Thank God that the NCAA has punished Penn State in a surprisingly judicious manner. There are of course some people who that taking away all wins between 1998 and 2011 from Joe Paterno was harsh, same could be said for the scholarship loss, $60 million dollar fine, and probation. The punishments, as they should, do not really effect the players because they can transfer without the dreaded one year waiting period, that can destroy many promising collegiate careers. The punishments are geared towards a culture change at Penn State, which a suspension of a program could have done, but was not needed in the end. Of all the punishments dished out at Penn State the most important penalty was the redaction of Joe Paterno’s win total.
By taking away all victories between 1998 and 2011, the NCAA in effect made Penn State renounce the “divinity” of Joe Paterno in a fashion similar to when the U.S forced the Japanese Emperor Hirohito renounce his divinity. This is incredibly powerful because of the cult of personality in Happy Valley that surrounded Joe Paterno and the football program. Notice how the NCAA did not force Penn State to renounce their two national championships under tenure of Joe Paterno. Those accomplishments can never be taken away from Coach Paterno and those athletes that played under his tutelage. One reason why those two important accomplishments were not touched was because, at least back then, Joe Paterno was a great coach with high character and moral standard that was severely lacking in the 1980’s.
Things changed between 1998 and 2011, because Joe Paterno was no longer coaching to help young men reach their true potential as both athletes and men, but for that 410 win total. Nothing demonstrated that singular focus than the cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s horrific crimes against those numerous prepubescent boys. For that reason alone, we should look at Joe Paterno as a flawed character reminiscent of those tragic heroes from the works of Shakespeare and ancient Greece.
Penn State must find a way to move forward and how the rest of those penalties will affect them in the near future. The loss of the scholarships, lack of post season play, and probation will most likely be the toughest obstacles for first year coach Bill O’Brien to overcome. This situation is entirely different the situation at USC when Lane Kiffen took over, because the punishments that fell on USC were for crimes committed during the Reggie Bush-era and was not the kind of Earth shattering acts that occurred at Penn State. There was no reputation issue with USC or systemic corruption outside of the typical NCAA infractions.
Bill O’Brien must look for the “diamonds in the rough” because those are the only athletes that would want to come to Penn State. Most of those “diamonds in the rough” will not be receiving scholarships to play big time college football in a conference like the Big 10, more likely those players will be playing in the MAC or C-USA. In essence, Penn State will have to use a recruitment strategy akin to the likes of Boise State. Bill O’Brien will have the added duty to develop his talent extremely well and not strike out on many recruits because of the scarcity of available scholarships. Bill O’Brien has to make the pitch to those recruits that he will develop those players to become NFL ready prospects, because he cannot promise them Big 10 Championships or bowl game appearances. Penn State will be made up of players with either a chip on their shoulder or extremely raw talents that will require lots of development from coach O’Brien.
For Penn State fans, get ready for some extremely mediocre to horrible seasons in the coming years because the effects of the penalties inflicted will be around for years after the conclusion of said penalties. Bill O’Brien must be given lots of patience by the Penn State faithful, because he was the only man in the football world that would have taken the job of head coach at Penn State after the fall out from Joe Paterno’s fall from grace. So not only Penn State will have to be patient, but will most likely have to pay Bill O’Brien a premium for simply sticking around with this zombified and lobotomized program. Especially considering that any player at Penn State can transfer schools without and immediately play.
Bill O’Brien is college football’s answer to Dr. Frankenstein, because much like the famous mad scientist, Bill O’Brien must resurrect a dead program to life. What that life will be, only time can tell.