Column: Penn State still faces struggles in new year
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 23:09
When the Jerry Sandusky scandal came out, I thought that if there was one school that could overcome a set back like this one, it would be Penn State. With 100,000 plus in attendance to each of their home games weekly and numerous alumni in the NFL, it looked as if Penn State could pull through this terror. Penn State has made great strides in dealing with the scandal off the field. However, this Saturday’s loss to Ohio could be the nail in the coffin for this once prosperous program on the field.
Before the game, I saw a lot of Penn State students using the phrase, “Penn State vs. The World” to describe their matchup with Ohio University (a terrible slogan that portrays Penn State students as victims of a national media which gave them every opportunity to prove they care about more than football.) In a stunning upset, the Ohio Bobcats pulled off the victory. All of the emotion and grit Penn State had going into the game had been flattened. By the fourth quarter the team and student section had virtually no energy. So what does Penn State do now that “The World” has won? It appears that emotion and desire aren’t going to be enough to get them through the next four years. Instead, they will have to rely on their talent to win games. Unfortunately for Penn State fans, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be enough.
The Nittany Lions’ schedule doesn’t get any easier. Ohio appeared to be one of the only games where they were heavily favored to win. Penn State’s next matchups include Virginia, Navy, and Temple before they enter into the consistently tough Big 10 Conference schedule. They are projected to lose most of these games and finish well below .500. This was supposed to be Penn State’s year to compete before the long term effects of the transfer rules and the scandal took effect.
Before the season, Penn State football players were allowed to transfer to any school of their choosing without penalty, which is normally a one year suspension. Some players took advantage of this offer by the NCAA, such as former Penn State running back Silas Redd who transferred to USC. What most people don’t know is that the NCAA offer to Penn State states that if a player participates in practices or games in the 2012 season they will not be eligible to play for another school until the 2013 season. Thus, Penn State players could finish the season with Penn State, then transfer to another school and play immediately in 2013. I believe you will see many of their players take this route. School pride and spirit can only carry a team so far. Players are going to want to go where they can win and Penn State isn’t going to be offering that opportunity in the near future. I’d look for a mass exodus of players.
Penn State will also have to address the issues of recruiting. Let’s face it, Penn State hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse for recruits in recent history. In fact, the Nittany Lions have only had 1 top 10 recruiting class in the last 10, years according to Rivals.com. Even then, most of their recruits were coming committed based on Penn State’s squeaky clean tradition and exciting fan base. With their programs morals in question and multiple losing seasons in the works, one would assume there to be a massive drop off in recruiting.
So even with all the odds stacked against them, the fans that choose to stick with their team and crowd into Beaver Stadium each week will still chant “We are Penn State.” It is up to the new staff, student body and players to redefine what this means moving forward. With a new culture and a new outlook, it will be interesting to see how the community copes.