Happy Valley just got Happier #RESM560V
It seemed not too long ago that Happy Valley was plagued by the scandal that left their program in ruins. The most beloved coach in Penn State history was linked to one of the most heartbreaking scandals in history amongst all collegiate athletics, but some of those scars, seem to be healing.
It’s hard to believe that a scandal such as the one that happened at Penn State could happen, but then again I have learned not to believe that anything is impossible. The Nittany Lions faced probably one of the most severe punishments that the NCAA could dish out, short of giving the program the “Death Penalty.” The original sanctions handed down to the university included a 5 year probationary period, a 4 year bowl ban, a $60 million fine that would go directly towards a foundation that specifically combats the sexual abuse of children, vacating all wins from 1998–2011 (112 wins total), a loss of 40 scholarships between the years of 2011 and 2017, the athletic department must properly adopt all of the recommendations outlined by the Freeh report, and enter an athletics integrity agreement with the NCAA.
The Huffington Post states that as of Monday September 8th, the university’s suspension for post season play has been lifted, and that the Nittany Lions will be able to participate in post season play for the first time since 2011. With the addition of that, the program will be granted all of their scholarships back. It seems like everything is shaping up for a great season in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions were originally going to have a 4 year bowl ban, but the NCAA reached the decision to cut that number in half. However, the university isn’t getting off that easy. The University will still need to pay the $60 million fine, and vacate the 112 wins that came as the result of Joe Paterno, and the school will remain under heavy monitoring.
The Nittany Lions are starting the season off at 2–0, which doesn't seem like much, but after the thrilling finish in Dublin against the University of Central Florida and their 21–3 rout of Akron, Penn State fans have a lot of things to cheer about.
Rightfully so, I believe that the football program itself should not have been given a severe punishment. It only takes the mishappenings of a few people to get the whole program in trouble. I believe that the people who tarnished the reputation of the university were rightfully accused, but when the dust settled, the program was left in a crippled state. I was among the few that said the “Death Penalty” would have been the appropriate sanction for the program, and in a sense, I am glad that I am wrong.
I believed it would take years for the Nittany Lions to get to a position where they could effectively compete throughout the season. I didn't think that they would be able to compete their first year on the sanctions. Their first year under the sanctions the Nittany Lions finished the season 8–4. The following season Penn State finished 7–5. I know the Big Ten conference isn't full of heavyweight contenders, but at the same time, those two records make a big statement. It would have been easy for the Nittany Lions to roll over and finish the season 0–12, but the hiring of Bill O'Brien seemed to represent the attitude among the program, that this team will not sow.
Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell said “In light of Penn State’s responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the postseason should they earn it on the field this year,” and the NCAA agrees with the former senator. The news has taken the country by shock, in both positive and negative ways.
So let’s imagine that something like this happens again, I pray that it doesn't but it’s only a matter of time before the news breaks on a major scandal in collegiate athletics. So does that mean if the university plays nice for a few years, shows progress towards being a strong and stable program, and not have any major infractions, they will get their sanctions lifted? Who knows, that’s not for me to decide, only to react and give my two cents about.
All in all, Happy Valley has a lot to cheer about. With the progress that the program has made these past few years, the program rightfully deserves a chance to contend in post-season play. If the Nittany Lions win the Big 10 east, they will get the opportunity to play for the Big 10 conference championship.