Penn State Scandal: Why Penn State Remains an Elite College Football Program

Shady BotrosAnalyst INovember 11, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Head coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions look on before facing the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 23, 2004 in State College, Pennsylvania.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 6-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Jerry Sandusky scandal has left an indelible stain on Penn State University, along with the city of State College, Pennsylvania. Over the past week, Joe Paterno’s seemingly flawless legacy was tarnished, “professor of Linebacker U” Jerry Sandusky was exposed, and a program which prided itself on a sort of cleanliness and purity was defamed.

And while the Nittany Lions still have three games left on the schedule (plus a bowl game), the recent firing of Joe Paterno leaves the inevitable question of who will take the reins and coach at Happy Valley for the long-term future.

Immediately after Paterno’s firing, the university named defensive coordinator Tom Bradley as the interim head coach. However, the chances of Bradley and the rest of the current staff retaining their positions is very slim as the university will likely attempt to distance itself from Paterno’s staff.

Speculated to replace Paterno are Urban Meyer, Miami coach Al Golden and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Meyer has gotten the most buzz, and Golden and Schiano hold strong ties to the Penn State program.

Golden played the tight end position at Penn State, and later served as the linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater. Schiano was a graduate assistant and defensive back coach at Penn State, a young coach from the Joe Paterno coaching tree.

Whoever interviews for the job should realize that despite the scandal, Penn State remains an elite football program. At the conclusion of the season, when the university will seek its next head coach, expect top tier candidates to line up for the job.

No NCAA infractions are presumed to come Penn State’s way, but the same cannot be said for the other Big Ten job expected to open up at Ohio State, Al Golden’s University of Miami and the other expected vacancy at the University of North Carolina.

The above-mentioned programs have committed NCAA violations over the past year; whether it was the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami, the Jim Tressel scandal at Ohio State or the numerous violations committed during Butch Davis’ tenure at UNC.

Morally and ethically, the aforementioned scandals pale in comparison to the atrocities committed at Penn State. However, it’s highly unlikely the NCAA will impose infractions on the program. Penn State’s punishment is likely to be in the form of lawsuits rather than NCAA infractions because Penn State did not break any NCAA rules.

As for recruiting, it’s tough to predict how the scandal will impact Penn State. If Penn State were to land an Urban Meyer, recruiting would significantly improve; the scandal’s impact on the recruiting would be minimal. Recruiting is completely contingent on the head coaching situation.

The tradition at Penn State, along with the college atmosphere, is second to none; the pristine view of Mount Nittany, the Saturday white-outs at a packed Beaver Stadium, the plain jerseys, the black Nike cleats and the beautiful fall scenery cannot be matched at any other campus.

The university has already taken the first and most important step in order to overcome the scandal in firing Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier; through time, Penn State can certainly persevere.