Bill O’Brien wants NCAA to meet Penn State halfway on sanctions

In a conference call discussing Penn State’s 2014 game with Central Florida in Ireland, head coach Bill O’Brien discussed his hope that the NCAA would consider a potential reduction of the sanctions levied in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

O’Brien didn’t mention any specifics about Penn State requesting a reduction on the bowl ban or scholarship limitations, but he was proud of the way the program had handled itself:

"I believe that this football program is being run the right way," O'Brien said on a conference call. "I believe we have great kids here. I think we work very, very diligently to stay in compliance, just like every program around the country. … I think we're in compliance, and hopefully at some point in time the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, will look at that and they can meet us half way."

With the restrictions currently in place, Penn State will not be eligible for postseason play (which includes the Big Ten Championship Game and any bowls) until the 2016 season. They are also working under scholarship reductions, as they are allowed to offer only 15 per year (as opposed to the usual 25) and must maintain a roster of just 65 scholarship players (as opposed to 85) between 2014 and 2017. 2018 will be the first year the Nittany Lions will be able to offer 25 scholarships and play with a full roster of 85.

According to a trustee who spoke to the USA TODAY editorial board, any request for a reduction of the sanctions would have to come from Penn State president Rodney Erickson.

O’Brien didn’t question the original intent of the punishments:

"I understand exactly why the sanctions are in place," O'Brien said. "It's about putting an end to child abuse and it's about the victims, and I get that. I really do. And we're doing our part to help put an end to child abuse.

"But at the same time, I want to do what's right for this program. I think this program is headed in the right direction and behaving well."

O’Brien recently signed an extension that included a massive $6.75 million dollar buyout for any NFL team that wanted to hire him away. The buyout cost reaches over $11 million if he leaves for another college job.

Should the NCAA consider reducing the Penn State sanctions? I think it's a legitimate request, especially when you consider the light wrist slaps the NCAA has handed out to everyone else in comparison. President Mark Emmert wanted to act like a tough enforcer so he blasted away at Penn State when there wasn’t much in the way of public support for the program. The idea of the NCAA overstepping its bounds was expressed by a few people at the time, including Drew Magary, Spencer Hall and Stewart Mandel.

I think Hall put it best last summer:

The NCAA's punishments serve no purpose, solve no problems, and prevent nothing. They represent an organization desperate for relevance seizing the moment to poach some kind of sinister power-up from this moment. They will -- and did -- suggest the "children" are the reason for the reach, and do so without openly guffawing or flinching from the shame a normal, moral person would feel at that moment. They will use the word "culture" to defend what they do, mostly because using that word allows you to make up whatever you like without evidence, justification, or data.

The current players and head coach at Penn State didn't do anything wrong, and if the program is being conciliatory in its actions and following all the rules would it hurt for the NCAA to ease up a little bit?

The Nittany Lions have done well while observing the NCAA punishments, winning eight games in 2012, bringing in one of the top quarterbacks in the nation despite the postseason ban and scheduling the 2014 game in Dublin as a pseudo-bowl trip for players and fans. It's possible (if not likely) the NCAA just ignores the pleas from State College, but I think O'Brien and his team have a case.

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