The final tie between Penn State football and the Paterno family has been severed.
Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno announced he was leaving the program after spending 17 years as an assistant under his father, Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. His departure was expected after the school last week named New England Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien to succeed JoePa as Nittany Lions head coach.
Joe Paterno was fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
”I wish the program the best of luck in carrying on the academic and athletic excellence that have been a hallmark of this university for decades,” Jay Paterno said in a statement.
Jay Paterno said he and O’Brien spoke this week and the two ”reached the conclusion” he would not be part of the new staff. He planned to take the next few weeks to consult his wife and family about options both inside and outside of football.
Helping his father and mother, Sue, deal with Joe Paterno’s treatments for lung cancer was also a priority. Joe Paterno’s spirits ”are good and he continues to fight on,” Jay Paterno said in a phone interview Tuesday while cleaning out his office.
Meantime, he said ”it will take some time think about what to do next.”
While both Paternos are now gone from the staff, O’Brien at his introductory news conference Saturday signaled he would embrace the traditions of a program that JoePa turned into one of college football’s marquee names.
O’Brien, who has no previous Penn State ties, is back in New England to finish up his duties through the NFL postseason. The Patriots host the Broncos in the AFC divisional round this weekend, though O’Brien indicated he would like to name his the bulk of his Penn State staff this week.
”There will never be enough words to say what (Joe Paterno) did for this program as far as wins, as far as off the field graduating kids, graduating student-athletes every single year,” O’Brien said Saturday. ”I can’t wait to meet him, and I look forward to that as soon as I can get that done.”
Jay Paterno also worked at Virginia, Connecticut and FCS school James Madison. He said he was privileged to have tutored players at his four coaching stops.
”As for Penn Staters, I cannot even begin to express what your support has meant to me and my family over the past seventeen seasons and in particular the past two months,” he said in the statement. ”Through the tumult of the past several weeks, it has been your stalwart support combined with life lessons learned from Joe Paterno that has and continue to sustain us.”
Joe Paterno joined Penn State as an assistant coach in 1950 before being promoted to head coach in 1966. He stayed 46 seasons, winning a Division I record 409 games.
School trustees ousted him two months ago amid mounting pressure that school leaders should have done more to prevent the abuse allegedly committed by Sandusky. Joe Paterno testified before a state grand jury investigating Sandusky, and authorities have said he is not a target of the investigation.
Sandusky is awaiting trial after waiving a preliminary hearing last month. He has denied the charges.
Amid relentless waves of media scrutiny, Jay Paterno remained on staff following his father’s dismissal. Jay Paterno moved from his usual perch calling plays in the press box to the field for the season’s final four games after receivers coach Mike McQueary was placed on administrative leave.
McQueary, a key prosecution witness against Sandusky, was the intermediary on the field relaying plays between the press box and quarterback.
Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark were among Jay Paterno’s more prominent pupils. Both quarterbacks were seasoned leaders and run-pass threats who helped lead Penn State to Big Ten titles – Robinson in 2005 and Clark in 2008.
But Penn State’s passing game struggled for much of the last two seasons as the Nittany Lions rotated Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin behind center. Some fans also criticized Jay Paterno for having secured his job because his father was head coach.
By Tuesday afternoon, the only link to coaches’ biographies on the Penn State football roster website was for one for O’Brien.
Jay Paterno had interviewed to replace his father as head coach, as did defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who served as the interim coach before O’Brien’s hiring.
Bradley was among other assistants from Paterno’s staff not expected to return. Secondary coach Kermit Buggs posted Tuesday on Twitter that he had been let go.
However, defensive line coach Larry Johnson will return, and linebacker Michael Mauti on Sunday indicated his position coach, Ron Vanderlinden was also expected to come back. Their returns should help Penn State with recruiting while O’Brien finishes up with the Patriots.
Having Johnson and Vanderlinden back should also assist the program to maintain much of its highly regarded defensive identity under the offensive-minded O’Brien.
Tennessee Titans quality control assistant coach Charles London has also accepted an offer to join O’Brien’s staff as running backs coach, London has told The Tennessean of Nashville.