Bill O'Brien doesn't want to go to war with the NCAA.
The Penn State head football coach clearly believes negotiation, not confrontation, is the best course of action when dealing with the governing body of college athletics.
Now he just has to convince the rest of Nittany Nation that he's right.
Friday, O'Brien gave a private presentation during an executive session of the Penn State Board of Trustees. The meeting, which was initiated by the board, was not open to the public. After it was over, none of the parties involved would discuss the specifics of what was said during the meeting.
But an enterprising Centre Daily Times reporter, Mike Dawson, hung around outside the room at the Penn State Fayette branch campus where the meeting was held. He could see the presentation's slides through several full-length, glass-paned doors.
Based on Dawson's report, it's clear a major topic of conversation during the meeting were the severe sanctions that the NCAA delivered to Penn State last summer in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
One of the slides at the meeting was titled "potential proposal to modify sanctions." Another included a heading about the impact of scholarship reductions on the football program.
Finally, yet another slide read: "Individual lawsuits do not help us!" The words "do not" were underlined and in capital letters. That slide, according to Dawson, said lawsuits would discourage the NCAA from working with PSU to modify the consent decree that the school signed when agreeing to the sanctions. The lawsuits would also lead to "bad press," according to the slide.
It's true, the meeting was behind closed doors. But O'Brien is a smart guy -- a very smart guy. He had to know that a slide presentation that could be viewed from the outside through glass-paned doors would hardly stay private.
It's pretty obvious that O'Brien was trying to send a message.
He wants those folks who are peppering in the NCAA with litigation to knock it off. That includes four trustees -- Anthony Lubrano, Adam Taliaferro, Ryan McCombie and Peter Khoury -- who were in the room on Friday. Those are four of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the Joe Paterno family brought against the NCAA in an attempt to reverse the sanctions.
He wanted those folks to know they are hurting, not helping, Penn State's cause when it comes to getting the sanctions modified. For the football program, the lawsuits are distracting at best, and damaging at worst.
O'Brien, the PSU administration and the majority of the trustees would almost certainly prefer to send a different message -- that Penn State is diligently correcting the mistakes that allowed the Sandusky scandal to happen in the first place.
For instance, as of Thursday, the university said it had implemented 115 of the 119 recommendations in the Freeh Report -- the very instrument that the NCAA used to bludgeon Penn State.
The school also announced last week that it had made settlement offers to some of the men who claimed they were Sandusky's victims.
Those are the kinds of healing actions that O'Brien would like to highlight. They show Penn State's willingness to cooperate, not agitate.
The majority of the trustees must have liked what they heard from O'Brien. They gave him a standing ovation after his presentation, according to Dawson.
The embattled NCAA, and its controversial leader Mark Emmert, also had to like what O'Brien had to say. Emmert has come under considerable fire recently. He doesn't want, or need, a battle with O'Brien and Penn State.
Now O'Brien has to win over the Blue-and-White faithful. Many of those folks are itching for a fight with the NCAA after what they perceive to be unfair and unjust treatment from that organization, particularly when it comes to the legacy of the school's legendary head coach, Joe Paterno.
It's a fight the Paterno family may eventually win, but the ultimate judgment would likely not arrive until after the sanctions have long since expired.
O'Brien clearly believes that Penn State's best chance to modify the sanctions in a timely manner is negotiation, not confrontation.
That message was sent loud and clear on Thursday -- even behind closed doors.
-- Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@york dispatch.com.