A 1971 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, O'Brien posted a 75-45 mark with the Eagles, engineering one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent college football history.
His 2006 squad won nine games for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in five years. It marked the sixth straight year and the seventh time in eight years that BC had won at least eight games. The Eagles are preparing for their eighth consecutive bowl game under O'Brien's tutelage and have won their last six bowl appearances - the longest active bowl game winning streak in the country.
"When you think of integrity, you think of Tom O'Brien," said Fowler. "He is one of an elite group of coaches who have enjoyed high levels of success on the field and in the classroom. I have every confidence that he will lead NC State to national prominence in both of those areas."
O'Brien led the 2006 Eagles to a 9-3 record, with wins over six bowl teams including Central Michigan (31-24), Clemson (34-33, double-overtime), BYU (30-23, double-overtime), Virginia Tech (22-3), Florida State (24-19) and Maryland (38-16). If the Eagles defeat Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the 2006 Eagles will become only the third team in school history to win 10 or more games in a single season and the senior class (currently 35-14) will have the most wins of any class in school history.
"Coach O'Brien has excellent experience as a head coach, a record of strong graduation rates, and the integrity and values commitment we would expect of such a visible representative of North Carolina State University," said Chancellor James L. Oblinger, who is out of the country, but has been consulting with Fowler on a daily basis throughout the search process. "He has instilled discipline, character and community involvement in his teams and demonstrated academic success with student athletes throughout his career. I am proud to have him as the newest member of the Wolfpack athletic family."
O'Brien, 58, was the recipient of the American Football Coaches' Association's 2004 Academic Achievement Award for posting a 100% graduation rate. He received Honorable Mention status seven additional times during his tenure at Boston College. BC was ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today when that publication recently re-ordered its 2005 regular-season poll and the final 2005 football Top 25 by APR (Academic Progress Rate) score to measure a combination of athletic and academic success.
Before coming to Boston College in 1997, O'Brien served as the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia for six seasons and had been a member of the Cavaliers' football staff since 1982. Virginia was consistently ranked among the top offensive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference during his tenure there. The Cavaliers scored 320 points during the 1996 regular season to become the first ACC team to score at least 300 points in eight consecutive years.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, O'Brien played at St. Xavier High School in that city. In 1987, he was inducted into the St. Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame — one of the youngest graduates ever selected to join fellow alumni such as Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jim Bunning and Notre Dame All-American quarterback George Ratterman in the school's place of honor. He later enjoyed a fine collegiate career at Navy, where he was a three-year starter at defensive end for the Midshipmen from 1968-70. Following his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1971, O'Brien was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines. He served as an assistant coach for Navy's plebe (freshman) team for one season before being assigned to the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where he played on the last Quantico football team. He later served tours of duty in California and Japan. He attained the rank of major in the Marine Corps Reserve.
When his active duty ended, O'Brien joined the football staff at Navy, where he coached the team's tackles and tight ends for seven years (1975-81). He was also the Mids' recruiting coordinator, and was responsible for All-America and Hall of Fame running back Napoleon McCallum's decision to attend the Naval Academy.
O'Brien joined the University of Virginia staff prior to the 1982 campaign. He coached the Cavaliers' guards and centers before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in the spring of 1991. Following Virginia's 1994 season, he switched from quarterbacks coach to offensive line coach while remaining as offensive coordinator.
O'Brien was recently named to the Board of Directors of the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots Foundation and received the John F. Kennedy Memorial National Award, given to "an outstanding American of Irish descent for distinguished service to God and country" in 2005.
O'Brien and his wife, the former Jennifer Byrd of San Diego, are the parents of three children: Colleen Frances, a 2002 Boston College graduate who works for ESPN; Daniel Patrick, a 2005 BC graduate who is on the Harvard football staff; and Bridget Jean, also a 2005 BC graduate who recently finished a year-long mission with the Rostro de Cristo program in Ecuador.
O'Brien's contract will be for seven years. His compensation will include a salary of $240,000, and a total base income of $1.1 million, as well as incentive bonuses.