Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien said Tuesday morning that he came to Penn State because he felt it was a place that could "combine academics with hard-nosed football."
The sanctions levied against Penn State on Monday have not changed that, the Nittany Lions' head coach said.
Speaking to Bonnie Bernstein on the Dan Patrick Radio Show Tuesday, O'Brien addressed a number of topics in his first live interview since the NCAA sanctioned Penn State. He told Bernstein that the most difficult sanction to deal with was the one that allowed players to transfer from the team without restrictions.
"Right now, my main goal is to keep this 2012 football team together," O'Brien said. "And that's what I'm working on every single day."
O'Brien refused to discuss any individual players and whether they intend to stay or go, saying only that he had "positive conversations" with many of them.
"I know there's some tough times they've had to deal with," he said. "They're talking to their families right now. But what I've reiterated to these kids over again is that they're here to get a fantastic education, play some great football."
The coach also listed some of the reasons players would have to stay or recruits would have to come to Penn State despite the fact that the Nittany Lions won't be eligible to play in a bowl game until the 2016 season.
"I don't know how many bowl games have 108,000 people," O'Brien said, referring to Beaver Stadium. "Last I checked, there aren't any."
He also urged recruits to "look forward" to what the program could offer them in a big-picture sense.
"This staff will develop you to play at the next level," he said. "This staff will make sure you understand meaning and value of education here."
Bernstein asked O'Brien to put a percentage on the chance that he would remain at Penn State through the duration of his five-year contract. He did not give one but did not sound as though he had plans to depart. He also said there was "no question" his assistant coaches would remain with the team.
"I'm committed to this football team and I'm proud to be associated with this university," he said. "Proud to be associated with these young men."
O'Brien more or less ducked Bernstein's question about his thoughts on the removal of the Joe Paterno statue, saying only that he supported university president Rodney Erickson and athletic director David Joyner. He also said he's received a wave of support from colleagues, friends and fans, about 150 text messages and emails since the sanctions were announced.
"The best piece of advice I've received is 'You can't dwell on the past. You've got to move forward and play by the rules of what you've been sanctioned with,'" he said.