Bill O'Brien decides to stay at Penn State
Bill O'Brien is staying at Penn State, two sources with direct knowledge of his decision told SI.com. On a day when reports surfaced that O'Brien interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and was leaning toward leaving for the NFL, he made a decision to stay late on Thursday.
The decision came after the university put together what one source called a "massive push" to keep O'Brien in State College. He and his staff are expected to receive significant pay raises, although details haven't been finalized. O'Brien currently makes $2.3 million per year.
Also factoring into O'Brien's decision was his emotional attachment to Penn State, which he guided to an 8-4 season in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the significant sanctions that followed. O'Brien went 6-2 in the Big Ten this season and won the league's Coach of the Year award.
His decision to stay marks a significant victory for Penn State, which hired him last year before the NCAA announced its historic sanctions. Those include three additional years of a bowl ban and scholarship reductions that could keep the program under 85 scholarship players until 2020. O'Brien's departure could have triggered a mass exodus of players, who are still free to transfer from the Nittany Lions without penalty in the wake of the NCAA sanctions. Instead, O'Brien's return will help further stabilize the program, which faces a limited roster for the rest of this decade.
O'Brien drew interest from several NFL teams, including the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, according to reports. It is unknown if he received any job offers. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that O'Brien interviewed with the Browns earlier in the week.
Both the Eagles and the Browns are likely holding out for the chance to speak with Oregon's Chip Kelly, who is clearly the hottest college coaching commodity now that most executives believe that Alabama's Nick Saban is not considering a move to the NFL this year.