Questions raised again about Bill O'Brien's future with Penn State football program

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The incessant, as yet-to-be-answered questions regarding Bill O'Brien's future at Penn State were thrust back into the forefront Sunday, with ESPN's Chris Mortensen reporting that O'Brien was likely on some NFL teams' short lists, including the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

The report, using information from anonymous NFL sources, said that O'Brien wouldn't leave for "just any" NFL job and that he could use as leverage an assurance that the Sandusky scandal was a criminal matter rather than an NCAA matter when he accepted the job in January. O'Brien's agent, Joe Linta, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If any team, college or pro, wants to hire O'Brien it will be forced to pay a significant buyout. His contract states that if O'Brien terminates his contract with Penn State for any reason other than by death, disability or incapacity, the damages would equal his base salary ($950,000 for last year with an increase of five percent each year) and additional compensation ($1,350,000 annually) multiplied by the years remaining on his contract.

Under those terms, a buyout would equal $9.2 million if applied to the original duration of his five year contract. But because his contract was automatically extended another four years because of the NCAA sanctions, the buyout amount could be doubled to $18.4 million.

O'Brien's most recent public comments about his future at Penn State were directed in late November to 790 AM, an Atlanta radio station. He said he planned on being head coach at Penn State in 2013.

After the Indiana game in November, O'Brien declined to give a yes or no answer as to whether he would be Penn State's coach next year, saying "You guys gave legs to a story this week that there was no story there. I mean, there's no story there. I'm focused on one game at a time. I'm focused on this football team. That's not something I even think about; I 'm the head football coach at Penn State."

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