LaVar Arrington, shown right in his playing days, is as close to an ideal Penn State football lifer as you can find. After leaving for the NFL following his junior year, Arrington later returned to complete his degree and has been a vocal supporter of Penn State football through thick and thin, including the darkest hours and days following the revelations surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Arrington, who idolized Sandusky, never shied away from speaking out against Sandusky’s alleged acts and came to grips with the fact that Sandusky fooled him.
When Penn State held a candle light vigil on campus days after the Sandusky shock wave ripped through State College and beyond, Arrington was there to speak to the students and to the Penn State family near and far.
“We are Penn State. That will never change,” Arrington said.
That is, of course, unless Penn State hires a coach Arrington does not approve of.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Thursday night that Penn State will name New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as their next head coach, with a formal announcement being made Saturday. the initial reaction from Penn State fans is one of disappointment and confusion for the most part. The Fan Tab rating on Nittany Lions Den plummeted to 1% over night, and Arrington had some of the strongest words to say as word of this potential hire spread.
“I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage,” Arrington said to Blue White Illustrated, the Rivals.com affiliate covering Penn State. “Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that’s the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I’m done. I’m done with Penn State. If they’re done with us, I’m done with them.”
Arrington is an emotional guy and he seems to be embarrassed by the way his school has handled the coaching search. He has a good relationship with Tom Bradley, Penn State’s interim head coach and longtime defensive assistant and coordinator under Joe Paterno. Bradley reportedly had not been told of any coaching decisions as of Thursday night, following the O’Brien news. Other reports have said that Penn State’s current coaching staff will meet with school officials Friday. It is Arrington’s belief that Penn State hiring O’Brien is a sign of disrespect for those who have helped make Penn State football what it is today.
“By these people making the decisions the way that they are making them, basically coinciding with everything that’s being written about our university, if they get rid of Tom Bradley, that means they in essence have accepted the fact that we are all guilty,” Arrington said. “You might as well call it all the same thing.
“What we stood for and what we represented for so long, what we have been taught, what we have been trained to know and the values that I raise my own children with, you’re basically telling me it’s good, only as long as times are good.”
Arrington is not alone. Former Penn State players such as Brandon Short and D.J. Dozier have spoken out about Penn State’s coaching search and decision-making, with Short saying that not hiring Bradley is like turning their back on the entire Penn State family. Dozier questions why more former Penn State players were not consulted during the search.
“I would venture to say that a lot of guys thought, why not?” Dozier said to Blue White Illustrated. “Why wouldn’t someone ask us? Aren’t we a part of this university? Aren’t we a part of the program? Don’t we care? Don’t we have a little bit of expertise or at least a thought that may spur another thought? I believe to get the right or best answer, you survey the land.
“So, do the guys feel left out and pushed to the side? Well, of course. I think we can all speculate and if we speculate long enough, we’ll figure out that, well, maybe politics are working this one. I would love to see more of a collaborative approach to this process because, again, we’re not trying to say that Penn State is more special than another, but there’s a certain way that we have done things.”
All signs seem to indicate that Penn State is doing everything they can in order to bring in a fresh face. By going outside the Penn State family and hiring an NFL assistant coach who has a firey personality and has been said to lack patience, and is perhaps most known for getting in a shouting match with Tom Brady recently, and not reaching out to any number of prominent Penn State lettermen, they sure are doing that.
Bringing in a fresh face of the program has its fair share of pros and cons. If O’Brien is indeed the next head coach, and as of Friday morning there is no confirmation that is the case from Penn State and athletic director David Joyner confirmed last night that he expects to have a head coach lined up by January 13, then only time will tell if he is a good head coach or not. The down side is Penn State would be bringing in a head coach who already is not 100% committed to the job, as O’Brien will stay on board as offensive coordinator for the Patriots through the playoffs. If New England, a one-seed in the AFC, advances to the Super Bowl, Penn State’s head coach will be splitting his duties past National Signing Day.
For now, we await official word from Penn State. It is so quick to rush to judgement without hearing from the potential head coach. But when he does get a chance to speak to the media, he will have a number of questions to attempt to answer.
Surely LaVar Arrington would like some questions answered. He is not alone.
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