UNIVERSITY?PARK (AP) - Penn State has hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as its head coach, the first change in leadership for the storied football program in nearly a half-century.
The announcement caps a
turbulent two-month period that began with the firing of Hall of Famer Joe Paterno on Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Not only is O'Brien replacing Division I's winningest coach, but he must also guide a program shrouded in uncertainty. Besides the criminal investigation into Sandusky, the NCAA has launched its own inquiry.
The 42-year-old O'Brien was set to be formally announced at a news conference Saturday morning.
Penn State hadn't hired a head football coach in 46 seasons. In between, the 85-year-old Paterno won 409 games and was elected to the Hall of Fame.
"I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Penn State football program," O'Brien said in a statement. "As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do."
He said that encompassed coaches, players and anyone else involved in the 125-year-old football program.
"There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and (we) will never, ever take that for granted," O'Brien said.
This was O'Brien's first year coordinating the Patriots' high-scoring offense, but he has also coached star quarterback Tom Brady since 2009 and spent 2008 coaching receivers.
O'Brien recently was in the spotlight when he and Brady got into a heated argument, shown on national television, after Brady threw an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 34-27 win over the Washington Redskins on Dec. 11.
New England closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, and scored 513 points, the most in the AFC. Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, while had just 12 interceptions.
Brady has described O'Brien as a great coach and friend. Receiver Julian Edelman on Friday in Foxborough described O'Brien as charismatic and emotional.
"We have found the man to take Penn State football forward," Acting Athletic Director David Joyner said. "Needless to say, we have been looking for someone with some very special qualities, beginning with a heart that beats to the values and vision of Penn State University and our Penn State football legacy and tradition."
O'Brien has no apparent ties to Penn State and a proud program tarnished by a scandal that also led to the departure of President Graham Spanier.
O'Brien and Paterno do share at least one connection though - both coaches attended Brown University.
"I understand Bill O'Brien has been named head coach and I want to congratulate him on his appointment," Paterno said in a statement to The Associated Press provided by his family. "I don't know Bill, but I respect his coaching record, and I am particularly pleased we share a connection to my alma mater, Brown."
"Despite recent commentary to the contrary, Penn State football has always been about more than winning," Paterno added, citing what he said was the program's commitment to education and community service. "I am hopeful this tradition will continue."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.