Former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams can relate to what Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien will likely experience in the aftermath of the sanctions on the Nittany Lions announced Monday by NCAA president Mark Emmert.
Williams came to Maryland in 1989 knowing that the program was going to be put on probation by the NCAA for violations committed under his predecessor, Bob Wade. When the penalties were announced toward the end of Williams' first season, the severity caught him by surprise.
"It's easy to feel sorry for yourself," Williams said Monday. "We both kind of did the same thing — we took over a program and boom we got hit. My experience was that I said to myself that I either had to leave or I've got to figure out a way to get it done.
"I didn't know how to get it done other than to work hard. I decided to go that way. It was a tough summer. I wasn't naïve. I wasn't a rookie. I knew in five or six years if we weren't winning games, people have short memories. It wouldn't have been good if we didn't get it turned around."
After being prohibited from post-season tournaments for two years and kept off live television for one, Maryland returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1994, reached the Final Four for the first time in school history in 2001 and won the national championship a year later.
Williams, who met O'Brien when the new Nittany Lions coach was an assistant for one year under Ralph Friedgen at Maryland, said that Penn State's fan base and its comprehensive list of current and former NFL players will enable the football program to become a power again.
"They had their biggest fundraising year in the history of the school this year with all that going on," Williams said. "Don't ever underestimate Penn State and how hard they'll fight and how hard they'll work to bring that program back. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy."
Williams is hesitant to tell O'Brien how to run his program, but the former Terps coach recalled how the probation became a rallying point for those players who stayed in College Park. The most prominent was Walt Williams, whom Gary Williams has often credited with helping keep the program relevant.
"No teams of mine ever played harder — guys like Walt, Vince Broadnax, Cedric Lewis, Matt Roe, Tony Massenburg, " Williams said. "Those were some of my greatest teams at Maryland. They were playing for the love of the game."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun