I promise this is the last thing I'm going to write about the situation at Penn State, after this post I am moving on -- turning my gaze inward and getting back to what makes this site tolerable to most of you, discussion of all things UMass. However, before I move on I wanted to talk about the punishment handed down by the NCAA yesterday (July 23, 2012), the impact of which will be felt for a number of years in State College, PA. I am contractually obligated to mention that this punishment is "unprecedented" as every talking head in the world has no doubt every time their microphone goes live, but my question is this -- if something is unprecedented does that necessarily mean it's good (or effective)?Fine of $60 million dollarsI've covered this one already
and we'll start here because it's the most meaningless of the group. Essentially the fine is one year of football revenue at Penn State and even that's misleading because the yahoo Penn State alumni put together the 2nd largest fundraising drive of all time after the Sandusky charges were announced, so the school won't feel this fine one iota. But the money will go to a worthy cause (well some of it will, the rest will fund the NCAA Board of Directors Hawaiian Tropic Girl Orgy 2013) that will feel the impact of an influx of $60M far more than Penn State will feel that money leaving it's piggy bank.Vacate All Football Wins from 1998-2011 (111 wins)
This was the NCAA taking direct aim at Joe Paterno for his role in the cover up but if you're anyone other than the family of Eddie Robinson, or Bobby Bowden does the all-time wins record really matter to you? Vacating wins always seems like the dumbest penalty the NCAA can impose because nobody suddenly thinks -- geez remember when Penn State lost to Mercyherst in 2004, because guess what, those games actually happened, there is tape to prove it and Penn State won those game. This punishment is only meant to remove Joe Paterno from the record books as the winningest coach in college football history, but in the hearts and minds of everyone in State College he's still the king, they'll all continue to go on living their lives with Joe Paterno as the winningest coach in college football history and nobody will remember that this conversation even happened ten years from now.4 Year Postseason Ban/No Big Ten Championship/No Bowl Game Revenue for 4 Years
This one shouldn't have surprised anyone, banning teams from the postseason is the NCAA's second favorite punishment (behind vacating wins of course). Lets get honest with ourselves for a minute -- Penn State, as a Big 10 "powerhouse" school only cares about a limited number of postseason issues. They care about the National Championship and the Rose Bowl. Everything else is just white noise. The Big 10 also has automatic bids to the Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Gator Bowl, Insight Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Ticket City Bowl and the Little Ceasar's Bowl -- and if someone ever tells me about how much they love the Insight Bowl they'll be the first one. This punishment really only impacts the school if they miss out on a National Title and/or the Rose Bowl. When you take into account the new BCS Playoff system and the fact that schools like Ohio State and Michigan appear to be contenders for some time to come I'm not entirely sure that even with the ability and a full slate of scholarships that Bill O'Brian and Penn State would have been a legitimate contender for those games anyways. This one will hurt a bit, but it isn't crippling. Admittedly this ban means that top tier athletes won't be coming to Penn State, but honest how many were coming there after the Paterno/Sandusky news broke anyway? If you could go to Ohio State and play for Urban Meyer or Penn State and play for Bill O'Brien following the worst cover up in college athletics history, which are you going to choose? But only a few elite schools are recruiting kids with a chance to win a national championship, the rest are recruiting kids to play in front of good crowds, go to a good university, get an education, and play meaningful football games -- all of those things are still available at Penn State.Reduction of 40 Scholarships over 4 Years
This is the one everyone keeps pointing to as the death sentence for Penn State. By the 2016 season Penn State will have 65 scholarship athletes out of a possible 85 scholarship athletes. Here's the issue -- the last time I checked, they still play football with 11 on 11 sides right? How many scholarship athletes are needed to create a winning team? If I had to guess (and that's all this is) I'd say 40 - 45. I think that a 10 scholarship per season reduction kills Penn State's depth, but it doesn't severely cripple the on the field product like some people seem to suggest. USC has just completed a three year/30 scholarship reduction and they're looking like a legitimate national championship contender this year (their first year post-suspensions). Yes they were fortunate that Matt Barkley stayed, but can't you say that about every school in the country? If you have an NFL caliber quarterback, the rest of this stuff just falls into place -- ask Stanford, hell ask Baylor. Now I don't mean to suggest that recruiting at Penn State will go on uninterrupted, because that'd make me stupid. The guys who could go to Ohio State or Michigan or any number of top tier programs are not going to come to Penn State now, which means the likelihood of getting those top tier recruits is nil. However, from a number of guys on the field scenario this is not a death sentence -- it's an inconvenience that will make it very difficult for Penn State to compete until about 2018, but they can still field a team that will have a chance to win some games and fill Beaver Stadium.The Immediate Transfer Rule
This one will hurt the most -- though under current NCAA rules because the bowl/championship ban will last four years anyone currently on the Penn State roster was eligible to transfer without penalty already (if my understanding of the rule is correct). We're so deep into the pre-season already that anyone who leaves the team right now will undeniably sting Coach O'Brien's plan. I still think that there are enough kids at Penn State who will stay that the team will be able to field a team that will compete in 2012. I also think there are guys who as Juniors/Seniors because they're going to be afraid that they won't be able to catch on in a starting role at a new school at this time -- and they know they're going to start for Penn State. Sometimes getting a ton of playing time on a sinking ship is better than holding a clipboard at Michigan.My Verdict
This is what I think about the sanctions handed down by the NCAA against Penn State -- they will effectively turn Penn State into a middle/lower middle of the pack team until about 2018, but it doesn't kill the program. We already know that the fans will show up, so there will be 100,000 people in Beaver Stadium every Saturday when Penn State is in town.The alumni base is going to feel that the NCAA took some unnecessary shots at them for something that happened outside the purview of the playing field, and they're going to rally around the football team and Bill O'Brien. I think that 2012/13 will be a very difficult year for Penn State because I think a ton of guys are going to transfer in the weeks to come and the team that heads to the field to open the season at the end of August will have a sever lack of talent. That being said, I think Coach O'Brien will put together a team, and then put together a schedule that will allow him to compete with the lower tier of the Big 10 and get 2-4 or even 5 wins per season during the term of the suspension. All Penn State will need to do is stay competitive so that in the fourth year of the suspension they will be able to hit the recruiting road and tell kids that they're very close to the top of the Big 10 without the benefit of scholarships, if they can add a little bit of talent they'll be a contender again. It will be 2020 before the full compliment of scholarships will be handed out but I don't think it'll be that long before Penn State comes back from this NCAA imposed death by paper cuts.