The Nittany Lion will roar once more in State College, Pennsylvania. The hoards of reporters and the legions of fans battling with the, for lack of a better term, haters will eventually clear the campus and the flames of scandal will subside until the start of the college football season. The charred remains of a once prestigious program will be sifted through to compile the ashes and form some semblance of a team to take the field. The seats will be a little more empty and the sound of the call-and-answer “WE ARE. PENN STATE!” rally cry will be more tamed, but football will be played.
Amid the sanctions handed down by the NCAA, the football program will be hurt, if not crippled, by the fines and subsequent ban of post-season play, a true moneymaker for any team. This means decommits, transfers, and waving goodbye to prospects like a child standing at the summer camp gate trying not to cry as his/her parents drive away in their Buick Century shrinking in the distance and kicking up dirt as the distance between them grows, not that I know from experience.
Many will argue that, although not officially, Penn State was in fact given the “death penalty” and that this program will no longer be able to compete in one of the toughest conferences in CFB, the Big 10. More than likely they will be like an Illinois or North Western, 4-6 wins until they can convince top players to play for them once the fog of punishment has lifted. Now they have to deal with the fallout for the foreseeable future, and that’s a long time, especially with the loss of scholarships. Now is the time to regroup.
Despite the expected exodus of talent from Penn State there may be opportunity that lies in the rubble. On Monday, Ross Douglas, a four star cornerback from Ohio, decommitted from Penn State, a shot to the gut for sure. Winded and disoriented, administrators need to come together to find the correct course of action and it may be in their backyard or, rather, their own bench.
If there was a dictionary of overused terms that people say, the following statement would easily be top 10 if not 5, “all I need is a chance”, and that’s what a lot of 2nd, 3rd, hell even 4th string players are going to get…eventually. This is their time to shine to have their, ahem, Rudy moment, if you will. Players itching for the chance to get in the game, show they are leaders and prove that their hard work during two a days, training camps, special teams coverage assignments, giving water to their “stars” was not just so they can say they were on the team. It’s time for the backups, the guys who are the heart of the team, the guys who are there for football and not the spotlight, to step up and take over.
There is no doubt it will take a very long time for Penn State to become an elite team once again, but if these players can band together and show that the school is more than a fallen idol people may be able to separate the school from the scandal. These kids weren’t the problem and are getting punished for the acts of men who they were lucky to have seen speak during a pep-rally. September 1st, opening day for Penn State, will be a carnival of hatred, hope and anxiousness for the Nittany Lions and it will be on the shoulders of the football team to restore faith in the school that means so much to so many.
Note: Current roster players at Penn State claim to be staying put and not transferring, which is somewhat admirable, even if I disagree. Bowl games are what college athletes go to school to play in, the national stage can project them higher in the following year’s draft and, in turn, mean millions more in the bank, but that’s just my opinion. As decommitments keep rolling, I believe, the roster will continue to shrink as players re-evaluate their future in football. Those that stay deserve a pat on the back as they are true to their school, even if it’s to a fault.