy him out early, Joyner said he believes O’Brien is at Penn State for the longer haul.
The closest O’Brien came to such a statement was professing he and his family’s love and satisfaction with State College and working here. He said he plans to keep coaching the Nittany Lions.
“No one at Penn State has ever come to me and said we’re going to make a donation so that you can get a raise,” he said. “That’s never happened and that never will happen. If I was about money, more than likely, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”