When I heard of the sanctions Penn State was faced with earlier this week, I was stunned.
I had expected the NCAA to impose an unprecedented amount of punishment, but I never believed they would take it this far.
To my understanding, the death penalty was the worst punishment the NCAA could levy on a school.
I was wrong.
By imposing on Penn State the sanctions it did, the NCAA vastly exceeded the one-year ban punishment I had envisioned.
In a way, the NCAA may have handed Penn State a decade-long death penalty instead.
The fact of the matter is recruiting quality football players is hard enough as it is.
With that said, who in their right mind will want to play football for a school whose reputation is completely torn to shreds, whose program can't compete for a bowl game, and whose institution doesn't even have enough scholarships to obtain the talent needed to form even remotely successful seasons in the near future— all of these conditions imposed because of the heinous crimes committed by a man these individuals have never, and will never even meet.
I know I sure as hell wouldn't want to– and I'm fairly sure I'm not alone.
Right now, the program is obviously in awful shape.
However, if there is anybody who can revive a fallen Penn State program, it is their newly hired coach, Bill O'Brien.
In an interview with ESPN's Ivan Maisel on Monday, O'Brien seemed like a man with a plan.
He preached that kids need to examine what they really wanted in a university and a football program and recommended that they take a look at what Penn State offers: "tough, smart football" and "a great education."
I can tell you as an 18-year-old– about the same age as a prospective recruit– that this guy sounds like the type of man who I would both want to play for and be associated with– no matter what sanctions were inflicted.
The former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots related Penn State's current situation to life's journey in a conference call with reporters when he mentioned that "Life is full of adversity. The way you travel through life is how you handle adversity."
In other words, Bill O'Brien doesn't seem like the kind of guy who will back down from a challenge. In fact, he seems like the opposite– the kind of guy who will face the problem head on, fight, and will keep fighting until he is successful in creating a winning program.
O'Brien's former colleague and current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had this to say about O'Brien (ESPN):
"Over the course of his long coaching career, Bill O'Brien has met every personal and professional challenge head on with great passion and competitiveness. I expect Bill to draw on his deep background in college football and the NFL to continue attracting and developing top players."
In Maisel's article, Belichick is quoted as saying, "Billy's the guy to lead us, he has those qualities about him. He's a tremendous leader. He has great rapport with players and a feel for the team."
Now is it just me, or does O'Brien seem like he fits the exact mold of the leader that Penn State needs right now?
The truth is, players who do choose to commit to Penn State to play football via scholarship or by just walking on are actually making a great decision.
They probably won't win a lot of games, and will definitely not participate in a bowl game due to the sanctions.
Instead, they'll be a part of something much greater: the beginning stages of the rebuilding process of not only the once historic football program, but also of the outraged and distraught Penn State community.
While experiencing that, they'll learn about football and life from a man who gets it.
If the goal of attending college is to receive a quality education and achieve personal growth, I see attending Penn State in this given moment as the perfect opportunity to acquire both.
If I didn't think O'Brien would be successful, there would be no reason to attend Penn State.
That's not the reality though; O'Brien won't be denied.
It may take a decade, but Penn State will once again become one of the nation's most elite programs.
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