Penn State Football: Penn State Fans Have No Idea How Bad It Will Get

Blake Friis@@BlakeFriisContributor IIISeptember 6, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Penn State Nittany Lions react after losing to the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Bobcats won 24-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It was the rallying cry on the lips, signs, and t-shirts of the Nittany Lions faithful, as they stood together in steadfast support of the program they love.

We are still Penn State.

But they're not. They are Penn State, but not the Penn State they used to be. They will never be that Penn State again.

On the surface it was an inspiring scene at Beaver Stadium for a game many argued should never take place. The game was supposed to mark an important step in a community's healing process. Instead it came off as an aggressive culture of problematic hero-worship back up to its old tricks.

A plane flew over the stadium with a banner that read, "Oust Erickson/Trustees." That alone is not enough to damn an entire fanbase. The problem for PSU fans is that act wasn't alone. Numerous signs and shirts took shots at the NCAA and the media. More common were signs of support and affection for Joe Paterno.

That lack of accountability seemed to overwhelm the aforementioned reflection, which made it increasingly difficult to pity a once-great football program entering a decade or more of misery.

Penn State fans will scoff at the idea the ramifications of the worst scandal in the history of intercollegiate athletics could possibly last beyond the four years of official sanctions. They want to believe they will emerge from the sanctions and go back to normal like USC has, entering the season atop the AP poll.

Penn State will be more like SMU than USC.

Once the reality of the sanctions sets in, specifically the loss of scholarships, Penn State will become increasingly less competitive and their 107,000 seat stadium will become increasingly difficult to fill. There is nothing more crippling to a program than carrying the heavy weight of irrelevance, and Penn State is on the fast track to irrelevance.

We are entering an era of Penn State football in which high school players who grew up dreaming of playing for the Nittany Lions will have the opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately, they will be the players who, just one year ago, would not have made the team.

If the fans and passion remain throughout the next four years while Penn State falls to the bottom of the Big Ten and is routinely embarrassed by the teams they currently consider their peers, it will make them the most impressive fanbase in sports.

But that would mean dedicating themselves to a new Penn State, and they are still not ready to let go of the old Penn State.