Three Years After The NCAA Sanctions, Penn State Football Refused To Die
“For Penn State fans, Saturday might become just another day of the week after today.”
With the power of hindsight, Darren Rovell‘s now-infamous quote looks like an abject failure. Of course, in the moment, it was a popular stance to take.
On July 23, 2012, the NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions on Penn State’s football program following investigations into the Sandusky Scandal. Three years later, Penn State football isn’t just still here — it’s alive and thriving.
A $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, and vacated wins were put in effect to punish a football program more severely than any other had been in the past. The nation hopped on the anti-Penn State bandwagon, including Sports Illustrated‘s “We Were Penn State” cover.
Of course, the rest is history. As more and more information has come to light, the NCAA has been backpedaling on its gung-ho punishments. The four-year postseason ban that began in 2012? Penn State won the Pinstripe Bowl in 2014. Scholarship reductions? Not only have they been lifted, but Penn State overcame them to never have a losing season in the sanctioned era. Bill O’Brien recruited elite prospects Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman for the 2013 season, then he handed the reins of the program over to James Franklin — whose Class of 2016 is the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation.
And those vacated wins? They’re back. Penn State won 112 games between 1998 and 2011 and Joe Paterno is college football’s winningest coach with 409 wins, and the record books rightfully show that.
The NCAA tried its best, but Penn State went 22-15 since the sanctions hit and had an average home attendance of over 98,000. The team is still successful, and the fan base is still one of the most passionate in the world.
So, Mark Emmert, Louis Freeh, and Co., you tried and it didn’t work. The NCAA’s attempt to kill an institution based on the tragic acts of individuals was wrong, and now the NCAA itself is under investigation on how it handled the situation. It backfired, plain and simple.
All that’s been proven is that Penn State football is bigger than individuals and bigger than the sport. It’s been a rallying cry for Penn State fans, students, and alumni, and three years after the sanctions were imposed, Penn State football refuses to go away.