Joyner speaks with media about O'Brien's departure, coaching search

January 02, 2014

Dr. David Joyner
Penn State Director of Athletics
Press Conference, Beaver Stadium Media Room
Jan. 2, 2014

Dave Joyner: Good morning again, everybody. Thanks for coming. As you are aware, Bill O'Brien has informed Penn State that he is resigning from his position as head coach of the football program to become head coach in the National Football League for the Houston Texans.

A national search will begin immediately to select Penn State's 16th head football coach, and we are very much looking forward to a very positive result from this search. As such, we've instituted a search committee, the members of which we have printed for you, but I will go over them.

I will function as the chair of that committee. Dr. Tom Poole, who's Vice President for Administration of the University, serves on the committee, as well as Charmelle Green, our Senior Women's Administrator. Dr. Linda Caldwell, the Faculty Athletics Representative and distinguished professor. Bob Warming, Head Coach for men's soccer, and Wally Richardson, director of the Penn State Football Letterman's Club.

I'll take your questions in a second. I just want to emphasize we're happy for Coach O'Brien and this tremendous opportunity for him, and at the same time we're grateful for the last two years at Penn State, and Bill laying a foundation upon a great foundation that already existed here.

Having said that, though, we're focused on the future of Penn State Athletics, collegiate athletics and Penn State football, and we're going to have a very robust search, which will bring us a great next head football coach.

With that, I'll be happy to entertain questions.

Q. Dave, there's questions about who the next president and potentially AD is going to be. How do you address the prospective candidates who are going to be asking that question?
Dave Joyner: Good question. It's no secret that President Erickson will be stepping down no later than the end of June this year. Programs transitions occur in programs all over the place at different times, and athletic programs survive and go on and move forward. My answer to that would be that Penn State's got a great tradition of great presidents and administrators, and I would say to any prospective coach that Penn State will continue with that great tradition no matter who is at the helm and who is head of the university.

Q. Do you have a timetable for deciding upon a coach? Is it something that we can expect in a week or two, or is it that may take longer?
Dave Joyner: We expect this search to be very timely. Our anticipation is that we'll be counting this in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Q. When over the last, whether it was the last year, two years since Coach O'Brien was hired, or even in the last couple of months, did you get any indication from him that the NFL was going to be coming up soon and this wasn't a long term option for him at Penn State?
Dave Joyner: Actually, no, other than Bill said a couple of years ago that the NFL was the pinnacle of the profession, but we always worked on the future. We were always working on the future of Penn State football and Penn State and talking about scheduling years and years out as well as things that we could do to improve our program.

I believe that Bill O'Brien was presented with just a tremendous opportunity that was one that, for his family and his future, he just could not pass up. So I believe he always had Penn State's best interests at heart and this is just something that came up that he couldn't pass up. We wish him well.

Q. When did you first learn that Bill was talking with the Texans? And did you meet with Bill after his talks to see if you could sweeten the pot a little?
Dave Joyner: In general, I would say there's a lot of things out there in the media, as there always is. You folks are much more expert in that than we are and how that happens. But officially, Bill and I chatted a couple of days ago, and he chatted with President Erickson as well about the same time.

But on-going for the last several weeks, it would be fair to say, we've been working with Bill and his folks to try to make his contract and his arrangement here as advantageous as we could possibly do. So we were continuing in that vein all through this process, but I didn't get official verbal notification from him until several days ago, when things came out.

Q. There have been a lot of names that have been bandied about as possible head coach. Is it too early to expand on that? Any names that you're looking at for this position?
Dave Joyner: Yes. And within that is not to be facetious. We are first and foremost; we have a tremendous amount of interest in this head coaching position. We have such a great tradition here at Penn State, and there are some tremendous coaches that have reached out to us.

But having said that, as you know, we keep this very confidential, and we treat it that way, as we always have, and we will, not just with a head football coaching search but with any coaching search. So you will see myself, as well as the committee, we will not be commenting on any details of the search or personnel or people that you might think about or even read about. You won't be getting or hearing that information from us.

But I'll leave it with, it's going to be a very robust search, and there's an extreme amount of interest in this for a lot of reasons. We have a great fan base here. We have tremendous interest. Look at the media that's in this room. We have the fifth largest (average home) attendance again this year, and the kind of support that a head coach will get here from the community, as well as the media, as well as our fans and our student athletes in the Penn State community will be tremendous. So that kind of excitement, that kind of fervor really is the undercurrent of this search.

Q. Building off of that, I know that you can't give any names, but how many head coaches or how many coaches have applied for this job? Or have any interviews already taken place?
Dave Joyner: Like I said, we're not going to give out any details of where we are in the process until the end, but we have been contacted by a number of very prominent head coaches or their representatives as would be appropriate. We will work through the appropriate process for discussions with them in the near term.

Q. Dave, two things. In the off season, I think it was June, you guys restructured Coach O'Brien's contract. Could you speak to why you guys did that. You restructured the contract, and the buyout became different. Is it safe to say the buyout was $6.5 million when you guys did restructure it?
Dave Joyner: We really restructured it because we thought it was the appropriate thing to do at the time, and we thought it was an appropriate thing for Bill based on his success here and what he'd done at Penn State. The buyout is in the neighborhood of $6.5 million to $6.7 million.

Q. Supposedly several kids in the recruiting class of 2014 intend to enroll in January. When will they have to decide? Have they already had to decide? Do you know anything about what their decisions are? Or do they have to decide when you pick a coach?
Dave Joyner: As far as I know, everything is as it was. Certainly, enrollment for the first day of class is, I believe, the 13th (January). I won't give you a firm date, but we are very encouraged that we can have some very positive you know, hopefully positive information for them to help them continue here at Penn State.

Q. Dave, how important is it to get at least some level of confirmation from the next coach that he's going to be here for a while? That this isn't going to be a two or three year type process where I know you guys can't give guarantees for a long time, but how important will that be that the next person is here for a while?
Dave Joyner: I think it will be very important. Consistency is important. But having said that, I believe that Bill O'Brien came here with the intent to be here for a long haul. Whether it's forever or not, you can't predict those kinds of things, and Bill always operated under the assumption that he was going to be here for an extended period of time.

So that will be very important in our efforts going forward here as well, and, again, I reiterate things change sometimes. You can't predict. And I think Bill just had an opportunity presented to him that was one that he couldn't pass up.

Q. I believe you had Board (of Trustees) members on the search committee the last time around. If you could speak to that; why no Board members this time.
Dave Joyner: The university has made we made a decision going forward, not just with football, that we're not going to have donors and board members on search committees going forward just as a matter of practice. So when we did three coach searches this (past) summer, same principles as this, a very similar committee structured for the big coaches we hired this summer.
So it's just felt to be best practice, and that's how we're going to continue.

Q. Have you decided that, once the president is changed, whether you plan to continue in your role as AD?
Dave Joyner: Today is about the future of football. I understand; the question is a good one. I've said this all along for over two years now. I'm here to serve Penn State as long as they need my services, and that's how I feel today as it was in November of 2011.

Q. Dave, has Bill talked about members of the team at all? Can you gauge their reaction, what they think about this move?
Dave Joyner: I know that Bill I has not spoken with team members. Larry Johnson, who is there's an announcement that's come out, and Larry Johnson will be the interim head coach. Number one, we're very happy about that. Larry Johnson is a tremendous individual, as you all know. He means a lot to Penn State, and he's meant a lot to these players over the years. So we're very, very fortunate to have a man of Larry Johnson's caliber to be able to act as the glue right now in between.

Having said that, though, I know Bill is very up front, as you know, and I know that he's spoken to players and made a great effort to do that, and we're very appreciative of that, that he's done that.

Q. What would the three characteristics be that would get someone on your short list of candidates?
Dave Joyner: I'll use my mantra. I say it a lot. Some of you may not have heard it. At Penn State, I like to say that intercollegiate athletics, which is ICA, equals integrity, academics and championships, IAC. So first and foremost is integrity. Second is the ability to continue and build upon our great tradition of academics and the integration of our student athletes within the university. And then the third, in that order, but nonetheless tremendously important, somebody that has the ability to win championships -- to win Big Ten Championships and National Championships.

Q. And football related skills to add to that third one?
Dave Joyner: A lot of them obviously because, in order to win championships, you're going to have to have some football related skills. I don't have any pre-set...I'm not going to dictate to a coach how they run their program, but we want to see somebody that has the ability and demonstrated success and understands football and obviously can do a great job here and build upon our tremendous traditions that we have here at Penn State.

Q. You spoke about Larry Johnson as interim head coach. Do you know about any of the other assistant coaches on staff that will be joining Bill?
Dave Joyner: I've seen reports, and this will be a period of transition, as you know. Right now I'm not sure which coaches are going to remain here for the short term. With any coaching change, as you all are aware, a new head coach has a tremendous latitude to bring their staff together, be they from staff that are already here in combination with staff that they know and they want to bring.

So you will see over the next several weeks as this whole thing plays out. Once the head coach is named and staff are solidified, I'm sure you'll see some changes. You may see some consistencies as well.

Q. Coach Hixon hasn't said anything to you about other coaches going yet?
Dave Joyner: I haven't had direct communication from Coach Hixon.

Q. Is there a deadline for those guys to let you know they're leaving? And what was the process to make Coach Johnson the head coach?
Dave Joyner: That's 13 questions. I can remember them all. If I forget, let me know. First was what timeframe for coaches to let us know. I mean, it will unfold over the next week, I'm sure, and there's no specific time frame for them. I mean, if they're going to work here, they can continue. We welcome them to continue to work here for the term until a new head coach is named.

And the next was why Coach Johnson? I said it before. He's an extremely stable individual who's very well thought of. He's an excellent leader. He has a long history with Penn State, and he's a great representative of what Penn State football and Penn State University is all about.

I think he's got the respect of both recruits as well as the student athletes that are here. So in my book, Larry is a solid very solid individual who will be a solid base as we get through this.

Q. Penn State has had a long tradition of hiring people with ties to the university although that necessarily hasn't been the case over the last few years. There is a group of people, the fan base, that would like to see the next coach have some kind of ties here. Perhaps that might keep the coach longer. Is that a criteria at all, and do you understand why some of your fans may want somebody that has strong ties to the university already?
Dave Joyner: Sure, I understand that, and that was very similar to when we went through this process two years ago. We have a great tradition here, as I said, and people that have been affiliated with Penn State understand and are part of that great tradition. So it certainly is it's not a requirement going forward, but it's something that we that will be part of the selection or it will be a thought process in the selection of the next great football coach at Penn State.

But our job is to select, regardless of someone's history, as long as it's a positive history, our job is going to be to select the next great head football coach at Penn State and to get the best football coach available for Penn State University.

Q. A lot of coaches have different ways of coaching, different ways to run a program. Are you looking for someone to continue what Bill started here or just looking for the best coach you can find right now?
Dave Joyner: That filters into what the best coach means. Everybody has a different style. Everybody has a different way of doing things. But the things we look for, run a program of integrity, how do you conduct your internal operations with organizational skills and discipline and things like that. So all those things go into looking at a new head coach.

A head coach is really a chief executive officer of the program, and so things other than on the field abilities filter in a great deal to their ability to be a successful head coach their organizational skills, their sense of timing, how do they relate to people, etc....So all those things will go into consideration.

Q. Dave, what process did you guys use to come up with the members who make up the search committee?
Dave Joyner: A couple of things. Number one, I'm the hiring executive by Penn State's HR protocols. As the head of the department, and so that's an obvious.

Charmelle Green is our Senior Women's Administrator. You know, that's a very significant position within any athletic department, and she has she's a former All American in softball. So she was a great athlete. She understands coaching administration. She understands all that goes into being a student athlete as well as an administrator and how you relate to that.

Linda Caldwell is our very, very adept Faculty Athletics Rep. At Penn State, we always want to have faculty involved in these type of searches, and Linda is tremendous she's been involved in a number of searches. She's even chaired searches in our athletic department. So Linda understands the interface between a student athlete and success on the field. So she's a very important member of this (committee).

Dr. Tom Poole is an outstanding individual who's very organized, and he acts as a great bridge between also academics but as well as in the president's office. So Dr. Tom will be a very, very strong asset to this.

Coach Warming, I like to have a head coach on the search committee for another head coach. Coach Warming has had tremendous success both in and out of the classroom. He's won Big Ten Championships. He's been in the NCAA (Tournament), not just here, but where he came from before. So Coach Warming understands all aspects very well of a head coaching job.

And then Wally Richardson, he was a tremendous student athlete here in the mid '90s. He's a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. So he understands what being a football player at Penn State is, and he understands the interface between a great head coach and student athletes.

So Wally also, as being director of the Football Letterman's Club, he is a representative, if you will, of those interests, and we felt that was a very important thing to do in selecting this committee.

Q. Dave, in the last couple years, this job certainly has changed, most likely become more attractive. What would you kind of take from the first search as far as things that maybe you want to do either similarly or different this time around, going through the whole process again?
Dave Joyner: Great question. Yes, I think that the atmosphere around this search is entirely is very much different than the last search. There are a lot of similarities, but it's different in that I think it's a lot more attractive at this point although we had tremendous interest, even in spite of everything, two years ago.

We effectively, from a scholarship standpoint, we're going to be very competitive right out of the gate. To me, if I was a head coach, that would be a very positive thing. Watching what's happened here over the last two years, if I was a head coach candidate, it would make me very excited. Our Big Ten attendance at the end of the year you and I talked a lot about attendance, I know. But the upswing with our efforts at the end of the year is tremendous going into next year from the attendance and the fan support.

So I can't emphasize the Whiteouts and the unbelievable atmosphere that's here. So as a head coach, I would be extremely excited about coming into a place like this at this time.

Some things we learned last time, we were very deliberate. We're going to be deliberate this time but faster, and we were deliberate and slower on purpose last time because of all the extra things that were going on around us. It's probably the most difficult time, if not on any university campus, at least in any university athletic department from all the extra noise that was out there and all of it understandable.
But at this time, there's more and more can be focused on directly related to a coaching search, rather than trying to keep your finger in a dike, so to speak, at the same time that you're doing maybe the most significant head football coach search in history.

So the atmosphere, the attitudes, the feeling around here we're very, very sorry to see Bill go. He's a tremendous person and a tremendous football coach. But every new challenge brings new opportunities. So that's the way we look at it. We look at it in a very positive way going forward.

Q. Dave, Deion Barnes just Tweeted, "I know me and many players would love to have Larry Johnson as our head coach." Will Larry be considered? And will the players, the current players have much or any impact or say in the search?
Dave Joyner: Well, let's say this. Only the search committee, who is a tremendous committee, has a direct influence over the search results, and they'll do a tremendous job. It's a great group of people. I can't emphasize that more.

We certainly are sensitive to our student athletes and what their attitudes are and thoughts and feelings always. Coach Johnson, as I said, is a tremendous individual. And if Coach Johnson wants to get into this mix, he will be very much welcomed and will certainly get every strong consideration of someone of his stature.

Q. Dave, how important is head coaching experience in your criteria?
Dave Joyner: As last time, head coaching experience is a very important consideration. It's not an absolute requirement. Obviously, we got an unbelievable head coach who was an offensive coordinator ahead of his time. So it depends on the individual in the end.

But our job is to get the best coach available out there. Certainly, head coaching experience is a very desirable requisite.

Q. Dave, as to Wally Richardson being on the coaching search committee, how important was it for you guys to have another football alum on this search in terms of what you went through last time?
Dave Joyner: I think it's a great opportunity, number one, for Wally. He's a very bright, a very outstanding individual, as any of you that know him know, and I think it's a great opportunity for us to understand...I mean, I'm a letterman obviously as well, but to have another letterman on the search committee that directs the Football Letterman's Club, I think, is a real asset for us.

And having Wally here and able to do that will be a tremendous input into this search process.

Q. Dave, you said earlier that you were working with Bill O'Brien to make a contract advantageous. From your perspective, how did you feel that that was going at the time?
Dave Joyner: I thought that Penn State made every effort to within our ability to make it very attractive for Bill to continue as our head coach. In the end and I'll emphasize every effort that we had at our disposal. But in the end, Bill just got a tremendous I don't know the details, but I can only imagine. He got a tremendous opportunity that he felt like he couldn't pass up, and I wish him Godspeed.

Q. There's some different faces on the search committee this time. What's the advantage of having different people, different eyes from two years ago, in your perspective?
Dave Joyner: I think you said it. We had a great search committee two years ago. I think that having some different eyes some consistencies are necessary our Faculty Athletic Rep, our Senior Women's Administrator, and obviously the Athletic Director but having said that, it's never a bad thing to, as good as people are, to kind of change things out and get some different viewpoints.

So I look at this the diversity, if you will, of serving on the search committee to be very positive as we conduct this search.

Q. You said that you believe that Bill came here with the intent to be here for the long haul. In the end, why do you feel he wasn't here for the long haul? And how much do you feel, if at all, the dissension, the scholarship, living in the Paterno shadow played a role in his willingness to leave?
Dave Joyner: I don't think at all. Obviously, the environment is whatever the environment is, but Bill handled that very well with grace and style, and I really believe that he loved it here. From the get-go, he looked at himself here as a long termer.

But, again, I think just a tremendous opportunity came up for him, somebody that had roots in the NFL, although he coached far longer in college. People don't talk about, but he coached far longer in college than he did in the pros, so he could span both areas. But I just think the opportunity was too good for him to pass up. Hence we find ourselves here.

Q. Dave, I want to ask, will the new coach, whoever it is, have complete and total autonomy with his staff? Or are there any current members on the staff who maybe have influence to stay on if it is somebody who's not on the staff right now or anything like that? Or will the coach have complete power over the decisions on that?
Dave Joyner: I always give our coaches complete, quote, unquote, autonomy in selecting the staff. However, the Athletic Director reserves the right for a veto depending on certain situations. Also, I certainly encourage our new head coaches to look very seriously at staff that are here, and I will do the same when we have the new head coach.

Q. There was a report a couple days ago that indicated that Bill O'Brien had just some issues and frustrations with the, quote, unquote, Paterno faction. How is the administration going to address that issue, if there is one, and how can the new coach move on without having to deal with the potential underlying problem there?
Dave Joyner: It's a good question, but let me say this. Our fans are passionate. Our fans believe in Penn State. And going forward, the new coach is going to understand that, that our fans are great and they're tremendous and that they have energy, and perhaps that's why they express themselves.

I think that it's a great opportunity for a head coach, and that's what I'll talk to them about, to come here with a place that has a lot of life and a lot of interest, and I view our great fan energy as a positive, and I think that a new head coach will find that as well.

Q. Christian Hackenberg and his family have stated to be on the fence waiting to see who you pick. I think it's fair to say that such a kind of quarterback friendly coach they would like to see, as opposed to some other candidate. What impact, if at all, is that going to be on the guy you ultimately choose?
Dave Joyner: Christian Hackenberg is a tremendous asset at Penn State, first of all, as a human being. He's just a great person. He's a great student. His maturity is off the charts, as we all know and have all learned, not just on the field, but off the field. So we were very, very interested in Christian Hackenberg as a Penn Stater.

I think Christian will tell you he came here because of Penn State. He loved Bill O'Brien, but the university itself is such a foundation in greatness, not just in football, but every aspect of the university, so that had a lot of bearing on Christian coming here. I'm not speaking for him, but I think, if you ask him, he'd probably respond that way.

Our job for Christian and all the student athletes here is to get the best football coach possible, to lead them as we move forward, and we make our pledge to do that, and we make our pledge to do that in a contracted time frame, but do it appropriately and with great thought and great analysis, and hopefully this time in the not too distant future Christian and the rest of our student athletes will be very happy with the new coach selection and will be enthusiastic about continuing their careers at Penn State.

Q. Is it a disproportionate consideration, considering that he is pretty much the core of your offense?
Dave Joyner: I think all of our student athletes get the same consideration, and we want a coach that can embrace Christian as well as the student athletes that are here and one that they'll be excited about.

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Last Updated January 02, 2014