As Penn State President Rodney Erickson and acting athletic director Dave Joyner braced for NCAA sanctions, football coach Bill OBrien requested two things from his bosses.
I basically said, Let us play football, and let us play on TV, OBrien said.
Both requests were fulfilled, leaving OBrien two solaces as he sifts through the debris created by the stiff penalties.
The Nittany Lions are still scheduled to play 12 games, beginning with Ohio University on Sept. 1 at Beaver Stadium. ESPN is broadcasting the opener.
ESPN or ESPN2 will broadcast games against Navy, Virginia and Ohio State. ESPN spokesman Mike Humes said Tuesday that the network is still airing its four scheduled Penn State broadcasts.
Penn States other announced televised game, Oct. 20 at Iowa, is on the Big Ten Network. BTN spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk
said the game remains on the networks schedule. Penn States other seven games are expected to be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, BTN or ABC.
Television appearances were one of the few things not taken away from the Nittany Lions. Sanctions include a four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, a $60 million fine and the lifting of transfer restrictions for current players and incoming freshmen.
OBrien first learned of the severity of the sanctions Monday morning. Erickson signed a consent decree, forfeiting Penn States ability to appeal the ruling. Erickson signed the agreement to eliminate the possibility of the NCAA terminating the 2012 season.
OBrien said he believes in the chain of command at the school. Erickson and Joyner were in their current positions when Penn State hired OBrien in January.
I just knew that they were in talks with the NCAA, OBrien said. What was important for me was to make sure that we are playing football. I would like to do it on TV so our fans that cant get to the game can see the game.
The sanctions are among most serious in NCAA history, and they figure to make OBriens job even more challenging. But OBrien disagrees with analysts who are calling them worse than the death penalty, the NCAA imposed suspension that SMU received in 1987.
We are playing football, OBrien said. We open our season on Sept. 1 in front of 108,000 strong against Ohio University, and I couldnt feel better about that. We are playing football and we are on TV. We get to practice, we get to get better every day as football players and we get to do it for Penn State.
OBrien said his personal and coaching experiences are helping him work through the sanctions. When he met with his team after Mondays announcement, he told a story about how he and his wife, Colleen, handled learning their oldest son Jack was born with lissencephaly, a rare genetic disorder. He also emphasized the value of a Penn State degree and the football opportunities Penn State still offers. OBrien met with the team again Tuesday morning.
The first-year coach said he remains committed to Penn State despite the sanctions. He signed a five-year contract, and the version of the contract Penn State posted online lists financial penalties for OBrien if he leaves early. OBriens base salary is $950,000 for this season. The sanctions will prevent OBrien from earning performance bonuses for leading the Nittany Lions to bowl and Big Ten title games.
I dont worry about contracts too much, he said. I really concern myself with doing the best job every day. Im committed to this football team, and I told our players that at the end of the day Im not out there to just prove for myself. Im out here to do the best job that I can for Penn State and these kids that play here and for this coaching staff.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy