CHICAGO — Before becoming Penn States acting athletic director, Dave Joyner earned professional accolades as a doctor.
He received a major assignment in 1992, becoming a head physician for United States teams at the Winter Olympics. On the day the Summer Olympics officially opened 20 years later, Joyner sat before a throng of reporters and addressed perhaps a bigger challenge than treating high-level athletes: guiding Penn State through major NCAA sanctions.
The NCAA slammed Joyners school with a $60 million fine, stripped the football team of scholarships and postseason opportunities, waived a rigid transfer rule, and eliminated a large chunk of Penn State football history.
Im going to use my medical analogies, Joyner said. Its sort of like you know you have something going on and you are waiting for the diagnosis from the physician and you find out a diagnosis and treatment is a pretty difficult one for you to come to grips with.
Football, the sport that raised the blood pressure of NCAA officials, has led the rehabilitation. Joyner made his biggest personnel decision in January, hiring Bill OBrien as football coach.
The hiring was greeted with skepticism. OBrien, after all, owned no head coaching experience. But OBriens resolve at the Big Ten media days, which ended Friday, has further convinced Joyner he made the right move.
Penn State officials inserted an addendum into OBriens contract earlier this week, which turned a five-year deal into a nine-year agreement. The extra four years are designed to help OBrien wade through a perilous four-year period that includes a postseason ban.
Joyner said the contract was altered at OBriens request.
It was a wise move both on his part and our part to do that, Joyner said.
Most of OBriens trepidations about specific sanctions remain hidden, and he said Friday receiving interpretations from the NCAA hasnt been easy.
Theres a lot of questions that we have of the NCAA, OBrien said. Its a constantly evolving situation.
After a 24-hour cooling down period OBrien didnt speak with reporters after the sanctions were announced Monday and three days of on-campus meetings with players, OBrien has turned defiant, using strong words phrases such as punch back to rile players and fans.
I have a little bit of a temper, he said. I'd be lying to you by saying I wasnt a little bit angry. But you waste a lot of time if thats the way you are going to spend the day.
These are the rules with which we play under. This is what we are going to do. In many ways, four years goes by pretty quickly. You just have to have a good plan in place, which is what we are doing right now. I think we will come out of this OK.
The sanction creating the biggest immediate stir is the transfer waiver. The NCAAs decision allows players to transfer within Division I without having to sit out a season.
The waiver has turned Penn State players into college footballs version of free agents, with poachers originating throughout the country and Big Ten. Joyner said he has been contacted by three Big Ten schools about Penn State players. He declined to reveal the names of the schools.
I understand the framework we are working under, Joyner said. If coaches ... I wish nobody would call (Penn State players), but thats not the way the real world is. Bill OBrien and I are fine with the process. We appreciate coaches that follow the process and make it easier for us to follow the athletes. Its OK. Its just part of the deal.
The majority of Penn States team remained together as of Friday. OBrien said two or three key players are still pondering their options. Running back Silas Redd is one of those players considering leaving Penn State. Pac-12 power Southern California is courting Redd, the Nittany Lions top returning offensive player.
A group of strong leaders, including senior linebacker Michael Mauti, are trying to keep the entire roster together.
We are close, Mauti said Friday. We are real close. We had guys call up Coach OBrien and said they were looking to go elsewhere, but now they are like, We arent going anywhere. We saw you guys fighting for us. That fires me up. We really have the momentum rolling and guys are really starting to feel the loyalty here. They see us out here fighting.
Joyner, who wrestled and played football during his own athletic career, likes how OBrien has handled a turbulent week..
Hes the right person at the right time, Joyner said. Hes really built for this type of thing. Hes tough, hes articulate, no nonsense, straight forward. I dont think he has a false story within him. He just tells you what he thinks and he's very good at it, and the players really respond to him.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy