NCAA to reduce scholarship sanctions on Penn State

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Penn State’s — and state lawmakers’ — prolonged fight with the NCAA over historic sanctions levied on the football program is about to bear some fruit.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that, “[d]ue to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity,” its executive committee has agreed to gradually restore scholarships the football program had lost in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The move to restore scholarships, arguably the most crippling of the sanctions, was based on a recommendation by George Mitchell, who had been hired by the NCAA as an independent “integrity monitor.”.

The original sanctions called for a cap of 15 scholarships beginning in 2013 and running through 2016; the NCAA limit at the FBS level is 15.  Additionally, whereas FBS programs are permitted 85 scholarship players, the Nittany Lions would be allowed just 65.

The new directive from the NCAA, however, will allow Penn State to increase by five its scholarships in 2014, increasing to the full allotment of 25 the following year.  The program will be back up to its full allotment of 85 scholarship players beginning in 2016 — at least two full years ahead of what the original sanctions had called for — after moving to 75 in 2014 and 80 in 2015.

“The decision is the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process to ensure we reached the most appropriate outcome,” said Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired the recent Executive Committee meetings regarding Senator Mitchell’s annual report and chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. “During our discussions, we had the benefit of engaging with Senator Mitchell’s expert perspective and the views of our Big Ten colleagues.”

Other sanctions, including a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine, remain in place, although the press release stated that the NCAA “may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress.”

Even if the bowl ban remains in place, the restoring of scholarships is by far the biggest win for the football program in general and head coach Bill O’Brien specifically.  That specific sanction has crippled O’Brien and his coaching staff on the recruiting trail; the additional scholarships will now allow the program to make bigger inroads in the recruiting game, the lifeblood of any program, and begin scaling back its “run-on” program beginning as early as this recruiting cycle.

O’Brien has been a big part of the progress over the past couple of years as Penn State continues to climb out of the hole created by the Sandusky scandal.  That progress was noted by embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert.

“The goal has always been to ensure the university reinforces clear expectations and a daily mindset within athletics that the highest priority must be placed on educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” said Emmert in a statement. “The Executive Committee’s decision to restore the football scholarships provides additional education opportunities and is an important recognition of Penn State’s progress.”

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett was happy with the NCAA’s decision.

“I am pleased that the NCAA is recognizing the important changes and reforms that the university has undertaken and will continue to make moving forward,” he said.

Reports: Josh Jackson’s academic issues resolved, QB remains part of Virginia Tech football team

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Hokie Nation, it appears you can unofficially breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Rumors were swirling earlier this month that Josh Jackson‘s eligibility at Virginia Tech for the 2018 season was up in the air over unspecified academic issues.  While there is nothing yet official from the school, multiple media outlets in the area are now reporting that whatever issues there were have been resolved and the starting quarterback remains a part of the team.

Bitter went on to write in an online story on the situation that “[t]here’s no indication he’ll face any type of suspension, meaning he most likely will be the starter for the Hokies’ opener at Florida State on Labor Day night.”

Suffice to say, this is a sizable development for the Hokies’ football fortunes in 2018.

As a redshirt freshman last season, Jackson started all 13 games for the 9-4 Hokies. He passed for 2,991 yards and ran for another 324 yards while accounting for 26 touchdowns — 20 passing, six rushing.  The yards were the most for an FBS freshman in 2017, while the touchdowns passes were the second-most at this level.

If Jackson had been ruled ineligible for the upcoming season, head coach Justin Fuente would’ve then turned to either redshirt freshman Hendon Hooker or redshirt junior Ryan Willis. The former hasn’t attempted a pass at the collegiate level, although the latter, a transfer from Kansas, passed for 2,530 yards on 432 pass attempts while with the Jayhawks.  Willis sat out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

UCF’s Michael Colubiale granted sixth season of eligibility

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The ever-benevolent NCAA continues to give, with UCF and one of its players the latest beneficiaries of The Association’s “never-ending” graciousness.

On his personal Twitter account late last week, Michael Colubiale announced that he has been informed by the NCAA that he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility. That ruling will allow the tight end to play the 2018 season for the Knights.

This upcoming season will serve as Colubiale’s final year of eligibility.

After missing the entire 2015 season due to injury, Colubiale played in all 25 games the last two years. He caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown in 2017, one season after he totaled two catches for 17 yards.

The ruling is a significant one for the Knights as they lost a combined 42 receptions for 479 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 at the tight end position due to the expired eligibility of Jordan Akins (30-459-4) and Jordan Franks (12-120). In fact, and aside from Colubiale, not a single tight end on UCF’s current roster has caught a pass at the FBS level.

FCS the landing spot for Michigan State transfer Kyonta Stallworth

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The eighth player to transfer from Michigan State this offseason has found himself a new college football home.
A Southern Illinois spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that Kyonta Stallworth has transferred into their football program.  As the Missouri Valley Conference program plays at the FCS level, the offensive lineman-turned-defensive lineman will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 for the Salukis.
Including this coming season, the defensive tackle will have two years of eligibility remaining.
The move to SIU comes nearly four weeks after Stallworth took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from the Spartans. No specific reason for the move away from East Lansing was given at the time.
A four-star member of MSU’s 2015 recruiting class, Stallworth was rated as the No. 8 guard in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Michigan.  Only one player in the Spartans’ class that year was rated higher than Stallworth — running back LJ Scott.
After redshirting as a true freshman, Stallworth played in seven games the past two seasons.  Five of those appearances came in 2017, a season in which he was credited with 11 tackles (seven assisted, four solo) and a pair of quarterback hurries.  All told, he finished the MSU portion of his playing career with 12 tackles.

Texas Tech lands commitment from 6-foot-11 offensive lineman

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It’s been a day full of massive news in college football. After word broke that Alabama has offered a 6-foot-7 offensive lineman entering his freshman year of high school, Texas Tech did the Tide one better.

On Sunday, the Red Raiders landed the commitment of 6-foot-11, 345-pound offensive lineman Trevor Roberson.

A 3-star member of the Class of 2019, Roberson also reported offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and others. He is the sixth member of Kliff Kingsbury‘s 2019 class, and the fourth player to pledge in the past week.

“The crowd was huge, first off. The crowd was amazing,” Roberson told 247Sports of a visit to see the Red Raiders’ loss to Oklahoma State last season. “If there were empty seats, you couldn’t see them. It was tremendous. My favorite part was seeing the players, I love watching those guys play. It’s truly amazing to see how, for me personally, these college athletes started from the same position I did, and you see where they are now. They have a lot of heart. Texas Tech is an amazing school and an amazing program, and I’ve always felt that way about them.”

Roberson hails from Wellington, Texas, a Panhandle town between Amarillo and Norman, Okla. Wellington claims just 2,100 residents, so Roberson may be the biggest thing to come out of his hometown — literally and figuratively.