Penn State football will never be the same.
A simple statement has slowly become a reality for a program that has prided itself on its performance on the gridiron.
Led by a coach that quickly faded from a legend to a name adorned with controversy, Penn State football had its fair share of the media spotlight for its Big Ten performances.
The type of media attention this offseason was nowhere near what the historical program could have expected. Crimes of disgusting proportions had been committed and ignored. Punishment was expected and delivered by the NCAA.
A four-year postseason ban. Drastic reductions in scholarships. A $60 million fine. The vacating of all victories from 1998 to 2011. The reality slowly sunk in. Penn State football will always have this dark mark.
While the college football season slowly approaches, speculation about the type of team the Nittany Lions will be come September has surfaced. Players have transferred to other competitive programs, programs that have a shot at bowl games or even a national championship.
There is a roster of student-athletes at Penn State ready to hit the gridiron in their navy and white uniforms. They are not villains and like the rest of the nation, are disgusted by the crimes of Jerry Sandusky.
But they are still at Penn State for a different reason. They know the sanctions. It hurts them, but it also makes them stronger. They will play with pride this season, desperately putting the media frenzy behind them.
They came to a football program at the top of the field. Now, they feel as if they have plummeted to the bottom and only they can bring a program back up.
So when the Nittany Lions take the field to kick off the season, don’t root against them for the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. Don’t pin the abuses of one man on a dedicated group of student-athletes.
Root for these brave men and their pride because at this point, the future of Penn State football rests on their courageous shoulders.