November 13, 2010, the Horseshoe was filled with OSU fans watching an intense match-up between our beloved Buckeyes and Penn State. There were 105,466 people in attendance and millions more watching from home; everyone watched OSU come from behind to win the game 38-14. With sanctions pounding Ohio State and Penn State throughout the last year, it’s as if this game never happened.
After a tattoo scandal rocked the Ohio State football program in 2011, five players were suspended for receiving improper benefits, and worst of all, Coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign from the team for failure to report these NCAA violations. In a pre-emptive move, the Ohio State University self-imposed several sanctions in hopes that the NCAA would see these as sufficient, they didn’t.
The most damaging sanction, second to a one-year post-season ban, is vacating the entire 2010 season in which we went 12-1 and won the Sugar Bowl. By vacating these wins, the teams who effectively couldn’t beat the strong 2010 Buckeye team, got to add one more victory to their lack luster seasons, including Penn State.
Penn State’s legal issues were just starting to surface when Ohio State was taking their punishment. Former Penn State assistant coach/defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was recently found guilty on 45 charges of sexual abuse of young boys during a 15-year period. The problem plaguing Penn State is that not only was this completely disgusting behavior happening in the school’s football locker room, but also that there was a cover-up to keep the reputation of Penn State spot free. The cover up goes so much deeper than just Joe Paterno and the football program; it also includes the University’s President and Athletic Director failing to report child abuse allegations to law enforcement.
After months of investigating, the infamous Freeh Report was released about what really happened at the University during Sandusky’s reign of terror; it echoed statements that the University and athletic department failed to report these heinous acts. Following the release of this super damaging report, the NCAA had to make quick and important decisions regarding the fate of Penn State’s football program.
Rumors throughout the nation included the death penalty, and tried comparing this situation to other sanctions in the past. What made this difficult was that it was unlike anything in college football history; there was no precedent set on the proper way to discipline the university, while trying to be fair to the innocent students.
The NCAA made it clear, that behavior exhibited by Penn State ’royalty’ would not be acceptable on or off the field. Sanctions never before heard of radiated through the sports world; Penn State was hit with a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, reduction in scholarships, and were forced to vacate all wins from 1998 through 2011. This last part means they vacated 112 wins, knocking Paterno out of the number 1 spot as the winningest coach.
Paterno passed away from lung cancer before the Freeh report or NCAA sanctions came to light, but he did resign from Penn State prior to his passing. In the last year, Big Ten football has undoubtedly changed; the environment is different, and 2 of the most adored coaches now have sullied reputations. As we inch toward the 2012 season, OSU has a new coach in Urban Meyer, as does Penn State with Bill O’Brien; both coaches have huge mountains to climb and so much to prove. With both teams ineligible for the post season, the Big Ten is losing some major competitors (we all know the SEC is doing back flips with this realization).
Since the 2010 football season overlapped both Ohio State’s sanctions and Penn State’s; with neither team able to claim the victory from the game played on November 13th, effectively, the record book looks like it never happened. The game that over 100,000 people saw live, and lasted 3 hours and 5 minutes, now has “(VACATED)” in place of the “W” on the OSU Football website.
Adding salt to the wound, this was a hell of a game for the Buckeyes. Penn State was in the lead going into halftime at 14-3. Tressel was able to light a fire under his team, and they were able to score 14 points in the 3rd quarter, and 21 in the 4th. Taking away this win, is like taking away a battle that the guys worked so hard to win. Dane Sanzenbacher caught a 58 yard bomb down field from Terrelle Pryor for a touchdown, and Travis Howard had a 30 yard interception return for a touchdown. These memorable moments and this special game won’t be erased just because the NCAA says so.