Sponsored by the American Heart Association and Marathon Oil, the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year announcement was made Thursday night at the 27th annual event at the downtown Hyatt Regency. In his first season as head coach of the Nittany Lions, O’Brien was among six finalists for the 2012 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year.
The Bear Bryant Awards are named in honor of college football coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant and is voted on by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The first recipient of the award was Coach Joe Paterno after he led Penn State to the 1986 National Championship. Penn State and Auburn are the only schools with multiple recipients of the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award.
"This is a huge honor for the Penn State program, for a great group of players and a great coaching staff,” O’Brien said after the announcement. “The other coaches here are phenomenal coaches who have done this for a long time. I've only done this for a year. It shows what type of coaching staff and the type of players we had this year. It is a program award."
Former BYU coach LaVell Edwards was presented the Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet. Funds raised benefit research, community education and outreach programs of the American Heart Association.
O’Brien previously was named the Maxwell Football Club and ESPN Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He also was a finalist for the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year.
O’Brien was named the Big Ten’s Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media) and Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches). The Brown University graduate was just the seventh first-year head coach to earn the Big Ten-Dave McClain Coach of the Year in the 41 years it has been awarded.