UNIVERSITY PARK - Given that the NCAA strongly considered shutting down the Penn State football program for multiple seasons before deciding on harsh sanctions but ones that still allowed for competition, it's highly doubtful the organization will reduce the penalties despite grandstanding appeals from the Paterno family, former players and a new member of the Board of Trustees.
Bill O'Brien and the current Nittany Lion players have accepted that, and because they are the people most affected, their voices ought to be heard.
Since inheriting what is easily the toughest situation in sports history, O'Brien has been beyond impressive in his eight-month display of leadership and class, articulation and acceptance of the Lions' plight.
And while that didn't change Thursday during Penn State's media day festivities, O'Brien did let his guard down by making a stern appeal to the Nittany Nation to finally start looking forward.
He got on to the subject when someone asked him if he thought succeeding Joe Paterno has been as challenging as he imagined.
"I don't even think about that," he practically snapped. "I just try to come to work every day with a great staff, great group of kids. Take it day-to-day; keep things in perspective. Understanding that this is about educating young men. This is about doing the best job you can to teach them how to play football your way. This is about a great university with 600,000 alums.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said
people have to stop arguing and move forward.
"We had lettermen show up last week; 450 lettermen showed up. This is a special place."
Then he delivered his message, saying, "Now we all have to come together and realize we're in the position we're in. We have to. We have to stop arguing about it, and we've got to move forward."
O'Brien said he's not spoken with the Board of Trustees or individual members, and Athletic Director Dave Joyner said he has not facilitated a meeting for the coach to get across his sentiments to a beleaguered group that seems fractured and would benefit from a pep talk.
"People have their own opinions, and they can do what they want," Joyner said Thursday. "It's a free country. On the other hand, we have to be direct and forward and do our jobs and let whatever noise, as Bill calls it, go on and not jump into the noise."
O'Brien respects that everyone has a right to an opinion on everything that's gone down. But his opinion is this: "It's time to stop the dour attitude. It's time to think about ways to help us through this. It's time to understand that we've got to move the university, the athletic department and the football team forward."
His players - who have suffered enough - agree.
"I think he's right," senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. "I was vocal about it [at Big Ten media days] in Chicago. Some things needed to be said then, but at the same time, it's time to move on."
Some people might never be able to do so. There's no doubt many feel the NCAA was too heavy-handed, that it shouldn't have accepted the Freeh report, and that stripping away 112 wins, from 1998 on, was an unjust shot at a defenseless Joe Paterno.
The sad reality is all involved had to pay a price, and I will again respectfully ask: What was worse: Penn State's handling of Jerry Sandusky over the past 14 years - when its top administrators at least knew of warning signs - or the NCAA sanctions?
"We have guys that understand why we're in the position that we're in," O'Brien said, "and they're going to help guide us through the next few years."
It figures to be a long, difficult journey, but will be one made easier for the innocent bystanders of this tragedy - Bill O'Brien's team and coaching staff - to stop the finger pointing and stand as one.
Like Penn State always used to do.
Mirror Managing Editor Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoona
mirror.com. Follow him on Twitter@neilrudel.