STATE COLLEGE – As training camp nears, as well as his second season on the sidelines, coach Bill O’Brien believes Penn State is headed in the right direction amid NCAA-imposed sanctions.
O’Brien addressed the media Friday, joined by Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner, on a conference call to discuss the Nittany Lions’ first international game – in Dublin, Ireland – on Aug. 30, 2014 against Central Florida.
But the tenor of the call quickly turned toward the bigger picture as O’Brien continues to navigate through tough waters.
Penn State faces four years of scholarship reductions and no postseason bowls because of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
“I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place,” O’Brien said. “It’s about putting an end to child abuse and I get that.”
After losing to Ohio and Virginia to open the season, the Nittany Lions rallied to go 8-4 last year, including a 6-2 mark in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions will meet the Knights to open the next season in Ireland.
Central Florida went 10-4 last season.
“We don’t have a lot of interaction with our players in the summertime based on the NCAA rules where we really can’t meet with them at all about football,” O’Brien said. “But from what I gauge is our players are very excited about going over there to Ireland and that experience.”
The upcoming season begins Aug. 31 against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I’ve been asked many, many questions over the last 19 months about the sanctions,” O’Brien said. “I think we’re pulling in the same direction. I just try to make sure people know what is best for the Penn State football program.”
O’Brien last week responded to an invitation from the university’s Board of Trustees to offer his opinions about working within the framework of the NCAA penalties.
“I just want to do what’s right for these kids,” he said, “and this football program.”
O’Brien believes the university is working “very, very diligently to stay in compliance.”
“And I hope at some point in time the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, hopefully they look at that and they can meet us halfway,” he said. “We’re doing our part.”
Joyner said the Penn State athletic department is “not planning on anything happening,” as far as the NCAA is concerned.
“We’ve been getting good marks for what we’ve done,” he said, “and we’re going to continue to focus on that.”
Joyner also called the Ireland trip “a really good idea” for the university as well as its athletes and fan base.
“It falls in the middle of everything that we need to get done during this four-year period (of sanctions),” Joyner said. “It’s kind of a shot in the arm and gives our players a chance to experience some things.”
Penn State announced Thursday that defensive end Brad Bars, a 6-foot-3, 251-pound redshirt junior from Nashville, Tenn., ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout earlier this week and will miss the upcoming season. Bars was expected to see playing time behind projected starters C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes. … Quarterback Tyler Ferguson is at home in California because his mother is ill. He’ll return for training camp in early August, O’Brien said.