Search begins as Penn State officially announces O'Brien exit

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Penn State officially announced Thursday morning that football coach Bill O'Brien has said he's leaving to become the next coach of the NFL's Houston Texans.

Athletic director Dave Joyner said that a national search will begin immediately to name the 16th football coach in school history. Longtime defensive line coach Larry Johnson will serve as the interim coach while the search is taking place.

"We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student-athletes during this period," Joyner said in a statement. "I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits. We intend to move quickly in our search to identify the next great Penn State football coach."

Johnson just completed his 19th season with the program and was the longest-tenured member of O'Brien's staff.

"I'm humbled by the confidence that Penn State has bestowed upon me during this critical time for the football program and honored to do my part to help Penn State," Johnson said in a statement. "My job will be made very easy since we have a team comprised of tremendous student-athletes, coaches, trainers and support staff who are second to none and care as much about Penn State as I do. This program has a historic past and very bright future and I look forward to continuing to work with the players, staff and our incoming recruiting class to uphold the tremendous traditions, ideals and principles that make Penn State the best university in the nation and the football program the most successful on and off the field."

While dealing with scholarship reductions and a multi-year bowl ban, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record in his two seasons with the program, including a 10-6 mark in Big Ten play. He will take over a Texans team that has the first overall pick in the NFL draft after a disappointing 2-14 season.

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