Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Must Ensure Bill O'Brien Sticks Around

Richard LangfordCorrespondent INovember 20, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 27: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Penn State Nittany Lions leads his team onto the field before playing the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Bill O'Brien may be in the process of coaching himself into an NFL head coaching gig. Penn State needs to make sure that doesn't happen. 

What O'Brien has done with this program in his first year as head coach is nothing short of amazing. 

He took over a team that finished 9-4 last season and has them sitting at 7-4, but as I am sure you are aware, O'Brien's performance this year can't be judged by comparing his record to last year's team. 

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, this football program was on the verge of completely falling off the map of relevancy. 

O'Brien had to come in and instill enough confidence in the program to keep players from transferring and recruits from de-committing.

He then had to put together a team from those who did not leave the program and try to make them competitive. Understandably, Penn State got off to a rough start. The Nittany Lions lost their first two games of the season and appeared headed towards disaster.

Well, O'Brien got this team turned around and they've made huge strides this season. He's done so well that it has become relevant to discuss the possibility that he might be coaching in the NFL next season. 

If fact, David Jones of felt compelled to ask O'Brien point blank if he would be back next year. O'Brien was noncommittal on his future. 

Which is fine. That's his right and his choice, and it is far more admirable than standing there and offering up a firm yes while being open to the possibility of leaving. 

Whatever O'Brien's intentions are, Penn State needs to make his decision easy. 

Understandably, this is a tricky situation for Penn State. The school must avoid handing over the kind of power and anonymity that they fell under scrutiny for giving to Joe Paterno, but that doesn't mean they can't open up their pocketbooks.

This program desperately needs some consistency right now and a strong presence to reshape it's image around. O'Brien has helped them navigate an insanely difficult and unique time for the football program, and that means big bucks for the university. 

It is no secret that college football is huge business. It is not difficult to argue that the difference between bringing O'Brien back next season or another coach is countless millions of dollars for the university. 

So if these mythical NFL suitors do come knocking on O'Brien's door, Penn State needs to make it easy for O'Brien to ignore the knocks.