By: David Folz
Much has been talked about with the Penn State situation after NCAA President Mark Emmert and his counsel handed down the list of penalties against the University’s football team on Monday. The penalties included a four-year postseason ban and a reduction of scholarships, with a 60 million dollar fine. The main question for a lot of sports outlets has been: where does Penn State go from here?
The penalties were announced Monday, which gives the Nittany Lions some hope for this year. The main reason for that is because we are about six weeks from the start of the football season. Many schools are already done organizing their roster and Penn State is no different. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult for someone like Matt McGloin to transfer and learn an offense in six weeks to be ready, so many players will no doubt stay for this year.
After this year will be a different story. Recruiting is going to hurt a bunch because most athletes that become students at a university play for the hopes of making a bowl game, if not playing for a national championship. This group has already had two big players de-commit from their program and many more will probably follow suit. The reason this is so big is because four years is an entire collegiate athlete’s career so he has a lot to process when something like this happens. He knows he cannot play a bowl game at Penn State and can’t even go for a national or conference championship so it’s really just 12 games a year for him. In addition to that, the school will have the scholarship reduction so it will be just as hard to go after players, meaning they have to be close to perfect in recruiting for five years, and unless you are playing for something, it’s just not going to happen.
Beyond football, what does this mean for the campus? Well, Penn State has been rich in its academic history so in the whole aspect, there will be students that still enroll there so it will not be a problem. The issue is whether Beaver Stadium will sell out. Since we are close to the year, the thought is the stadium will sell out for this year, even if the Nittany Lions struggle. The campus has a football fan base that is as loyal to its team as Texas, Notre Dame and USC, so there will be no problems getting the students to go. It’s the fan base outside the campus that could be the issue. Fans aren’t going to support a losing club though in this case it could be different because the fans want to oversee the work Bill O’Brien and his cast will work with year after year.
As for the state of Pennsylvania, it can finally take solace in this punishment because it does not mean the end of football at the campus but it means a big rebuilding project. This scandal has torn up the state, which is very loyal to this program and it has led to many things not only in State College but also in the state government with slashing funding. The 60 million dollar fine is not in any aspect large for the third most profitable school in the nation, only behind Texas and Notre Dame. It will not help, however, when the state wants to cut funding to the school due to the scandal that erupted last year. They will be all right, the donors are immense and the funding will still be there. But don’t be surprised if they don’t make a profit off the school and the football this year, or possibly next, with the fines handed out and possible revenue shortcomings if football struggles.
The aftermath of the sanctions also should focus on Coach O’Brien. He knew it was a tough task to start but this makes it much more difficult to sell his vision. In essence, who he keeps this year is already a victory, but there will be the next three years where the struggle continues. He signed a five-year deal to become the head coach, but it would seem fitting to be awarded another five years to oversee that the football program gets back going and performs the best it can under circumstances. The ending of the Paterno era also was heavily scrutinized, so O’Brien will have to make sure he brings in high character individuals who do well in society and in the classroom. Penn State will soon realize that mediocrity will strike and it’s not due to O’Brien; it just comes with the territory of having these penalties hurt that bad on a program. O’Brien should be credited with taking a job that in all reality did not have many suitors, and since he has worked with the New England Patriots he does have the pedigree to be successful. He is cut out for a rebuilding project and Penn State will likely give him one.
Much has been made of this and finally it can be put to bed. Penn State will struggle for a while but they have the standing to be a good collegiate program again, but not to the level that they were in the 70’s and 80’s. The reasons for that are the penalties, but also the competition has improved in their coaching and recruiting that one bad year will not set back a college program. Fans will stay loyal and that is a good thing. If O’Brien can somehow get some good recruits over the next four years, the rebuilding project will not be as steep.