Seven games into his head coaching career, Bill O'Brien already has done such a great job and received so much praise that one can't help but wonder how long it will be before other college or NFL teams might try to lure him away from Penn State.
Only O'Brien knows all the personal and family reasons that would determine if he wants to stay at PSU for the long haul, or eventually go elsewhere for more money or the lucrative status of perhaps being an NFL head coach. Having to deal with the NCAA sanctions for many years could play a big role in his decision.
O'Brien's future has come up in the national media the past two weeks as he's received many midseason coach of the year endorsements with the Lions winning five in a row after an 0-2 start.
Contractually, there are serious financial aspects O'Brien must consider if he were to leave Penn State after only one or two years. The money aspect, though, could play a less significant role with each passing year.
O'Brien's agent says no one should be worried about the coach leaving PSU any time soon.
"The questions are irrelevant because he's not going anywhere," agent Joe Linta said by phone over the weekend. "If he were going to leave Penn State, it would have been a while ago [post-NCAA sanction announcement]."
O'Brien's contract is public record and can be viewed at progress.psu.edu. It clearly stipulates that if he leaves before the contract is up, he has to buy out the remaining years on the deal.
The particulars are in the math.
O'Brien signed a five-year contract with a base pay of $950,000 per year, plus additional compensation of $1 million per year for radio/TV and $350,000 per year from Nike. That totals $2.3 million (plus annual raises).
If he resigns early, he would have to buy out the entire $2.3 million per year, not just his base pay.
Things get interesting when you take a look at the number of years he'd have to buy out.
The contract originally was for five years, but O'Brien agreed to an addendum in January that would extend it for the number of years Penn State might receive NCAA sanctions. That turned out to be four, extending his five-year deal to nine years.
However, if he wants to buy out the contract at some point, the Mirror has learned that it would be only for the remainder of the initial five years, not the full nine.
That's a big, big difference financially.
At nine years, it would have been highly unlikely another college or NFL team would buy out his $2.3 million annual salary for a bunch of years.
But, if a major program or rich NFL team wanted him badly enough, it's not implausible to think it might come to him after, say, three years and work out a deal to help pay off the remaining $4.6 million he would owe.
All of this is incredibly premature, of course, and most Nittany Lion fans would hate the thought of O'Brien keeping up his great work for two or three years and then leaving.
Still, the guy who a year ago was known primarily as the coach who yelled at Tom Brady on the sideline keeps becoming more and more of a household name in football with each passing week. If the Lions beat Ohio State this week, his stock will soar even higher.
O'Brien already is a hot commodity, and if he keeps it up, it will be inevitable that other teams will be interested in him.
It's a good problem to have and welcome positive publicity for Penn State, which certainly made the best hire it could have made in O'Brien.