Last July, the NCAA handed down severe sanctions to the Penn State Football Program in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Those sanctions included a four-year bowl ban, fines and a reduction in scholarships over the next four seasons. Despite the penalties, the program is still strong and is setting the foundation for a successful future.
In 2012, new head coach Bill O’Brien inherited a team that was placed in a bad situation. Negative publicity, hard feelings and the NCAA penalties seemed destined to derail the program that was once looked at as a model for other schools. On top of everything, current players were also allowed to transfer without sitting out a year, as is the standard in normal situations.
Several key starters did decide to transfer just weeks before the start of the 2012 season, leaving big holes to fill. That, coupled with the scholarship reductions in future years, had many thinking the program would be down for years to come.
However, quite the opposite has happened. The 2012 Nittany Lions found strength in their coach, fans and each other. The team fought through adversity and finished with a respectable record of 8-4, even after losing the first two games of the season.
Now, even with some new players stepping into important roles, expectations are still high and fans in Happy Valley are still excited. Another successful season seems to be in the cards for 2013.
Not only have the Nittany Lions been able to stay successful on the field, but they have also been able to recruit top talent to build around. Although Penn State won’t be eligible for a bowl game for three more years, that hasn’t kept top recruits away.
The 2013 class was highlighted by Christian Hackenberg, who was a 5-star recruit and one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. Tight end Adam Breneman, who was rated as one of the best tight end recruits, also chose Penn State. The Nittany Lions secured a top 30 class for 2013.
O’Brien is already hard at work building a solid 2014 class, as the Nittany Lions are ranked in the top 20 by several recruiting services. Penn State currently has 13 commitments, some of whom are considered among the best at their respective positions.
While the NCAA sanctions have made things more difficult at Penn State, the program has not gone away. In fact, with a solid core and talented players continuing to roll in, the Nittany Lions are on track to compete for major bowls as soon as the sanctions are lifted.