There were plenty of great story lines during this past college football season, but perhaps none was more moving that Bill O’Brien’s quest to heal a school that had just been ravaged by one of the worst scandals imaginable.
When O’Brien came on board at Penn State as the head coach, it was under the worst possible circumstances. Jerry Sandusky was dominating the image of the school and legendary coach Joe Paterno had just been forced out of a position he had held for over 50 years. No one wanted to touch the Penn State job, so the odds were not in O’Brien’s favor.
However, despite all the adversity, from players like Silas Redd transferring to the sanctions leveled against the program, O’Brien not only held the Nittany Lions together, but he helped them move forward.
“Coach O’Brien has engineered a tremendous season for the Penn State football program while overcoming obstacles that many considered to be insurmountable,” said Maxwell executive director Mark Wolpert in a statement. “The team’s 8-4 record is a great testament to the hard work of Coach O’Brien and his staff, and also to the dedication shown by the student-athletes involved in the football program at Penn State.”
Penn State’s not playing in a bowl game, nor they didn’t run the table in Disney-like fashion. Instead they went the Pixar route and finished with 8 win, which is 8 more wins than anyone was expecting them to win this season. But again, O’Brien winning the Maxwell Coach of the Year award is about more than just a winning record, it’s about how far a coach will go to keep his team whole, even if the world seems to be against them.
Were there better teams in the NCAA this year, yes. But with all the dominance of the SEC and the power of Notre Dame and other schools, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better coach during the 2012 season than Bill O’Brien.