Bill O’Brien continues to sound hopeful about Penn State playing a football game in Ireland.
Now, it seems that the Nittany Lions also could be closer to finding an opponent.
It could be O’Brien vs. O’Leary in Dublin.
The University of Central Florida’s Rivals.com site posted an “insider’s story” late Thursday about how the two universities could be close to agreeing to a deal to play in Dublin to kick off next year.
The Orlando Sentinel says part of the on-going negotiations involve financial concerns. The Knights would be giving up home game revenue while incurring substantial travel costs.
The teams also must choose between playing in larger, historic Croke Park (83,200) or smaller but newer Aviva Stadium (50,000) — the site of last season’s Notre Dame/Navy game, the first college football game in Ireland in 16 years.
O’Brien has been mentioning the possibility of an overseas game for several months now. It would serve as a recruiting tool and a reward for players and fans during the NCAA sanction years, when the Lions are ineligible for a bowl game.
Penn State is banned from bowl games and Big Ten title game appearances through 2015.
As for Central Florida, it will be play in Beaver Stadium in September as a late replacement for Virginia, which was released from its commitment. Many figured that Penn State would make a return trip to Orlando, possibly in 2014.
But Ireland, apparently, could work, as well. Many figured that Penn State would seek an opponent from the East with some national or even world-wide appeal, such as Army or Navy, or a Catholic school like Boston College.
But O’Brien does have a strong relationship with Central Florida head coach George O’Leary, who was his mentor at Georgia Tech and nearly became his head coach at Notre Dame.
On Thursday in Camp Hill, O’Brien was asked to update the Ireland game progress.
“I’m pretty positive about it. I wouldn’t say it’ll be announced tomorrow.”
Then again, maybe it will be announced sooner than later — with an intriguing choice for an opponent.