Penn State's NCAA sanctions are so severe that some people have said they're actually worse than the so-called "death penalty," but coach Bill O'Brien doesn't believe that's the case.
"No. We are playing football," O'Brien said Tuesday, a day after the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions on the football program and the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The Nittany Lions will not be eligible for a bowl game for four years, and they will have to endure substantial scholarship losses that could hinder the team's ability to compete at a high level for several years.
O'Brien appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" radio program Tuesday morning and said his main goal is "to keep this 2012 football team together." He later spoke to Penn State football media on a conference call and said no members of the team have informed him that they plan to transfer.
The NCAA granted Penn State players a special waiver to be able to transfer to another Division I school and play immediately rather than have to sit out one year. O'Brien has spoken to the players individually and as a team and said he feels good about the squad.
"I feel very, very close to these kids that I'm the head coach of right now," the first-year coach said.
In talking to the players about why they should remain at Penn State, O'Brien has stressed the school's strong academics, the fact that they can still be developed to play in the NFL and will still have their games televised.
The coach said he expressed two concerns when he spoke to Penn State President Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner about potential sanctions.
"I asked for two things," he said. "I basically said, let us play football and let us be on TV. At the end of the day, that's all you want to do. You want to play football in a fantastic, beautiful stadium in front of passionate fans, and you want your fans, if they can't get to the game, to be able to see you on TV."
The Lions won't be able to play in a bowl game for four years, but O'Brien told his players to look at one bright side of their situation. He wants them to view each home game, playing in front of more than 100,000 fans, as a bowl game.
O'Brien also was asked what message he would have for Penn State fans in the fallout of the scandal, and he gave a multi-layered response.
"I would tell them to renew their season tickets," he said. "I would tell them to move forward. I would tell them to turn the page and get on board with a new era of Penn State football. I would tell them to continue their belief in this fantastic university that offers people a fantastic education. I would tell them to remember that they've got a football team here that is working extremely hard for this upcoming season.
"And I would tell them to remember the mission of Penn State, which, as it relates to football, is the value of a world-renowned education with the ability to play great football. I would tell them to jump on board."