Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/15/11

As scandal has continued to unfold at Penn State over the last 10 days or so, one of the enduring questions that many have wanted to know is this: Given all the controversy surrounding the Nittany Lions program, should Penn State pass up the opportunity to play in a bowl game?

But as prominent college football columnist Brett McMurphy wrote in on CBS Sports today, the better question might be this: Should bowl games pass up the opportunity to take Penn State?

It’s something that hasn’t been discussed to this point, but needs to be taken into consideration. After all, if the eternal mission statement of bowl games (outside the BCS Championship Game, anyway) is to act as a fun reward teams and fans alike after a hard season, is Penn State- a school mired in a controversy- the type of program that a bowl wants to welcome to its city?

It’s a fair question, and something that Penn State officials may have to handle head-on in the coming weeks.

McMurphy spoke to a handful of unnamed bowl officials for his column, with one of them mentioning the following:

"I can't see someone eager to take them," a bowl official said. "I don't think you want that story on your hands. When you bring a bowl team to your community, you want warm, fuzzy stories about student athletes. You don't want what's going on there."

Because of that, something almost unspeakable may happen during the bowl selection process: Bowl games that are affiliated with the Big Ten may elect to pass on Penn State (a normally huge draw) for a school with less fan support and lesser on-the-field production than the Nittany Lions.  For a place that routinely packs 100,000 people into their stadium every Saturday, and brings tens of thousands of fans to their postseason destination, it seems unspeakable. Then again, everything that has happened at Penn State over the past few weeks has proven to be unspeakable, as former head coach Joe Paterno and high-ranking administrators continue to fight allegations they helped cover up the sexual abuse of minors by Sandusky.

As for the bowl games themselves, with the way the current selection process works, only the Rose Bowl would be contractually obligated to take Penn State, and that would only be if the Nittany Lions went on to win the Big Ten title. That possibility is still feasible at this point, though not necessarily likely. Penn State holds a one-game lead over Wisconsin in the “Leaders Division,” but to win it outright would almost certainly need to beat the Badgers on the road two weeks from now. Even if the Nittany Lions won that game, they’d still have to win the first ever Big Ten title game- likely against Michigan State- to end up in the Rose.

But after the Rose, no bowl is technically obligated to take Penn State; that is assuming there are eight other bowl eligible teams to fill the Big Ten’s contractual bowl spots. In addition to the Rose, the Big Ten annually sends teams Capital One, Outback, Insight, Gator, Meineke Car Care, Ticket City and Little Caesars. As things stand right now, there are exactly eight teams (Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois) that are bowl eligible, and both Purdue and Northwestern would become bowl eligible with one more win. If either were to win, that’d be nine bowl eligible teams from the Big Ten (if not more), and no one would be obligated to take the Nittany Lions. Again, assuming they don’t win the Big Ten title game.

Granted, with all that as a background, it doesn’t mean that Penn State would be home for the holidays. Other conferences (McMurphy references Conference USA) may not be able to fill their requirements, meaning that Penn State might back-door their way into the postseason that way.

Still, it’s hard to believe how fast, and far this program has possibly fallen. The idea that a potential nine or 10-win team known to travel as well as Penn State does might have to hustle for a postseason invite was something unconscionable as recently as a week ago.

Now, it’s just another footnote, in a never-ending nightmare for a football program and school.

For updates on all his articles and columns, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

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