Bill O'Brien says Penn State is still in the process of reviewing a potential overseas game to be played in Ireland. The Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year also seems to feel pretty good about the state of his football program heading in to his second spring as head coach.
"We're definitely exploring it and trying to be aggressive about it," O'Brien said when speaking with a small group of media huddled around him in an auditorium at Harrah's in Atlantic City, where the Maxwell Football Club would later present him with a coach of the year award.
As previously noted, there are a number of obstacles standing in the way of being able to schedule any such game. Among the scheduling factors holding up the process is waiting to see what the Big Ten does with future conference schedules. With the Big Ten expanding to 14 members in 2014 (Maryland and Rutgers) the Big Ten is analyzing the possibilities of expanding to a nine or even ten-game conference schedule. If the conference schedule does expand, and it appears there is momentum to go to at least nine games as soon as possible, it will reduce the options available for Penn State in scheduling a football game outside of the country. Then there is the challenge of finding an opponent who would likely be willing to give up a home game because it is unlikely Penn State would sacrifice a home football date in Beaver Stadium.
"We kind of have to wait to see what they do because it could still stay at eight games," O'Brien explained. Until the conference makes any decision on future football schedules, Penn State's exploration of a trip across the Atlantic may have to be on hold. But O'Brien says they are doing everything they can now to learn as much as they need to know in order to pull off the game.
O'Brien had said before the idea of playing a game in Ireland was designed to offer Penn State players a unique experience, and if doing a game like this were to happen during the terms of the NCAA sanctions it would be a better experience than a bowl game. But O'Brien still has respect for the bowl system, which Penn State will be forced to sit out the next three seasons due to NCAA sanctions.
"I think the bowl games are great for college football," O'Brien said. "I think the bowl experience is great for the players. My point is, what better bow game did anyone play in other than the national championship game than the Wisconsin game?" O'Brien asked, referring to Penn State's regular season finale overtime victory over eventual Big Ten champion Wisconsin. O'Brien said he was up late the previous night talking to the Penn State seniors joining him in Atlantic City -- the Maxwell Football Club was honoring the seniors at Penn State with the Thomas Brookshire Spirit Award -- and he explained many of them looked back fondly on the locker room following the dramatic victory.
"What bowl game can replace that?" O'Brien rhetorically asked. "I don't think so, not at Penn State. Penn State is a very special place."