Joebots Undermining Bill O’Brien and Penn State Football

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(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Joe Paterno supporters are making life difficult for Bill O’Brien, head coach of the Penn State football team. David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News covered the issue in a recent column. He talked with The John Feinstein Show this morning.

Bill O’Brien took over the team in the wake of the child abuse scandal which shook the country, led to harsh sanctions against the football program and cost longtime head coach Joe Paterno his job. He managed a respectable 8-4 record in his first season. But supporters of the late former coach who believe he was treated unfairly — termed “Joebots” — seem hellbent on undermining his efforts.

“Anytime [you] follow a legend, it’s just gonna be trouble, because those people have become so attached and so devoted that it gets kind of creepy, kind of spooky,” said Jones. “And there’s a very small percentage, but a very vocal percentage, who are so devoted to Paterno’s memory and what they believe he represented, that no guy was going to come in there and simply take over.”

People don’t like change, especially when things had been the same for the better part of half a century. “There is some sniping, there are some people who have been displaced,” said Jones. “There are also the devoted, who were just not going to get used to any successor.”

With the sanctions placed on the program, not to mention the public’s views of the school, O’Brien faces an uphill battle to field a competitive team. And comments from Jay Paterno, the ex-coach’s son who’s out to clear his father’s name, and others make the situation more difficult.

As he put it in a recent interview with Dennis Dodd on CBSSports.com: “œWhen they fired Joe, I think they [the university] were going to make it very tough for themselves to go out and get some of the head coaches they were going to get. There was a lot of, like, ‘You fired Joe? What chance do I have?'”

The implication is that Penn State had to settle for O’Brien as coach.

“I really think that many, many Penn State fans, they think that liking O’Brien and wanting Paterno’s legacy to be viewed in a better light can be coexistent,” said Jones. “And I think that’s very reasonable. It’s the people that have to disparage the new guy that I just don’t get.”

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