The Bill O'Brien era at Penn State officially kicks off this Saturday, Sept. 1. Sure, fans will travel to Beaver Stadium to witness a football game. However, it's so much more than just a game.
The fact that the Nittany Lions are starting a season without Joe Paterno for the first time in nearly 50 years would be a huge story in itself. Throw in a criminal case and NCAA sanctions, and all eyes will be on Happy Valley on Saturday to see how this team deals with all of the adversity and negativity that has been directed its way this past year.
Given the circumstances currently surrounding the program, Saturday's game is the first step in a recovery process for an entire community.
The Jerry Sandusky scandal rocked Penn State University to its core. The once-prestigious university quickly found itself smack dab in the middle of a media firestorm that led to the dismissal of a legendary coach and several high-ranking administrators.
The bottom line is this: anyone who played any part in covering up crimes against children needs to face severe consequences. Sandusky's victims need to be remembered and helped. Penn State is calling for a "Blue Out" at the Sept. 22 game against Temple. This is to show support and raise awareness for victims of child abuse and to raise money for that cause.
Yes, the fact that Sandusky was a football coach creates a connection to the crimes. Yes, the culture that was in place made the program seem untouchable, but football itself is not to blame.
The reality is that the current players had nothing to do with what went on years ago. They are there to play for and represent the school that they love.
Saturday not only brings the start of a new season. It brings a hope that Penn State can begin to move forward and restore its once-proud tradition.