When it was first reported yesterday that the NCAA would hammer the Penn State University football program with “unprecedented sanctions” one of the first reactions was what the future held for the program. It was almost certain that players would be allowed to transfer at their own free will and that the program would get hit so hard that it would be impossible for them to remain competitive in any way, shape or form going forward.
One other question centered on the future of head coach Bill O’Brien.
Obviously O’Brien took the job in January without knowing the full breadth and depth of what was coming at Penn State. Even with the Grand Jury report out at the time, there was no knowledge of whether the NCAA would come down and what sanctions if any the school would get.
Well today we found out those sanctions: A $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a removal of 10 scholarships a year for the next four years, and all wins from 1998 to 2011 vacated. In addition, any incoming or current Penn State player is allowed to transfer immediately.
Again, these are the toughest sanctions ever handed down by the NCAA to a member institution.
But no one has to consider O’Brien’s future at the school.
He released a statement today, which read:
Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as Head Coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.
I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country. I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university.
It’s a strong statement by a man who was dealt the most averse of conditions to work under. But credit O’Brien for not running from a challenge, but instead standing by his new-found home, and his willingness to see them through tough times. At least in a football sense, anyway.
In addition, acting AD David Joyner released a statement as well. His read:
The Freeh Report concluded that individuals at Penn State University entrusted to positions of authority, shunned their basic responsibility to protect children, and innocent children suffered as a result. Our hearts go out to the victims of this abuse and their families.
Today Penn State takes another step forward in changing the culture at the institution as we accept the penalties of the NCAA for the failure of leadership that occurred on our campus. We are deeply disappointed that some of our leaders could have turned a blind eye to such abuse, and agree that the culture at Penn State must change. As we move forward, today's student athletes have a challenging road ahead. But they will do the right thing, as they have always done. I am confident all of our head coaches will come together to make the change necessary to drive our university forward. Penn State will continue to fully support its established athletic programs, which provide opportunities for over 800 student athletes.
Working together, the path ahead will not be easy. But it is necessary, just, and will bring a better future. Our faculty, staff, students, athletes, and parents will work together as Penn State begins this new chapter. Through this cooperation and collaboration, Penn State will become a national model for compliance, ethics, and embodiment of the student athlete credo.
It may be a long time- if ever- before Penn State can compete again with the big boys of college football.
But as a program, they appear to be in good shape in the present with O'Brien and Joyner at the helm.
(Statement courtesy of PSU Athletics)
For all his opinion, analysis and articles on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.