O'Brien Low Key in Response to Good News

The Nittany Lion coach welcomed the news of a scholarship increase for his program. But he added that Penn State "has a long way to go" while dealing with NCAA sanctions.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien held a previously scheduled conference call with reporters less than two hours after the NCAA announced the easing of sanctions against the Nittany Lions Tuesday.

So he was still trying to wrap his head around the idea that his program will have significantly more scholarships over the next four years than it would have had if the full sanctions had remained in place.

Rather than being limited to 15 scholarships per year through 2016 and 65 overall through 2018, Penn State can use 20 scholarships per year starting in 2014 and the full complement of 25 after that. Overall, the Lions will be able to have 75 players on scholarship in 2014, 80 in 2015 and the full complement of 85 after that.

“The announcement just came out today,” O'Brien said. “We're obviously looking at it, studying it -- just like we did when the sanctions came out (in July of 2012). It takes a while to digest everything and then apply it to where you're headed.

“And even when we get that strategy in place, I'm not gonna talk about it publicly,” O'Brien said. “But obviously, we're able to sign some more guys.”

The second-year coach was extremely low-key when discussing the NCAA's decision to soften the sanction. The penalties came as a result of Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, actions that happened long before O'Brien was hired. The NCAA cited the progress Penn State has made toward meeting all of the recommendations of the university-sponsored Freeh Report as the main rational for the recent change.

“We've got a long way to go here at Penn State,” O'Brien said. “We're happy right now for our players. Our student/athletes who are here in our football program, they're a resilient bunch of kids. We're happy for our people here at Penn State, people who have worked extremely hard to implement the recommendations of the Freeh Report. We're just trying to take it one day at a time.”

Penn State remains in the middle of a four-year postseason ban, which prevents it from playing in bowl or the Big Ten championship game. However, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the NCAA-appointed independent athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, said a recommendation on removing the postseason ban should be used as “an incentive (for Penn State) to stay the course.”

O'Brien continues to focus on those things he can control.

“I just know when the rules change a little bit, we adapt to those rules,” O'Brien said. “The rules now are we can sign a few more guys and get back to 85 scholarships a little bit sooner. Those are the rules I'm playing under. We know we can't go to a bowl and can't compete for a championship, but we definitely can get more on an even playing field numbers-wise, and that's what we're concentrating on as a staff.”

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