The Penn State Effect

On July 24, 2012 by Grant Edgell


The college football world has once again been thrown into controversy. During this time I’d like to remind you again that…

Penn State is 1 of 2 Division 1 institutions that has never been investigated or sanctioned  for any major NCAA infractions.

Think about this as you make your college decision. Coach Paterno’s saying “Success with Honor” has value here. It is not something we take lightly.  – Mike McQueary

That is the exact content of the letter Penn State, and more specifically assistant coach Mike McQueary, chose to send out to all prospective recruits after controversy struck Ohio State in late 2010. Each one was printed and signed individually by McQueary himself, and references Joe Paterno‘s “Success with Honor” motto as a direct strike aimed at Jim Tressel, The Ohio State University and every other institution of higher learning in the United States whose football program competes at the FBS level, minus of course BYU, who is the second program he refers to in his letter.

When you consider the main players in the Penn State scandal, McQueary and Paterno are obviously right near the top in importance. Yes, Jerry Sandusky is the individual who committed the heinous crimes, but it was McQueary who admittedly caught him in the locker room showers with a young man, and Paterno who was not only the first one notified by McQueary but, according to the Freeh Report, directly responsible for the information being hidden behind the walls of Penn State University.

Obviously this letter is in direct contradiction, as it turns out, to what was actually occurring at the university. Ohio State fans are still disgusted by the circumstances, the letter, the outcome and the actions (or lack there of) of all involved. From an ‘event in history’ standpoint, this story should never be about anything more than the children and families who were effected. But the NCAA, and more specifically its President Mark Emmert, handed down penalties to the university and the football program that created official documentation that now involves sport.

From a football standpoint, as heavy-handed as the list of sanctions is – with no question as to the force of the blow directly to the Nittany Lions – this set of decisions doled out by the sport’s highest power will reverberate through college football far outside of State College, Pennsylvania.

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The effect this has on Ohio State is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: the Buckeyes’ path to future B1G Championship Games just became easier.

There are two camps when it comes to this assumption. One falls on the side of, ‘to be the best, you must beat the best,’ therefor preferring Penn State to be at full strength. The other camp couldn’t care less whether the rest of the division, or conference, is at full strength or not. Either way, the penalties brought down on PSU yesterday absolutely assure that they will fall off the face of the Big Ten conference from a competitive standpoint. Scholarships are lost and, because of the four-year bowl ban, their current roster will very likely be depleted to the point that they better resemble a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly 1-AA) school rather than the powerhouse they’ve been known as for a century.

More importantly, at least from a football standpoint, this can have nothing but a positive effect on recruiting for Urban Meyer and staff. Not only has the NCAA declared all players on the Penn State roster free agents, so to speak, but how many high school kids with visions of college football grandeur are going to choose the Nittany Lions over another opportunity, knowing Penn State University can’t offer them a trip to a bowl game?

Because of basic proximity of location, the Buckeyes compete for talent with their conference neighbors to the east on an annual basis. The 4- and 5-Stars who might normally narrow their decision down to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes and Bill O’Brien and Penn State now have a pretty easy decision to make. Do you want the opportunity to be part of the rebuilding process, or the to represent the school you’ve grown up loving in your home state? Head off to State College. Do you want to compete for conference and national championships within the system of a ready-made contender? Columbus, Ohio is calling your name.

The vast majority of college athletes will choose the latter. Right now it’s nothing more than an educated assumption by many, but within the next two to twelve months we’ll see it realized as fact.

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The upper echelon of the conference, including both divisions, is as level as we’ve seen it in a while after the Buckeyes dominated it for the better part of the last decade. The top Legends representatives each present equal value to the conference, with MSU coming alive in recent years, Brady Hoke bringing the Wolverines back to relevance and the Cornhuskers offering a roster full of talent to the mix. Under normal circumstances the Leaders would offer up Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.

But the Leaders Division is now down to four of its six schools to compete for the 2012 conference championship. With Ohio State’s one-year bowl ban in effect for this season, assuring that the Buckeyes’ last game will be played on November 24th against Michigan, and Penn State being shelved from bowls for the next four seasons, the division is left with Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin as the lone candidates to represent the ‘Leaders’ in the conference championship game. It will most assuredly be the Badgers once again after they earned a spot in, and won, the inaugural B1G Championship Game la season ago.

Meanwhile the Legends Division will be at full strength, with Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska likely battling it out for the top spot. Sure, Ohio State will be back in the mix in 2013, and likely pose the biggest threat to teams of both divisions, but Penn State’s guaranteed departure for four years, and likely inability to bounce back within ten, has certainly shifted the balance of power over to the Legends side of things.

But something tells me Ohio State will consistently represent the Leaders well.

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If the Miami Hurricanes football program wasn’t already nervous, they are today.

Yesterday’s announcement was a CFB ‘shot heard around the world.’ The NCAA, normally a slow-moving burden to most situations when it comes to their investigative process, set a new precedent with their swift action against Penn State. They sent a future-altering message to that university, one that will change their program’s general direction for decades to come. But it was also a warning-shot to all those across the college football landscape who think President Mark Emmert and the NCAA won’t attack problems with any teeth. Never has that been further from the truth.

They forewarned us just 24 hours prior to the announcement of sanctions that those levied against PSU would be “unprecedented,” and they weren’t kidding. When you can come away from a landmark decision saying the so-called ‘Death Penalty’ would have been far better for a program than what they received, you can be sure that the message was sent – and heard.

The investigation into booster Nevin Shapiro and the Hurricanes is now more than a year deep with no answers from the NCAA as of yet. They’re digging, and they’re digging deep. Whatever they find, and all signs point to the fact that there’s plenty to be found, they’ve shown that it will be dealt with appropriately without fear of over-stepping the boundaries of acceptable punishment. If what we hear about ‘Da U’ is true, and it’s pages full of messy events that involved many, many players and direct contact with Mr. Shapiro, the University of Miami in Coral Gables could be facing something unprecedented of their own.

The message sent yesterday was loud., and you can bet it was heard. Will it completely reshape the way schools approach compliance? For many, no. The vast majority have set up compliance departments to the best of their abilities and attempt to monitor, and self-report, as best they can. You can be certain Ohio State is one of them. But for others, the line has been drawn in the sand.

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Editor’s Note: I would normally be the first to choose the human side of a story such as this to present my thoughts on within a post., I personally lean towards that side more often than not. In this morning’s case I’ve chosen to look at the football side of the story. Rest assured, I realize where the true importance of this story lies, and that’s with the children and families who have been negatively impacted by the actions and decisions of those who are at fault. If you wish to read my ‘open letter’ to Jerry Sandusky, published one month and one day ago, you can do so here.



  1. […] won’t play the Cornhuskers again for years due to Big Ten scheduling quirks. Penn State is in shambles. And finally, Michigan is coming to Columbus for the Buckeyes’ bowl game. There’s no damn way […]