It appears all but certain that Bill O'Brien will be named the next head coach at Penn State, with sources telling NFL Network's Jason La Canfora on Friday that the Patriots' offensive coordinator is expected to reach a deal as early as this weekend. But the selection of a coach without Penn State ties might not sit well with several prominent former players or some alumni.
Former standout linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short had organized a petition in support of interim coach Tom Bradley's candidacy. Short said the petition included about 100 names after he was informed by a member of Penn State's search committee it was enough to sway their opinions.
Seven NFL.com and NFL Network analysts share predictions for the postseason and who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy. More ...
Short said he planned to meet with acting athletic director David Joyner on Friday in a meeting scheduled before reports began to surface about O'Brien. Short would consider cutting ties with his alma mater if the O'Brien reports were true, and he said some former players -- operating independently of the official Football Letterman Club for football alumni -- might consider a lawsuit that would prevent the school from using their likenesses or images in the future.
"There are thousands of other players who will tell you the same thing. The administration is under the belief that if they hire an NFL coach, or someone flashy, that they will fill seats," Short said in phone interview Thursday. "As an NFL player, I can tell you that there is a big difference between developing young men and recruiting, then the combine and free agency. It's two different universes."
D.J. Dozier, a running back on the 1986 title team, said Thursday the search committee should poll current and former players and high school coaches in the region. He planned to sign the petition if more signatures were taken.
"Give that person and that staff a chance. I believe the current staff has done a good job," Dozier said. "Unless there's politics involved, give them a chance."
One alum, quarterback Kerry Collins, released a statement Friday offering O'Brien his support.
"Much is being said about the hiring of Bill O'Brien as the next football coach at Penn State. I do not know him. I have never met him nor been coached by him. One thing I do know is that I will support him and I call on all Penn State football lettermen to do the same," Collins said. "Whether you agree or disagree with his hiring, we should support him. Instead of chastising him for not being a Penn Stater, let's show him what it means to be a Penn Stater. Coach O'Brien is faced with the daunting task of resurrecting our beloved, yet bruised program. Let's support him in any way we can."
Other alumni lobbied for Bradley, a 33-year veteran of the Penn State staff and defensive coordinator since 2000.
Prominent donor Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State graduate, questioned the school's hiring process.
"Bill O'Brien might well be a fine football coach and more importantly an even finer human being," Lubrano wrote in an email. "But by excluding the football (lettermen) from the search process, this administration has effectively communicated to them that their contributions to the Penn State family don't matter."
O'Brien joined New England in 2007 following 14 seasons on the college level, including stops at Duke, Maryland and Georgia Tech. He played football at Brown -- Paterno's alma mater.
The Patriots are third in the NFL overall in scoring (32.1 points per game), and second in total offense (428 yards) and passing (317.8 yards).
Penn State finished a 9-4 campaign with a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl to Houston on Jan. 2. The Nittany Lions relied on defense much of the year after the offense struggled with a two-quarterback system.
Penn State officials had termed the search "methodical and deliberate." Joyner said earlier Thursday he would like to have Paterno's replacement in place by Jan. 13, the start of 16-day recruiting window before high school seniors can begin to announce their official intentions to attend college on Feb. 1.
Bradley, who took over for Paterno on an interim basis, was among the candidates interviewed. He was on the road recruiting Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.