Replacing a college coaching legend, especially one who fell disgracefully from his perch, cannot be easy. Bill O'Brien's job at Penn State isn't just to fill the coaching shoes of Joe Paterno, whose 409 victories lead all other Division I college coaches in history, but also to rebuild the Nittany Lions program in the wake of one of the worst scandals college sports have ever seen.
Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim suggests O'Brien should take some advice from Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean. Like O'Brien, Crean came to a Big Ten school that has always prided itself on morals and fair play but was in the throes of scandal. Though Indiana's NCAA violations didn't compare to Jerry Sandusky's alleged crimes and the cover-up that ensued, Crean was able to persevere through the violations and now has his Hoosiers in the top 10.
As Wertheim writes, here's how Crean's advice for O'Brien might go:
I don't want to minimize this. Rebuilding is a bitch. You're going to lose recruits to other schools that stress the instability and reference the scandal. You'll lose games. You'll have players test you because they know you don't have anyone credible on the bench to replace them with. And again, you're dealing with a situation that's much more complex and less predictable than mine was. If Jerry Sandusky takes a plea your situation breaks a lot different than it does if there's a long, drawn-out trial.
But keep at it. I know you had to leave that basketball game early on Sunday, shaking hands with trustees and meeting your players and doing interviews and whatnot. Had you stayed you would have seen my team grind out a win, our first conference road victory in 16 games. We left State College 15-1 and moved into the top 10. It's a process. Stick with it and you have a shot. By the time you're done, you may even get your own flavor at the creamery.