David Jones of the Patriot News has become an instant national celebrity due to his interview with Bill O’Brien in which O’Brien expressed significant frustration and gross discontent with certain factions at Penn State, enough so to make him “want to put his fist through the windshield.” Jones will appear on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” this afternoon at 4:30. You have my permission to leave work early.
According to what Jones reported, O’Brien had felt hampered by the faction he referred to as “the Paterno people” at Penn State, to wit:
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a —- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.
“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”
This came up in response to a question about assistant coach Ron Vanderlinden, a vestige of the St. Joe administration who was kept on the staff as one of two holdovers partially to appease that faction, but who left Penn State toward the end of the 2013 season. No one really knows what happened there — the usual asinine conjectures coming from Internet message boards have produced lots of rumors that ultimately gain traction — as mum’s been the word from the actual parties involved.
As expected, some people representing themselves as “Paterno People” have tweeted a lot of defensive shit washing their hands of the situation. They should. They had nothing to do with it personally. However, clearly St. Joe’s lingering presence and the faction within the university who are not just Internet wannabes who either seek to keep the sainted Joe’s pervasive presence alive long after his death and disassociation from the football program could remain a thorn in the side of anyone seeking to take over the football program for years to come.
Their power is not necessarily manifested through direct interaction, but as a tacit undercurrent. It is there, and it is palpable. It is a mindset. Walk into alumni chapter meetings and feel it. It is always lurking beneath the surface. St. Joe lives. O’Brien called them “Paterno People”; I’ll call them Klingons.
No amount of defensive social media machinations will mitigate their pervasive, albeit dwindling, influence. Coming from a weak position, it is likely to serve the opposite purpose. Some people, weary of all the crapola, will decide that enough is enough.
Mind you, I believe that Joe was done wrong by the University and the NCAA and I believe that his accomplishments should be recognized and preserved for posterity. I don’t give a shit about the statue and I’m somewhat ambivalent about the win record. I’d like to put all the sanctions behind us as soon as possible. However, that all is now a separate issue and the Paterno legacy, if you will, is simply not an ongoing concern of the football program anymore. These issues should not intersect with its operation, henceforth and forever.
I can understand how appeasement of the pro-Paterno alumni base at the time of O’Brien’s hire was a necessary and sensitive thing to do, as continuity of the program somewhat depended on stemming the tide of further diminution of the fan base (erosion that coaching failures in Paterno’s later years, coupled with the STEP Program had already started). We’re now once removed from that time. The next head coach should not be subjected to any Paternolistic machinations. None. Not directly or subtly. Let those people continue their losing fight with the Board of Trustees and stay the hell out of the ongoing operation of the football program and the University as a whole.
That’s my position and I’m sticking with it. No, I don’t know what happened with Vanderlinden and I don’t care. O’Brien was in charge of the football program and had every right to fire Vanderlinden, if that’s what he did, for whatever reason. He doesn’t have to answer to anybody, other than Ron Vanderlinden, about that. The whining via social media demanding answers will always be there, as will be the opinions of the legitimate media. O’Brien wouldn’t be the first sports figure who was driven out of town by bad press and the latest thing “social media pressure,” but my conjecture is that those were not primary reasons for his departure. He obviously had an excellent job offer on the table and was torn about leaving his kids. Lingering resentment over this shit just gave him the push over the top.