Today, we at The Wise Guise are introducing a new blog contributor. We will allow him to introduce himself…
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Brett Good, and I’m very excited to join The Wise Guise. Joseph brought me on board because I was A) free and B) the best in the business at covering all things college football. One out of two of those is true. I follow University of Texas Football religiously. Am I a little biased? Probably more than Bill Simmons. In my free time, I like arguing with people on the internet.
After the NCAA handed down their sanctions on Monday, November 22, 1997 is now the last time Penn State won a football game. Effectively over by the third quarter, the 35-10 drubbing the Penn State Nittany Lions put on the Wisconsin Badgers hardly seemed memorable at the time. Although the Badgers running game was led by future Heisman Trophy winner (and buffet line champion) Ron Dayne, they were a middle-of-the-road Big 10 team and did not prove to be a match for the high powered Lions. But there is one interesting nugget from that cold November day buried a little deeper in the box score. The starting Quarterback for Penn State that day? One Mike McQueary. That’s right. The graduate assistant who first reported Jerry Sandusky’s disgusting activity to Paterno in 2001 is now the last QB on record to win a game for Penn State. How’s that for irony?
Wiping away wins all the way back to 1997 was not the worst of it for Penn State fans. The school was fined 60 million dollars, banned from bowl games until 2016, and lost 40 scholarships over four years. Perhaps most damaging, current players are allowed to transfer without having to sit a customary year. Reports have already begun to surface of opposing Big 10 coaches waiting outside of apartment complexes to convince Penn State players to transfer to their school. USC coach Lane Kiffin is right in the middle of the Happy Valley episode of Supermarket Sweep, hoping to snag Penn State star tailback Silas Redd. Tallying over 1200 yards as a sophomore, Redd was one of the sole bright spots on an otherwise anemic Penn State offense. He was being counted on to carry the weight yet again for the Lions. Message board scuttlebutt also has All-Big-10 performers Gerald Hodges and Anthony Fera on the way out of Happy Valley. With a veritable “open season” being declared on his players and committed recruits, can first year coach Bill O’Brien possibly keep the team together?
For now, the tentative answer appears to be yes. The tragedy has banded the school together. Alumni giving to Penn State has increased significantly since the Sandusky Trial, and all but three starters for the Nittany Lions have publicity stated they are returning to campus. Although Penn State lost a handful of recruits right after the sanctions were announced, most of the class of 2013 has re-affirmed their commitment to the university. This includes star QB Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman, the top rated tight end in the nation according to Rivals.com. The storm isn’t over, but the Penn State football team appears to be weathering the storm better than they could have hoped.
I want to make one thing clear. Penn State will not go the way of SMU. High school football in Pennsylvania has always produced elite talent. Unlike SMU, who was unable to compete with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Nebraska after the sanctions, Penn State has the great fortune of being the only show in town. Kids like Adam Breneman grew up on Penn State football and the allure of playing in front of 100,000 in their home state isn’t just going to go away. There will be a drop off, but not as significant of one as some might believe. The 60 million dollar fine is steep, but as a large state school with a 2 billion dollar endowment, I don’t see Bill O’Brien selling candy bars in front of Wal-Mart any time soon. It will be very difficult, but Penn State can also survive on 65 scholarship players. Hell, USC has thrived on it. Going into year 3 of their probation, the Trojans should be the preseason favorite to win the National Championship. You won’t have a ton of depth with 65 scholarships, but you can certainly field a competitive 2-deep. I don’t anticipate the Lions enjoying the same type of success, but 8-4 is not out of the question next season, and I think they can be a .500 ballclub until the sanctions are lifted in 2016.
The biggest question that Penn State has to face going forward is not the sanctions, but the legacy of Jerry Sandusky. People want to compare their situation to USC’s sanctions, but I think that an even bigger parallel can be drawn to the University of Mississippi, who has been haunted by the ghost of James Meredith for decades. Fifty years after Meredith became the first African American to enroll at Ole Miss, the school stills fights a racist perception. Opposing coaches have been known to slip graphic articles about Mississippi race crimes into a recruit’s mailbox to deter them from attending Ole Miss, fifty years after the fact. Ole Miss has never regained the prominence they once enjoyed as a result. The legacy of sexual abuse will also be exploited against Penn State, particularly on out of state recruits, for decades to come. “You don’t want your son playing for those child molesters do you?” “Do you really want your son showering in that locker room?” “Why would you send your son to Pedo State? Come play for us instead.” Fair or not, these are questions that the Penn State football program will have to answer years after sanctions have passed.
I’m far from a Penn State football fan, but I think that it is important to remember that the players are not to be blamed for the sins of others. Paterno is in the grave and Sandusky is probably not long for it. The Penn State players, should they remain, face years of taunts on the road, no chance at a bowl game for the rest of their career, tons of media scrutiny, and dim hope for the future. Although their plight pales in comparison to that of the Sandusky victims, I still find it admirable the way the players have banded together behind their school and program. I’ll be watching their upcoming football season with great interest, and all things considered, I hope they succeed.