O’Brien to remain coach at Penn State

After reportedly being interviewed by the Cleveland Browns, Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien will remain with the Nittany Lions.

CBS Sports NFL insider Jason LaConfora announced through social media on Thursday night that O’Brien informed the university that he is staying.

Several sports-news gathering agencies came out with similar reports later in the evening, ending nearly a week of rumors that O’Brien would leave University Park after just one season.

O’Brien’s agent, Joe Linta, told the Associated Press late Thursday night that O’Brien’s experience in 2012 at Penn State played on the coach’s “heartstrings” and made the decision easy in the end.

“His loyalty to the team and those kids was a really strong bond,” Linta said. “Although he loves the NFL and loves coaching, the experience this year with those kids was the opportunity of a lifetime for him.”

According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel using a Penn State source, O’Brien and his staff also “are expected to receive significant raises.” A social media post attributed to the Harrisburg Patriot-News said O’Brien was in line to get an increase in salary up to $3.6 million and receive assurances the university would make some “structural/personnel” changes.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer posted a report on its website earlier in the day that O’Brien had interviewed with Browns officials earlier in the week and that the team also was set to talk to Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Oregon coach Chip Kelly, citing league sources.

Philadelphia Eagles media relations chief Derek Boyko said his team also held an interview with O’Brien on Thursday before the Penn State coach and Linta made it clear that O’Brien would stay with the Nittany Lions for at least another year, the Associated Press reported.

However, by mid-evening, Sports Illustrated posted an article on its website that Penn State was making a push to keep O’Brien and “has received positive indications that he’s strongly considering staying,” according to an unnamed source.

Shortly after, reporters from the Philadelphia Eagles website and the Philadelphia Inquirer sent out via Twitter that O’Brien would not take further interviews and intended to stay at Penn State. LaConfora then tweeted that he received word that O’Brien had told the school.

“I’m not a one-and-done guy,” O’Brien told the Harrisburg Patriot-News. “I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that’s what I am going to do. I’m not going to cut and run after one year, that’s for sure.”

Penn State seemed braced for the worst — ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the university was so concerned O’Brien might really leave that it was compiling a list of candidates to replace him.

O’Brien guided Penn State to an 8-4 record, was named Big Ten coach of the year by both the media and coaches and was a finalist for several national coaching awards after the Nittany Lions were hit with heavy NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Before coming to Penn State, O’Brien was offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

Reports came out late in the season that NFL teams might have interest in O’Brien. Those died down a bit in December before ESPN announced on Sunday that teams still had O’Brien on their lists and the Nittany Lions coach would consider offers – Chris Mortensen said he was told by a source that O’Brien was assured by university officials when he was hired that no NCAA penalties would be forthcoming because the Sandusky case was a criminal matter.

However, in July, the NCAA hit the Lions with a bowl ban and scholarship restrictions that will be in effect over six years. Current players also were allowed to transfer immediately without having to sit out a year.

As a result of the sanctions, O’Brien’s contract automatically was extended, giving him a deal that covered nine years.

There also was a buyout of somewhere between just under $10 million and just under $20 million for anyone trying to hire O’Brien away.

A message left with O’Brien’s agent on Thursday night by the Mirror was not returned. Penn State declined comment when asked if it was aware of O’Brien’s interviews.