Bacon: Dysfunction pushed out O'Brien

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
3:00
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien wasn't pushed out by the "Paterno people," and he didn't bolt from Penn State at the first chance he received either.

No, Fourth and Long author John U. Bacon writes, a lot of it had to do with the lack of leadership at the university, the lack of support by its administrators and the lack of fulfilled promises that sent O'Brien to the Houston Texans. In short, a lot of it had to do with athletics director Dave Joyner.

Bacon's portrayal of Penn State's athletics director is far from flattering in an in-depth piece that directly tackles Penn State's continued dysfunction. Sure, there are other issues with the university -- such as an outdated Board of Trustees system that puts too much power into the hands of too few board members -- but the piece didn't shy away from placing a lot of the blame squarely on Joyner.

Among Bacon's findings:
  • Joyner assured O'Brien he would increase the budget for assistant coach salaries, recruiting and facilities. He never delivered.
  • O'Brien's résumé and cover letter were lost in the department mailroom for eight days. They were found when O'Brien called to make sure they received it.
  • Joyner, a former member of the Board of Trustees, became AD despite holding no athletic department experience -- and his business experience entailed founding a company that declared bankruptcy four years later. Pennsylvania's auditor general said the hire created "reasonable public perceptions of insider influence and conflicting interests."
  • After O'Brien was hired, players asked him to keep Joyner away from the team because they felt he didn't support or respect them. (Prior to O'Brien, at least one player had to be separated during a heated exchange with Joyner.) Joyner obliged and was not on the sideline, in the locker room or team meetings.
  • While most athletic directors or general managers meet with the head coach the Monday after the season ends -- when coaches' cell phones are usually blowing up -- Joyner was out on a hunting trip.

That list is pretty damning for Joyner. It wasn't a well-kept secret in Happy Valley that he and O'Brien disliked each other, intensely, but the above blunders weren’t well known.

Joyner isn't a revered figure on campus. Far from it. He earned few supporters when, under his watch, construction crews took the Joe Paterno statue down. And he earned fewer still for the odd firing of legendary fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. Despite two good football hires, Joyner doesn't boast overwhelming support from alumni.

The university is moving ahead to find a new president, but there's also no guarantee that Joyner's "temporary" gig won't turn into a permanent position. When asked three weeks ago if he planned to continue his role as AD, Joyner said this: "I'm here to serve Penn State as long as they need my services, and that's how I feel today as it was in November of 2011."

The football team is moving on from the sanctions. And, maybe for the university to move on from what Bacon termed "administrative dysfunction," it has to move on without Joyner.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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