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Penn State choice for Paterno successor draws boos

Bob Moon Jan 6, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: There are reports today that Penn State is about to hire its first new head football coach in nearly half a century. Bill O’Brien is said to have reached a deal to replace Joe Paterno, who was fired over the child sex-abuse scandal of a couple of months ago. O’Brien’s the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots at the moment, and he’s being anything but warmly received in State College, Penn. Alumni players are complaining his resume’s not impressive enough and that — even worse — that he’s not part of what they call Penn State’s football family. Losing alumni support can be an expensive proposition. Marketplace’s Bob Moon reports.

Bob Moon: It is, without question, going to be a tough job. And, by most all accounts, none of the big coaching names the university approached wanted to do it, with the ongoing child molestation scandal still gripping Penn State. Jon Wertheim is senior writer at Sports Illustrated.


Jon Wertheim: You know, you’re asking somebody to come into an extremely difficult situation that is fluid. We still don’t know how this is going to pan out. There’s going to be tons on media scrutiny. Already, recruits are backing out of their commitments. I mean, this is really a rough situation.

Alumni have rallied so far — the school says memberships have been up. Wertheim says officials had no choice but to hire outside the team, to get a fresh start. But he concedes upsetting the alumni with that move could cost the school dearly.

Wertheim: At a time of shrinking state funding, for a school like Penn State, these donations mean more and more to the university.

Professor Scott Rosner follows the business of sports at the University of Pennsylvania. He says the new coach will need to play several key financial roles in leading the team.

Scott Rosner: You can analogize them all at one time, to being the CEO, the head of human resources and chief marketing officer. At the intercollegiate level, it’s all on one person.

Rosner says the incoming coach is likely to be on a short leash with a school that’s not used to losing, so the pressure he faces is immense.

Rosner: It’s not unlike any other succession that occurs in the business world. You don’t want to be the CEO that follows a legendary CEO, right? You want to be the guy who followed the next guy.

Rosner points out, though, that Joe Paterno was relatively unknown when he first took the job. I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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