Tom O'Brien is Virginia's associate head coach for offense and the tight ends coach after joining Mike London's coaching staff on Jan. 3, 2013. Entering his 39th season of coaching, O'Brien's is enjoying his second stint at UVa after spending 15 seasons on George Welsh's staff from 1982-1996, the final six campaigns as the offensive coordinator.
O'Brien returns to Charlottesville after a 16-year head coaching career that included stops at Boston College and NC State. O'Brien owns a 115-80 career record as a head coach and an 8-2 mark in bowl games.
When O'Brien was named NC State's head coach in December of 2006, he took over a program that had posted three straight losing seasons and was coming off a season where the Wolfpack won only three games. By year two in Raleigh, O'Brien took NC State to the Papajohns.com Bowl and then enjoyed a Champs Bowl victory in 2010 over West Virginia (23-7) behind the effort of game MVP and current Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. O'Brien and NC State followed up in 2011 with a Belk Bowl triumph over Louisville (31-24) behind 264 passings yards and three touchdowns by game MVP Mike Glennon, who enters the 2013 NFL Draft as the top-rated passer on Mel Kiper of ESPN's Big Board.
O'Brien got his first opportunity to lead a major college program in December, 1996, when he took over at Boston College. There, he turned around a program that had been wracked by a gambling scandal and instability. After leading the Eagles to back-to-back 4-7 seasons in 1997 and 1998, O'Brien led BC to an 8-4 record in 1999 and the third-best turnaround in the NCAA FBS ranks. He then guided the Eagles to eight consecutive winning seasons and an NCAA-best eight consecutive bowl appearances. He posted nine-win seasons in four of his final five years at Chestnut Hill, posting a 75-45 record and leaving the school with more wins than any coach in Boston College history. Heading into the Eagles' 2006 bowl game, BC ranked as the 18th winningest program of the 21st century (from 2000-06). O'Brien left for NC State before coaching in BC's bowl game in 2006, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but his success of reaching postseason play continued for Boston College past his tenure as the Eagles reached 12-straight bowl games before missing out in 2011. UVa head coach Mike London served as the defensive line coach on four of O'Brien's Boston College teams (1997-2000).
Just as impressively, O'Brien's teams were successful in the classroom. The American Football Coaches' Association gave him its 2004 Academic Achievement Award for posting a 100 percent graduation rate. He received Honorable Mention status seven additional times during his tenure at Boston College. BC was ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today when that publication re-ordered its 2005 regular-season poll and the final 2005 football Top 25 by APR (Academic Progress Rate) score to measure a combination of athletic and academic success. At the time O'Brien left, BC boasted the highest success rate for football among any ranked team.
O'Brien spent seven years under Welsh at the Naval Academy, coaching the team's tackles and tight ends and serving as recruiting coordinator. He was responsible for recruiting All-America and hall of fame running back Napoleon McCallum to the Naval Academy.
In 1982, O'Brien followed Welsh to Virginia, where they turned the Cavaliers into a nationally prominent and successful football power. In O'Brien's first 15 years in Charlottesville, Virginia had winning seasons 12 times, won four bowl games and was ACC co-champions twice. During his tenure, Virginia consistently ranked among the top offensive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 1996, the Cavaliers scored more than 320 points for an ACC-record eighth consecutive year.
A Cincinnati, Ohio native, O'Brien received a community-minded Jesuit education at St. Xavier High School that helped him earn his appointment to the Naval Academy. At Annapolis, where he was a three-year starter at defensive end for Welsh, he learned to combine his hard work with discipline and leadership skills, traits that prepared him to become a Marine officer when his football career ended.
After his 1971 graduation from the Naval Academy, he served nine years in the Marines, beginning his football coaching career as an assistant for Navy's plebe (freshman) team, then serving at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia and tours of duty in California and Japan. He eventually reached the rank of major in the Marine Corps Reserve.
In 1975, O'Brien returned to Navy as a Marine officer assigned to head coach George Welsh's staff. In 1980, he resigned his commission and was hired by Welsh as a full-time assistant coach. But O'Brien didn't accept before he examined all of his available options. To this day, he credits Welsh with allowing him to interview with several major corporations before accepting the coaching position. After examining all of his options, he chose a profession that wasn't for the faint of heart, deciding he'd "rather coach than work for a living."
O'Brien has spent his career influencing his peers and his players. During his 16 years as a head coach, he has mentored 22 assistant coaches - seven of whom have gone on to be collegiate head coaches.
He has also been recognized for his valuable contributions to the communities where he has served. He is on the board of directors for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots Foundation. He received the John F. Kennedy National Award, given to "an outstanding American of Irish descent for distinguished service to God and country" in 2005.
O'Brien is married to the former Jennifer Byrd of San Diego, who is a member of the board of directors for Rostro de Cristo (Face of Christ), a program whose mission is to provide spiritual and educational opportunities for young people from the United States to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ together with the people of Ecuador. They are the parents of three children: Colleen Frances, a 2002 Boston College graduate who is an associate producer at ESPN; Daniel Patrick, a 2005 BC graduate who is on the Elon football staff; and Bridget Jean, also a 2005 BC graduate who is the Museum Coordinator for the Historic Charleston Foundation.