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How NCAA Reducing Penn State Sanctions Impacts Future of Nittany Lions Program

Sep 21, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (7) and cornerback Jordan Smith (12) celebrate after beating the Kent State Golden Flashes 34-0 at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew CoppensContributor ISeptember 24, 2013

On Tuesday morning the NCAA announced some shocking news, Penn State's scholarship reductions were going to be gradually lifted. 

According to the NCAA, Penn State has done enough in terms of showing they'll never let a situation like this happen and that internally they've fixed the issues they agreed to fix in the Athletic Integrity Agreement

“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program. The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”

Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien had this reaction to the news of today, according to StateCollege.com: 

“Today’s announcement by the NCAA is tremendous news. As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient a group of young men. Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world-class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State.”

Was this a ploy by the governing body to get rid of lawsuits, or was this a case of doing the right thing? 

Those are questions for another time and place really. Instead the most important part of all of this is how it will impact the future of the Nittany Lions program. 

One thing it will for sure do, is help the depth of this program overall. Instead of crippling Penn State with just two or maybe three deep of scholarship players at each position, the Nittany Lions have a better chance to be on an even footing with their counterparts. 

Just how quickly will the scholarships come back to Penn State's fold? Well, here is the chart according to the NCAA release linked above: 

YearInitial Scholarships Total Scholarships
2014-152075
2015-162580
2016-172585
2017-182585

Penn State was supposed to have just 15 scholarships to their name for the 2014-15 season and into the 2017-18 season and that means there are changes for the recruiting cycle college football is currently in and certainly for what they've planned on doing for the 2015 recruiting class. 

Every coach has a plan and Bill O'Brien talked about his plan changing for 2015 to PennLive.com, saying: 

“We will evaluate our recruiting process every single year, more than once during the year, too. I’m not going to get into the details of what we have changed but it's evaluating your roster, figuring out what you need, who is out there that's interested in you and, again, I go back, recruiting is about a fit. Does that guy fit with your program?”

Clearly, whatever plan he has had in place likely will change. How much? Well, that may depend on how much he knew about this coming down the pipeline really.

What this does do for Penn State is it makes them an even bigger player in the recruiting world, a place they haven't exactly struggled in despite the sanctions. 

After all, they did land star recruit Christian Hackenberg this past recruiting class and in the face of increasing sanctions the current class was doing just fine. 

In fact, the 2014 class currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 29th nationally according to the 247sports composite rankings, despite being able to recruit smaller numbers than most. 

So, as we move into the future, Penn State won't be on an uneven playing field to it's opponents. They just won't be able to play in the postseason for a few more years. 

Knowing they can recruit a near full class and then full classes in the very near future, Penn State's ability to be a major player in that area is huge. 

It also makes the head coaching job even more attractive to Bill O'Brien or anyone else that may take it should O'Brien move on to the NFL as a lot have speculated

Additionally, the NCAA will stop punishing the future players of Penn State for the sins of former coaches and administrators. That, more than anything, is perhaps the biggest takeaway from all this.

 

*Andy Coppens in the Big Ten Lead Writer. Follow him on Twitter for more coverage of the conference.

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