There’s no question about it. Penn State, as a football program and an institution, will never be the same. Not after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The Mark Emmert-levied sanctions against the program in response to the Freeh report? Those hurt, but eventually the Nittany Lions will recover from the scholarship losses (10 initial, 20 overall for four years) and postseason ban (also four years). Bill O’Brien will have plenty of time to weather that storm, but his immediate focus has been on keeping the team together.
He hasn’t been able to keep some players from leaving. Running back Silas Redd is gone to USC and receiver Justin Brown is expected to transfer to Oklahoma. Quarterback Rob Bolden has been out since being demoted to third-string and ended up transferring to LSU. In all, nine players have taken advantage of the NCAA’s specially amended transfer policies, according to the Associated Press.
But when you consider the potential damage, the numbers aren’t all that bad. Penn State reports Monday morning that 109 football players reported to the first fall practice, just over 92 percent of the roster as of July 23. Of those, only 70 are scholarship players though.
O’Brien said he was “very confident” that the players he does have will stick around. He may not fully believe that, but that’s what he has to say in August to keep this team going. There has to be some sense of confidence.
The sanctions have been handed down, and agree with them or not, all Penn State can do at this point is try to move forward as best it can. Emmert could have denied Penn State a football team this year, but he didn’t, so play on.
The first step in doing so was practicing as a team today.