If you grew up in the state of West Virgnia in the 60′s, you became very familiar with the Penn State football program. Under the direction of, first Rip Engle, and then Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions were a thorn in the side of WVU coaches such as Gene Corum, Jim Carlen, Bobby Bowden, Frank Cignetti and others.
During most of that time, Penn State was an eastern elite, the program that carried the eastern banner to two national titles and to regular New Year’s Day appearances in the major bowls such as the Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiests Bowl.
Now, Penn State will no longer be elite on the field. Wwith Monday’s news and devastating scholarship reductions and bowl ban by the NCAA it is going to be incredibly challenging for Penn State to be competitive in the Big Ten. We have seen programs go through scholarship reductions in the past. With that in mind, here are some things we might see from Penn State football as we peer into the crystal bowl.
1. Football coach Bill O’Brien should ask for an immediate contract extension. The re-building of this program is not a four or five year process. With the loss of 10 scholarship per year, for four years, this now could be an 8-10 year re-building process for O’Brien and his coaching staff.
2. Many of the members of the incoming freshman class will probably look to transfer quickly. The older players have some equity in the Penn State program. The newcomers do not. Look for defensive back Da’Quan Davis from Baltimore to give West Virginia and Maryland a serious look.
3. The Nittany Lions opening game with Ohio U will now generate a great deal of national attention. The Bobcats are a very tough-minded, physical, well coached team under former Nebraska coach Frank Solich. No one knows what to expect from the Nittany Lions in the opener, but it should be an emotional day in Happy Valley.
4. Recruiting will be hard, very hard the next few years. Many of the players that have verbally committed to Penn State in the class of 2013 are expected to change their minds. The four year bowl ban will cause many elite recruits to cross Penn State off of their list. Earlier in the decade, when Alabama had a bowl ban, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU beat the Tide in recruiting in their own home state.
5. Acting A. D. Dave Joyner could offset the bowl ban somewhat by calling Hawaii immediately and scheduling a four year series with the Rainbow Warriors, all on the road. Schools can play an extra game when they play Hawaii. The NIttany Lions can make a game in Hawaii a "mini-bowl trip" in early December for the next four years.
6. New heroes will emerge. There will be some in-state recruits from in the state of Pennsylvania that will still choose to play at Penn State because of their families life long affection for the school. Those players will be viewed as heroes by the Nittany Lion nation and will be embraced forever.
7. With only 15 scholarships, the Penn State coaching staff can not afford to miss on any recruits. That is not easy to do. Also, the role of the invited walk-on that is a FCS caliber player will be a precious commodity in State College.
8. NCAA sanctions are supposed to hurt. That is why they enforce them. They will hurt at Penn State also and there will be some incredibly tough seasons on the field. It is inevitable. If that happens consistently, will attendance be impacted? ESPN analyst Lou Holtz thinks so. Time will tell if he is correct.