For us alumni, head coach James Franklin, current players, and soon-to-be players, the long “sanction road” is slowly coming to a close for the Penn State football program. It was recently reported that Penn State will have its bowl ban lifted immediately and full scholarships back on the table (excuse the pun) for next season. According to the NCAA, the university made “commendable” progress after the scandal. It’s not so much a victory, but rather relief.
The intent of the sanctions implemented by the NCAA after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal was meant to demoralize, diminish and devalue the Penn State football brand. While it can be argued that the sanctions financially squeezed the university and program in a few directions, the restrictions put in place by NCAA President Mark Emmert, overall, didn’t work to accomplish his goals. They failed. And he failed.
Strength and resolve was not only brought to Penn State football fans, but to the players and coaches who followed after the terrible scandal made shockwaves around the world. Feeling down and out and not knowing what the future would hold for the program, former players like Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich fought an uphill battle to keep morale as progressive and constructive as possible amongst their teammates, telling players not to give up. The message was, everyone needed to rally around each other to stay and fight for the good each other – a brotherhood, so to speak.
I doubt that Emmert and his associates in the front office realized the leadership qualities of head coach Bill O’Brien. Just a few days after the sanctions were implemented he invited every member of Penn State’s Letterman’s Club to meet with those current players – all of them, the ones planning to stay, the ones on the fence – to talk about what it meant to play at Penn State. That’s when former players like Franco Harris, Todd Blackledge, Jack Ham, and Matt Millen showed up and instilled a message of faith and hope for every Penn State player.
The NCAA couldn’t have imagined the enhanced loyalty and devotion that stemmed from their hasty decisions. Loyalty amongst the players and coaches. Devotion from the fan base, alumni and students. The NCAA never understood that their impulsive decision-making during that time would generate a flood of warmth and passion onto and into this football program. The lack of foresight was striking. It’s why we really cannot take Emmert and his colleagues seriously from here on out.
The NCAA lifted the bowl ban and remainder of the scholarship sanctions because they weren’t working to accomplish their goal of annihilating Penn State football. Quite the contrary. When you look at today’s team – a team that could potentially be ranked in the top 25 nationwide – it’s obvious that failure by Emmert is crystal clear.
All that’s left for the NCAA to do now is reinstate all of those wins that were needlessly taken away. That was the icing on the cake and meant to poke Joe Paterno while he was down and out and suffering from cancer. How ridiculous.
Do the right thing, NCAA. Reinstate the wins that you baselessly stripped away. The players won those games. Allow them to know they did something good for their university and college athletics. Now, while I’m sure those players realize deep down they did well for Penn State, their teammates and football program, it’s time for you, NCAA, to recognize it. Again, do the right thing. It’s not that hard.