What he may not have known was just how unhappy this valley would get.
With Monday's news that the Nittany Lions will undergo historic sanctions including the loss of 10 scholarships a year, a bowl ban that will last four seasons and a tremendous $61 million fine that is the equivalent to the athletic department's revenue for a year, O'Brien's job just got tougher. But the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots isn't going anywhere in light of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, per a statement released by the school.
"Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as Head Coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence," O'Brien said.
"I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."
Despite the severity of the penalties levied against Penn State as a result of the school's complacency in the Sandusky coverup, neither O'Brien nor other school officials expressed any anger or disappointment. A source close to the situation tells Yahoo! Sports that the university fully complied with the NCAA in its handling of determining sanctions and showed a willingness to agree to whatever the NCAA dealt the program.
"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA," Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in the statement.
"With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward."
Sources close to the program tell Yahoo! Sports that O'Brien and his staff had a meeting with the team at 10 a.m. EST to discuss the sanctions. In his statement, O'Brien seemed to be painting the picture of his players and the athletic community coming together during these hard times.
"I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country," O'Brien said. "I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season.
"Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university."
Already, the program is feeling the impact of the sanctions. Coveted four-star cornerback Ross Douglas of Avon, OH has decommitted, taking to Twitter shortly after the announcement to tweet "One of the roughest days of my life and it just started."
Ironically, Douglas' @RDPSU_21 was an homage to the Nittany Lions program he committed to on Feb. 29 as one of the first two commits to O'Brien's team.
This past weekend, then Penn State recruits Dajaun Drennon and Greg Webb visited North Carolina and committed to the Tar Heels.
Follow Yahoo! Sports Kristian R. Dyer @KristianRDyer