A few minutes after confirming Bill O'Brien's departure from Penn State via a press release, Dave Joyner faced the Penn State media on Thursday morning, wishing the former Nittany Lion coach the best and announcing a national search for the "next great Penn State head coach".
Joyner said that nothing ever made him believe that O'Brien was not in it for the long haul in State College, but rather, a tremendous opportunity was presented to him by the Houston Texans, one he could simply not walk away from. He also said that for several weeks, the university and O'Brien were working on making O'Brien's contract "more advantageous" to do right by Bill. Finally, in relation to O'Brien leaving town, Joyner said he believed that his departure had nothing to do with coaching in Joe Paterno's shadow and that he was leaving only to pursue his own NFL dreams.
Looking ahead, a six-person search committee, led by Joyner, has been assembled to find the 16th head coach in Penn State's history. The committee, made up of administrators, faculty and other Penn State coaches, will look to find O'Brien's replacement "in a matter of days, not weeks" as opposed to the 59-day timetable it took for the university to hire O'Brien in January 2012. This will be possible, according to Joyner, as the job is much more attractive this time around and the university will be able to focus entirely on the search and not the noise that surrounded the university in late 2011.
Included in the search, if he wants to throw his hat in, will be longtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson who was officially named interim head coach for the duration of time before a new head coach is named according a press release sent out this morning. Johnson considered the promotion an honor and had this to say:
I'm humbled by the confidence that Penn State has bestowed upon me during this critical time for the football program and honored to do my part to help Penn State," Johnson said. "My job will be made very easy since we have a team comprised of tremendous student-athletes, coaches, trainers and support staff who are second to none and care as much about Penn State as I do. This program has a historic past and very bright future and I look forward to continuing to work with the players, staff and our incoming recruiting class to uphold the tremendous traditions, ideals and principles that make Penn State the best University in the nation and the football program the most successful on and off the field.
In addition to Johnson, Joyner said that "a number of very prominent" coaches across the nation or their representatives have already contacted the university with interest in interviewing for the head coaching vacancy. He added that while looking at candidates, Penn State ties will not be a requirement, but could be part of the thought process in the committee's decision-making. Any candidate, however, had to exhibit three characteristics to be placed on the shortlist that would be considered for the position: integrity, academics and championships.
There was no comment given on the coaches who have contacted the university or if anyone had been interviewed yet. Joyner reiterated that the search would be confidential and that no details would be made available by the university until the process was complete. But there was one thing for sure: He and the rest of the search committee will not rest until they find the best coach available for Penn State University.