The Coaches Caravan started out as an idea hatched by the Penn State Alumni Association and the Nittany Lion Club as a way to allow the public to get to know O'Brien, and other faces of Penn State Athletics. Boarding a custom tour bus, Nittany Lion coaches traveled across Pennsylvania, and dipped south to Baltimore, Washington DC, and Richmond before wrapping up the first segment of the caravan in Harrisburg.
Before O'Brien stepped to the podium, guests were whipped into a frenzy by Roger Williams, Executive Director of the Alumni Association, who led the crowd in a "We Are Penn State" cheer which drew a comment from the new coach that "this crowd was better than Philly." O'Brien later talked about riding the bus into Philadelphia two days earlier with basketball coach Pat Chambers who grew up in the city, and quipped about Pat pointing out all the landmarks, while he didn't know what to expect would be thrown at the bus, since the last time he was on a bus in Philadelphia was with the Patriots.
After a few remarks by acting athletic director David Joyner, field hockey coach Char Morett, also a PSU alumni, spoke passionately about Penn State, and the opportunities provided for student athletes, stressing the fact that Penn State has always done things the right way and been ahead of the curve. She spoke of her personal experience at Penn State, and of being able to attend the University because Penn State was awarding scholarships to female athletes before Title IX even existed. Track and Cross Country coach Beth Alford-Sullivan was next, and shared Morett's sentiments about Penn State. The crowd laughed when Alford-Sullivan quipped that "for the first time she was older than the football coach at Penn State."
O'Brien was next, and he didn't disappoint. Working from a set of powerpoint slides, he stressed four core values that the football program would operate under, and the first value is Academics. O'Brien spoke in glowing terms about the first rate facilities and academic support available to Penn State student athletes, and suggested that he may add even more academic support personnel to his staff. He rounded out the four principles with "Football, Loyalty, and Integrity," and talked about plans for the team to budget their time wisely and to be involved with the greater community.
The coach touched on many subjects, even poking fun at the NCAA when asked about recruiting when he told the crowd that there were certain times when coaches could not initiate contact. But prospects can call the staff. He also mentioned that NCAA rules allowed for facebooking prospects, but that he couldn't send them a text message, provoking laughter.
During a media session prior to the main event, O'Brien fielded several questions directly. When asked to single out individual performers, he declined, but he did praise the work that the offensive line was doing, telling the assembled media that when he arrived most people were telling him that the line would need a lot of work, but stressing that he was very pleased that he has 8-10 guys that can play, and that have been working very hard to get there. He also stressed that the entire team needs to have a great summer working with Fitz and the staff, as the coaches are not able to work with the players during the summer months.
The complete audio of O'Brien's speech in Camp Hill is below:
Judging by the reaction and the response from the large crowd on hand, the Coaches Caravan hit a high note with fans, and the Lions are moving into the future with strong leadership at the helm.