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TicketCity Bowl central: Both sides deny deal is close between PSU, Patriots' O'Brien

January 2, 2012
By Cory Giger, , The Altoona Mirror

Check here for all your pregame reading for today's matchup between Penn State and Houston. Click links to the right for:

* Cory Giger's 5 keys to the game

* Neil Rudel on Tom Bradley possibly facing his last game at PSU

Article Photos

* Matt McGloin will not play because concussion symptoms remain

* Lions 'Redd'y to run over Cougars

* Giger: Deserved or not, Bolden gets another opportunity to prove himself


Coaching search: Both sides deny deal is close between PSU, Patriots' O'Brien

DALLAS -- The report-then-immediate-denial component of Penn State's coaching search added a new chapter Sunday as another alleged frontrunner's name surfaced.

ESPN first reported that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien "has emerged as a leading candidate, if not the leading candidate" to succeed Joe Paterno, according to a tweet from Adam Schefter.

Shortly thereafter, USA Today's Jon Saraceno, a PSU alum, ratcheted up the O'Brien possibility when he tweeted, "only contract details need to be finalized before O'Brien is the man."

Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner denied the USA Today report but would not speak specifically about the search when talking to reporters following a pep rally Sunday afternoon at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

"There is no deal with anybody," Joyner told reporters outside the stadium.

A denial also came from O'Brien's agent Sunday night.

"Any imminent contract signing or agreement [with Penn State] is just off-base," agent Joe Linta told the Boston Herald. "The most important thing for him is to win the Super Bowl. But if someone is going to be interested in him in the NFL, it's going to happen this week. He could be going somewhere else, he could be returning to the Patriots. But we'll wait and find out if someone is interested in him and seeks permission to talk with him.

"Everybody's dream, like his, is to be an NFL coach," Linta added.

O'Brien's claim to fame for most football fans is that he's the coach who yelled at Tom Brady on the Patriots' sideline three weeks ago. He became angry after Brady threw an interception in the end zone against Washington on Dec. 11, and TV cameras captured him getting into a shouting match with the superstar quarterback on the sideline.

Now, the 42-year-old O'Brien is apparently being thought of as a serious contender for the Penn State job.

He is in his first year as New England's offensive coordinator and third as quarterbacks coach. He joined the Patriots in 2007 as an offensive assistant and was their receivers coach in 2008.

O'Brien, a Brown alum just like Paterno, had spent his career in college before going to New England. His jobs included:

* Brown (1993 tight ends, '94 linebackers)

* Georgia Tech (1995-97 offensive graduate assistant; 1998-00 running backs; 2001 offensive coordinator, quarterbacks; 2002 assistant head coach)

* Maryland (2003-04 running backs)

* Duke (2005-06 offensive coordinators, quarterbacks)

Names previously linked as frontrunners for the PSU job include Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak, both of whom denied the reports. Munchak's name continues to be mentioned as a possibility despite his strong denial Wednesday.

Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements also is believed to be a candidate for the job, as is Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley.

Fans who showed up to Sunday's pep rally expressed overwhelming support for Bradley, chanting things such as "head coach" and "we love you, Tom" and "you're the coach."

Bradley shook hands and hugged some fans who had gathered at the pep rally. When he hugged Peggy Stine, a Danville native who now lives in Gaithersburg, Md., she began to cry.

"It's sad, it really is," Stine said. "He's not been given a fair chance. None of [the coaches] have."

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