Penn State coach Bill O'Brien was an understandably happy man Tuesday when he appeared on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.
O'Brien learned earlier Tuesday about the NCAA's decision to gradually reinstate scholarships that had been removed when the sanctions against the program came down in July 2012. He will meet with the team at 2:45 p.m. ET to discuss the big news. Penn State has an open week.
"Since I was hired here, we’re just trying to do what’s right for the student-athletes here," O'Brien said. "We've made mistakes. We've owned up to those. If we sent an improper text or made a [prohibited] phone call, we reported them right away. We're certainly not perfect. I think we have a good leader here in [university president] Rod Erickson.
"We're just trying to do the best job we can for Penn State every day."
That job gets easier for O'Brien and his staff, who can adjust their recruiting approach beginning next year. Penn State has 12 recruits verbally committed for the 2014 class.
O'Brien declined to discuss specific recruiting strategies but talked about the challenge that the initial sanctions posed. At times, Penn State has been able to offer only one scholarship per position.
"We always felt once we were able to get a young man and his parents here on campus, the place sold itself," O'Brien said. "It's a place where you can get a fantastic degree. It's a place where you can play in the Big Ten. … As far as recruiting the individual athlete, that was never difficult here. The numbers were the difficult part."
O'Brien is excited for his players and Penn State fans, especially the students, calling it "a good day for all of those people." He's appreciative of the support from other Big Ten coaches. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz called Penn State's initial penalties "a bad deal" and is glad steps are being taken to rectify things.
Although the scholarship change doesn't impact Penn State until next year, it gives O'Brien a chance to reiterate a message to his players about "sticking together and being committed."
Penn State could receive an additional reduction of penalties, including the postseason ban, which is set to run through the 2015 season. But O'Brien isn't thinking about that just yet.
"When the rules changed a little bit, we adapted to those rules," he said. "The rules now are we can sign a few more guys and can get back to 85 scholarships a little bit sooner. We can’t go to a bowl or compete for a championship, but we definitely can get more on an even playing field numbers-wise, and that's what we're concentrating on as a staff."