STATE COLLEGE — Penn State is ready to move on without Bill O'Brien and expects to hire a successor within days, not weeks.
O'Brien left the Nittany Lions less than two years after replacing Joe Paterno, returning to the NFL with the Houston Texans to coach the team with the league's worst record this season.
"I believe that Bill O'Brien came here with the intent to be here for a long haul," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said Thursday.
He lasted only two seasons. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban, an overall sense of doom and player defections from the late Paterno's roster, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.
Penn State picked defensive line coach Larry Johnson as interim head coach while the search for a replacement goes on.
A former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, O'Brien took on perhaps college football's toughest job in January 2012, joining a school rattled by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Joyner formed a search committee and said it won't take long to find a new coach.
"I think it's a lot more attractive at this point, although we had tremendous interest even in spite of everything two years ago," Joyner said. "From a scholarship standpoint, we're going to be very competitive right out of the gate. Watching what's happened here the last two years, if I was a head coach candidate, would make me very excited."
While some scholarships have been restored, Penn State lacks the full allotment that other Big Ten schools — including new members Rutgers and Maryland — have at their disposal.
O'Brien will become the third coach in Texans history, following Dom Capers, who led the team from its expansion season in 2002, and Gary Kubiak. Houston made the official announcement Thursday.