Spurned for the head-coaching job by the only employer he’s ever known, Penn State’s Tom Bradley has returned to life as an assistant coach.
But it’s unclear how much longer he’ll be coaching in Happy Valley.
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was formally introduced Saturday as the replacement for fired head coach Joe Paterno.
Bradley served 33 years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, including the last two months as the interim coach following Paterno’s ouster by school trustees Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
He interviewed for the permanent job, drawing support from many former players and alumni. Acting Athletic Director David Joyner said Bradley received serious consideration.
Bradley was still on the staff as of Saturday, though his fate could be determined the next few days when O’Brien meets with current assistants. He would like to name the rest of his staff during that time.
In an emotional statement released Saturday that at times read like a farewell message, Bradley wished O’Brien the best and pledged his full support to his alma mater. He thanked school officials for giving him the opportunity to work at Penn State.
The statement was relayed by an outside public relations firm, not the university.
”This is forever my home and forever my family. It is important that we come together to support our players and our university,” Bradley said. ”Now is the time to demonstrate that we are – and always will be – Penn State.”
Bradley also called it his ”life’s privilege” to coach the Nittany Lions.
”I have always believed that football was just one part of preparing student athletes for the next chapter in their lives. Those chapters – lived by our players after the games ended – define the Penn State football tradition,” he said. ”I want to thank every one of our players who gave their talent, effort and most importantly, heart to Penn State.”
Bradley enjoyed vocal support for the head-coaching job among some prominent alumni and several former Penn State players. Standout linebackers Brandon Short and LaVar Arrington – teammates in the late 1990s – helped organize a petition of other ex-players backing Bradley’s candidacy.
Short said the petition drew more than 100 signatures, and would have received more had a search committee member not told him that 100 was enough to sway opinion.
”Coach Bradley, got a lot of serious consideration,” Joyner said Saturday. ”He is a great coach and when I talked to him yesterday as expected, he was very magnanimous, he was very gracious. He talked to me about maintaining the Penn State family.”
A western Pennsylvania native, Bradley is known as a top recruiter who has helped reel in such standout players to Penn State like Arrington, Short and current Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
On Saturday, Lee said he shared the hope that other former Penn State players had that a current assistant would get the job, but threw his full support anyway behind O’Brien. He also praised Bradley, linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and defensive line coach Larry Johnson for leading the defense over the last two turbulent months since Paterno’s firing.
Johnson is already planning to return. and it’s possible he could become the coordinator if Bradley leaves.
”Hopefully, Coach O’Brien will consider them for his staff because not only are they great coaches, but they are people with great integrity,” Lee said.
Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.