To Stay or Go? The Question Penn State Players Face Has No Wrong Answer

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To Stay or Go? The Question Penn State Players Face Has No Wrong Answer
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As Mark Emmert’s voice reached the anticipated ears of millions, the ramifications of Penn State’s 14 years of silence became abundantly clear.

$60 million in fines, 111 vacated wins, a four-year postseason ban and a massive loss in scholarships became a reality for the university. Despite expecting a bombshell, the actuality of the damage was still hard to comprehend.

While the case can be made that these penalties rival the often-discussed “Death Penalty,” the argument is meaningless. Penn State will have a chance to play football for the coming years. Fans will still show up to games. They will still be featured on a variety of networks up until postseason play begins.

This much we know. Who will be playing in these games, however, is still very much up in the air.

As part of this process, the NCAA is allowing any current Penn State player a relatively small window to transfer (without punishment) before the season begins. The NCAA released a statement clarifying how this will work and some of the key points are as follows:

Football student-athletes who transfer will not have to sit out a year of competition. Any current football student-athletes who transfer to any NCAA school (all divisions) during the 2012-13 academic year will be immediately eligible, provided they are admitted through the normal process and are otherwise eligible.

Permission-to-contact rules are suspended. Penn State cannot restrict in any way a student-athlete from pursuing a possible transfer. Student-athletes must simply inform Penn State of their interest in discussing transfer options with other schools. Before communicating with student-athletes, interested schools also must inform Penn State of their intention to open discussions with the student-athlete.

If a student-athlete transfers for the fall of 2012 to a school that has reached its scholarship limits, the school may exceed these numbers for the 2012-13 academic year, provided it reduces such limits proportionately in the 2013-14 academic year.  For example, if one student-athlete transfers to a Division I school already at the legislated limits of 25 initial counters and 85 overall counters for 2012-13, the school will be limited to 24 initial counters and 84 overall counters in 2013-14.

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If this were April, this process would be much more deliberate. With camps around the country set to open over the next few weeks, however, the timing of this ruling creates a frenzy for Penn State (who still has to fill a team), the players who may be looking for a fresh start and the head coaches that would welcome them with open arms.

Although a mass exodus was anticipated, thus far it hasn’t been the case. Many players, including starting quarterback Matt McGloin, have already pledged their commitment to the school.

The only player that appears to be headed elsewhere in the early days is offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, who still has four years of eligibility remaining. All signs point to Illinois as his likely landing spot.

He will not be alone, and this decision should be welcomed and respected.

The term “free agency” feels callous given the circumstances, but in many ways this describes what Penn State is up against. Emmert has given those in an unfortunate situation a way out, a rare pass out of their current surrounding. The entire roster is now completely in question.

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The players that choose to stay—and it appears that there will be more than just a few—should be commended for their loyalty. It’s easy to say that we’d have a similar, admirable response, but thankfully we’ll likely never be in that situation. This is the easiest part of this process to accept, the most meaningful reaction in a troubling position.

And then there will be those that have had enough. Likely star players—maybe running back Silas Redd, who has already been linked to USC—or the younger players on the roster with plenty of eligibility remaining. They will turn in their jersey, jet off to another team and likely be in practice in a matter of weeks. Some perhaps even days. They, too, should be commended for their decision.

This isn’t your average transfer. This won’t be your typical farewell. The pressure has been building, and the freedom is suddenly within reach; you can’t fault a young man for wanting the experience he deserves.

They are not jumping ship or leaving a school in shambles. Let us not forget exactly how the walls came crumbling down. If their heart isn't there, then they shouldn't be either. I hope they crawl through the small opening before it closes and not feel the least bit guilty about doing so.

On the other side of this opening is a head coach with a sales pitch and a roster spot. They will be looked at as vultures picking away at the scraps on a still-meaty carcass. Their magnificent smile and fresh playbooks will cater to those in need of something new, and despite the uneasiness of this entire aftermath, they are there to help those in need of a new environment.

Don’t mind their wide eyes and depth chart suddenly crafted in pencil. Regardless of their own intentions, their purpose is necessary to those who need them. And some certainly will.

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