Bill O'Brien is staying at Penn State. Just not for the reasons you think.
Penn State football fans (and those who love the school) are rightfully excited about Bill O'Brien's recent commitment to stay on as head football coach of the Nittany Lions (h/t ESPN.com).
But let's please stop pretending it has anything to do with loyalty to the school or to "his players."
First and foremost, Bill O'Brien is staying at Penn State because he got a raise, according to philly.com.
It should not be a surprise that money is the biggest motivator behind O'Brien's decision to remain as Penn State's head coach.
It has been just less than a year since O'Brien agreed in principle to coach the Nittany Lions.
Not to understate the, er, unique circumstances O'Brien inherited, but exactly how much "loyalty" to "his players" (who were mostly recruited by the late Joe Paterno and his staff) could O'Brien have developed in under a year?
Yes, it was quite a year—most likely a galvanizing year; definitely a "circle-the-wagons" year, as O'Brien and his players experienced the range of reactions from sympathy to scorn in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
For a while it was thought O'Brien might not coach at all in 2012. It is not all that long ago that Howard Bryant of ESPN.com called for Penn State football to be sidelined outright. That was July of 2012—less than six months ago. And Bryant was not alone in that sentiment, not by a long shot.
So for O'Brien to overcome everything thrown at him, including the defection of his star running back Silas Redd, and still post an 8-4 record (including an impressive 6-2 in the Big Ten) was nothing short of astounding.
No wonder that NFL teams were interested in O'Brien, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
Ultimately, though, O'Brien's decision to stay at Penn State is about the thing almost every big decision eventually comes down to: money.
Specifically, the $18.4 million that O'Brien (or some NFL owner on his behalf) would have to pay Penn State as damages resulting from O'Brien walking on his current contract. That deal has eight years left to run.
Almost certainly, this condition was written into O'Brien's deal in recognition of the fact that Penn State might struggle to be competitive for some time given the extensive sanctions levied on the program by the NCAA.
Ironically, this contractual language is now working to keep O'Brien at Penn State not because the program is in turmoil, but because O'Brien did such a great job with what he had that he is a hot commodity.
As great a coaching prospect as O'Brien is, though, it is difficult to imagine any NFL owner, no matter how wealthy he or she might be, willingly paying Penn State $18.4 million for the privilege of turning around and paying O'Brien $3 million dollars (or more) per season to coach in the NFL.
Even if that did happen, from O'Brien's perspective, that would not be an ideal situation to step into either. Put aside the inevitable backlash O'Brien would get from those who would say he was mistreating Penn State by leaving (which would be very real).
Think instead about the absurd pressure O'Brien would be under to win—RIGHT NOW—given the money the owner writing his checks had committed to Penn State and to O'Brien to install him as the head coach.
Winning in the NFL is hard enough. Doing so for an owner who is into you for over $20 million (or more) before you have called a single play? O'Brien was wise to say "no, thanks."
Penn State fans are long overdue for a bounce to go their way. It has been a tough go these past 16 months.
But there is no point in pretending that Bill O'Brien is coaching in Happy Valley next season instead of in Philadelphia or Cleveland or Buffalo because he loves "his players" and "his school." He just got there, you know.
In this case, unfortunately, O'Brien's decision to stay at Penn State really is all about the money.