Three Years Out, PSU Is Alive And Kicking

OPINION: The longterm viability of a program many left for dead when it was slammed with NCAA sanctions in 2012 is no longer in question. The same can’t be said for the organization that coerced Penn State into accepting harsh penalties.


Three years ago today, the NCAA coerced Penn State into accepting what were described as “unprecedented” sanctions stemming from the Sandusky scandal. The news would be announced a day later -- on July 23, 2012, to be exact -- and the future of the Nittany Lion program appeared bleak.

Dire predictions surfaced that very day.

“The NCAA crippled Penn State for years to come,” wrote the Huffington Post. ESPN.com scribe Gene Wojcichowski wrote, “There is no way around it: The death penalty would have been a reprieve.”

Well, here we are, three years later.

The primary sanctions have all expired or been erased. The Consent Decree the NCAA used to force Penn State's then-inept leadership to accept the sanctions was invalidated earlier this year under the threat of legal action brought about by Pennsylvania Sen. Jake Corman and others.

Former coach Bill O'Brien did an amazing job of keeping the program together, as did the players who stuck with the Nittany Lions -- and those who came on board AFTER the sanctions hit (we're looking at you Christian Hackenberg and company).

When O'Brien left for the NFL following two seasons, Penn State convinced dynamic Keystone State native James Franklin to replace him. Franklin has killed it on the recruiting trail while implementing a certain corporate structure that had been lacking in the program.

It is stunning to think that after absorbing sanctions some thought were worse than the death penalty, the Nittany Lions have yet to experience a losing season since the penalties hit. And moving forward, it does not appear as if they will.

Don't get me wrong, Penn State is not a national or even Big Ten title contender -- yet. And the effects of the sanctions are still being felt.

Franklin has one of the nation's youngest rosters, with 39 scholarship players entering their first season of eligibility. Fifteen more have one season of college experience.

Meanwhile, there are six scholarship fifth-year seniors, and one of them entered the program as a walk-on.

But in stark contrast to the general consensus three years ago, nearly everyone with a clue now considers Penn State a re-awakening giant. The longterm viability for the program is better than it's been in two decades.

Ironically, the same can't be said for another crew.

Whether or not you believe Penn State deserved to be sanctioned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal -- and that is an argument for another day -- the way Mark Emmert and his NCAA cohorts went about doing it is impossible to justify.

They rushed to judgment, ignoring their own protocol. They relied on a flawed investigation to form their opinions. They used bully tactics and (as it turned out) empty threats once they realized Penn State's post-scandal leadership was in way over its collective head. They operated outside their purview, and knew they were doing so.

And they admitted as much -- albeit tacitly on some fronts -- when they folded and allowed the Consent Decree to go away earlier this year.

The bully has been exposed. From here on out, every school facing serious sanctions is going to want a piece. Same goes for all of those politicians who saw the 50-year-old Corman cement his legacy in Pennsylvania by deftly allowing the bully to drown in its own arrogance.

As it turns out, the NCAA actually crippled itself for years to come.


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