One of Penn State's biggest losses of the offseason was when wide receiver Justin Brown decided to head to Oklahoma for his senior season, a step which will be crucial on his path toward graduating from college...at Penn State.
This isn't a graduate school deal like with Russell Wilson and Danny O'Brien at Wisconsin, either. Brown is transferring to Oklahoma as an undergraduate, and he is still going to graduate from Penn State.
As PennLive.com reports, the key here—and likely the only reason Brown is going to OU—is because of transferable credits:
Receiver Justin Brown still views his time at Penn State in a positive light despite the turmoil that eventually led him to transfer to Oklahoma.
In fact, even while playing for the Sooners, he'll be working his way toward earning a degree from Penn State. Brown says it was important to him that he'll be able to take classes that will transfer credits back to his old school and allow him to graduate from there.
One's left to wonder who (between Oklahoma, Penn State and the NCAA) should like this arrangement the least, based on the NCAA's stated mission of amateurism and academics over athletics. Oklahoma is essentially renting Brown for a year so he can play football on a better team—Brown's academics will still matter, but more to him than the University of Oklahoma.
Penn State fans, meanwhile, are not handling Brown's one-season excursion to Norman very well in the comments of the PennLive.com story. It's hard to blame them, though it's really only a raw deal for PSU for one season of football—from an academic standpoint, Penn State should still get an alumnus out of this.
That the NCAA essentially encouraged and facilitated this deal just goes to show, though, that at the end of the day academic integrity isn't really the NCAA's main focus. It's just a series of hoops it makes athletes go through to legitimize what college football has become: a very low-wage, very high-profit business.
After all, if the end goal was graduating athletes, there'd be no reason to disincentivize transfers with the one-year eligibility penalty. The penalty exists because coaches want to keep players. And that's fine, but let's be honest about why it exists, and let's just openly understand that athletics are trumping academics right here.
As long as we're understanding that, let's also understand that when the athletes are actually allowed to emphasize athletics over academics (like their coaches are), decisions like Brown's are going to be made—and they'll be in the athletes' best interests. It would be wise not to reflexively discourage that.