From worse than the death penalty to the nucleus of the 2013 class all staying – in a week that many declared as the death knell for Penn State football, there were actually a few rays of hope.
It all began Monday morning with the NCAA skirting its normal processes and bylaws and penalizing Penn State and its football program as badly – if not worse – than any school in history. This was done on the heels of the scathing Freeh report – a report that the school itself commissioned and paid for.
The school agreed to the penalties and not to challenge them just so it wasn’t hit with a four-year death penalty. Even though the NCAA bylaws say it can only levy a two-year death penalty, the school was threatened with an unprecedented four-year penalty. As the week went on, however, we saw how many normal rules were tossed out the window in an effort to decimate the Penn State football program and show the public that the NCAA – or at least president Mark Emmert – means business.
By Monday afternoon many national pundits proclaimed the penalties worse than the death penalty. The scholarship losses will all but make Penn State football irrelevant. One analyst said the penalties would probably make Penn State football like the University of Chicago – a school that would have to drop football.
In addition to those scholarship losses, the NCAA was positive that hardly any current Penn State players would want to actually stay at their school so it waived all logical tampering, contact and recruiting rules. This led to mass chaos.
Coaches from many other schools camped out on campus and in front of players’ apartments. Even after many players publicly committed to staying at Penn State, other coaches continue to stalk.
Illinois, in fact, sent eight coaches to State College complete with Illinois garb and gear. Illinois coach Tim Beckman said his coaches weren’t on campus. Penn State players, though, tweeted about having coaches right outside their apartments.
All of this mess was the prelude to coach Bill O’Brien heading to Big 10 Media Days in Chicago. In addition to O’Brien, players Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill and John Urschel were in Chicago for all the media to see and hear.
First, a group of about 30 players stated publicly – and in a group – that they were staying at Penn State.
Then came the media conferences. In fact, Mauti’s passion for the school was evident to all and even begrudgingly started to engender sympathy from some media members. Although, all positive comments about PSU players had to be qualified with the prerequisite nasty comments about the school such as in this column on CBS.
By the last day of the media frenzy in Chicago, fans of opposing teams were coming up to the Penn State players to wish them luck and tell them they’d be rooting for them.
Then came the weekend.
The core group of the 2013 recruiting class came to State College to meet with O’Brien. By Saturday afternoon all-everything quarterback Christian Hackenberg, four-star tight end Adam Breneman, Garrett Sickels, Will Fuller, Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson and Dorian Johnson all reaffirmed their commitments to the school.
A prominent national football writer for Sports Illustrated, Stewart Mandel, even tweeted, “So much for the mass exodus.”
The news didn’t end there. We found out that third-string quarterback Rob Bolden, a junior, is probably transferring to LSU. What wasn’t mentioned is that Bolden was granted his release during the spring. This comes after two frustrating years. He, in fact, wanted to transfer after his freshman season. It just took him this long to find a school that was interested. Given how things were progressing, the transfer is probably a good thing for both Bolden and the staff.
Sure, it would be better to have Bolden for depth at the position. But if ever a change of scenery might be good for someone, it’s Bolden. And that was the case before the Sandusky news and Freeh report ever came to light.
That leaves us with Silas Redd. Obviously, it would be a blow to the team and program if he left for USC. However, as of this writing on Monday morning, he hadn’t bolted. That’s good news for Penn State fans as many assumed the star running back would’ve committed to USC while visiting the campus over the weekend.
So it was quite a week for everyone associated with the Penn State football program. No, things aren’t going to be great for quite a few years. But if you were listening last Monday, one would’ve thought the program would immediately fall into a deep abyss and never come out.
Time will tell and maybe all those national writers will be correct and Penn State football will die a slow, painful death. But for Penn State fans hoping that is not the case, the week also contained a few rays of hope for the future.