First the statue, now the harsh reality of the sanctions handed down by the NCAA. To say they have left the Penn State football program reeling would be a huge understatement.
The NCAA has wrapped their head around the unique circumstances surrounding the Penn State football program and fined the university $60 million for their part in the Jerry Sandusky “cover-up.” Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA stated in a news conference on Monday morning,
“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable, No price the NCAA can levy will repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims”
Penn State did not argue the sanctions and accepted them without question. They have been ordered by the NCAA to pay the fine to programs outside of the university that help prevent sexual abuse or assist victims of abuse.
While no child should ever have to endure life altering abuse, will the rest of the NCAA sanctions actually help anyone heal? The Nittany Lions must vacate all wins from 1998 through 2011, a total of 112 wins. Those wins were not a result of any illegal activity of those players on the field, the lower level coaches, and anyone else involved in the football program, especially their new head coach. Will rewriting the sports history books help the abuse victims that the leaders of Penn State allegedly turned their backs on?
The rest of the NCAA sanctions includes reducing the amount of scholarships for four years, a four-year postseason bowl ban, and five years probation. The NCAA did rule that all current players can transfer immediately as an eligible player to other schools without penalty. Thankfully, those young men that had nothing to do with what happened to the victims will not be penalized for the failures of a few, but where does that leave the team and their new head coach, former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Bill O’Brian?
Bill O’Brian has decided to stick with Penn State, and according to his statement this morning, he knew he was facing tough times ahead, but did he really know how tough those times would be? According to Jesse Palmer, ESPN College Football Analyst, the penalties handed down by the NCAA are crippling to the Nittany Lions. A four-year reduction in scholarships and a four-year postseason ban could devastate the football program for the next eight years. Bill O’Brian must immediately speak to his players and resell the Penn State football program. He knows that each player, given the right opportunity, could walk from his locker room and into another without blinking an eye. To know his players had nothing to do with the scandal, yet to be punished in such a fashion will be difficult for O’Brian to overcome.
Not only does O’Brian have to worry about his current players, he has to sell his program to new recruits. Potentially, he has to suggest to new recruits that if they want an opportunity to play in any postseason game, they must “redshirt.” O’Brian knows players want to be recruited by teams that have the ability to play in postseason bowl games and be able to compete for National Championships. He must use his remaining scholarships wisely. He must choose recruits that are without controversy; he does not need to give scholarships to individuals that could be banned for criminal activity or dropped from the program because of academic eligibility.
Once the team gets beyond the four-year scholarship ban and the four-year bowl ban, the potential for postseason play could still be out of the Nittany Lions reach. Can Bill O’Brian successfully coach a team that in six years will consist of mostly walkons? Probably not, but in the meantime, Coach O’Brian must focus on getting his team through the next four years. He is going to have to step carefully through the coming seasons to keep the Nittany Lions competitive and keep the Penn State faithful involved in the program. Penn State alumni must prepare themselves and accept that Joe Paterno’s legacy is no more, and bowl games will be a thing of the past, at least for the next eight years.