Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Penn State Down But Not Out

There are many reactions to the sanctions dealt Penn State's way.  I feel Penn State got what it deserved, yet I still question whether it was the NCAA's role to hand out the sanctions.  It is certainly an unprecedented, extremely unfortunate situation.  I wish Penn State would have talked more with the NCAA and self-imposed their sanctions.  For most programs these sanctions would be the "death" of the program.  Many are declaring the death of Penn State football for at least 10 years, another example of sports hyperbole's going too far.  I mean, has anyone or anything been DEAD for 10 years only to come back to life?  It would be easy to look at the sanctions and immediately laugh at Bill O'Briens belief they can survive the next four years.  Here is why and how I think they can make it through.

1)  Penn State players have the ability to transfer without penalty and play right away.  Complete disadvantage right?  Think Remember the Titans.  Every player that is on the roster going forward wants to be at Penn State and is, in a popular football catch phrase, "All In".  Every player has a free pass to leave.  You want bowl gifts? Leave.  You feel your playing time is unjust?  Leave.  You don't want to be associated with Penn State?  Leave.  However, come that first practice of fall camp every single player will be able to look at their teammates knowing that they are committed to the team and restoring the image of Penn State. 

2)  Bill O'Brien.  To be honest I wasn't sure what to think of the guy when he first got hired.  After listening to him speak I have some respect for him as a coach and leader of young athletes.  He almost has a Rhoads like charisma in which he fumbles over words and doesn't appear to be a used-car salesmen.  He also has the ability to relate to the players.  He took the job when it appeared no one else wanted it.  As a player I can respect that.

3) Non-conference scheduling will be crucial.  No longer will Penn State be playing the Alabama's of the world.  Bring in the no names and get the W's.  When the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule they should still be entering league play at 3-0.

4) No bowl games?  No problem.  This point somewhat contradicts my previous thought, but follow along.  Look at USC.  What do they do when they can't go to a bowl game?  Go to Hawaii and play the Rainbow Warriors.  Is there really a better place to travel for a meaningless bowl game?  Better yet, schedule it at the end of the season!  Treat that game as your bowl game.  A reward to the players who stuck it out.

5) Penn State football is like a cult.  Ultimately, why they got where they did.  However, going forward I think they very well could be their biggest help.  BOB kept saying 108,000 fans during his interview with Rece Davis.  He also pointed out unless you are in the NCG its a hell of a lot more fun to play in front of 108,000 fans screaming for you than some bowl game.  Will the fans continue to show up?  I think they could become even more nuts for Penn State.

6) Penn State is in a division with the likes of Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.  Sure Ohio State, also on sanctions, will be back and they will have to compete with Wisconsin as well.  However, stay better than the bottom three and get your non-conference wins and Penn State my friends is bowl eligible.

7) Project 2016.  Make a bowl game in the first year "back".  Red-shirt the incoming recruiting class. Sell them and the future classes on hard work and proving Penn State will be back on the national scene immediately.  Seems catchy, and for some reason do-able.

 I think we are going to see more players stay than anyone thinks.  I will stress I do not approve of anything Penn State did in the past and I don't like their fan base attitude throughout the whole ordeal yet I find myself pulling for the players and Bill O'Brien.  These 18-23 year olds have a free ticket out of town.  An easy way out so to speak.  Those that stay, and those that come this next year knowing they aren't competing for post-season play I will root for.  Am I rooting for Penn State?  No.  I am rooting for the young players that chose to stick to their commitment through incredible adversity.  If Bill O'Brien sells his message and parlays the "us against the world" mentality into momentum Penn State football will be back, maybe as soon as 2016. 

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