Penn State News: Why The Nittany Lions Football Program Can Rise From Near Death (Penalty) Experience

 IBTimes Staff Reporter on July 24 2012 12:36 PM

Jerry Sandudky's crimes left a stain upon the lily-white football program and matching jerseys that Joe Paterno built over the course of 50 years. The NCAA stepped in yesterday with sweeping penalties in hopes of forcing Penn State to clean up it's tarnished program.

Monday morning at 9 am, NCAA President Mark Emmert delivered what appeared to be the eulogy on Penn State's football program by saddling Penn State with a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on bowl games the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and five years' probation. A few hours later, the Big Ten threw dirt on the coffin by imposing sanctions of their own including a loss of bowl revenue over the next four years. 

In 2002, former Florida president John Lombardi opined that SMU's death penalty taught the committee that the death penalty was equivalent to the nuclear bomb dropped on Japan during World War II. The effect was catastrophic on SMU and the community.

The widespread perception is that the punishment levied against Penn State University Monday was a fate worse than the death penalty or the nuclear bomb. However, they'd be wrong. If SMU was Hiroshima, Penn State is not Nagasaki.

If we're using historical comparisons, the NCAA's penalties may have had a more divisive effect on Penn State than the Versace Treaty did on Germany after World War I.

However, while on life support Penn State's football program will simply lie dormant in a vegetative state over the next four years and like Germany, don't be surprised if the Nittany Lions roar again.

The 112 vacated wins will never return but in time, the recruits will.  Pittsburgh, Villanova and Temple won't have the Nittany Lions gravitas in the near future. No matter how much progress they make on the gridiron, Temple and Villanova are basketball schools first and foremost while the Steelers are kings of Pittsburgh.

As of Tuesday, Christian Hackenberg, the nation's No. 1 ranked high school quarterback in the Class of 2013 from Virginia, remained committed to Penn State. Pennsylvania remains a football factory and Linebacker U. retained renowned linebackers coach Larry Johnson.

If Hackenberg decides to re-open his commitment, it will only prove that recruits care more about the bowl bans and TV bans than they do about the stigma attached to Penn State's relationship with Sandusky. However,

Penn State isn't SMU and Happy Valley isn't Dallas. They are an insulated community that allowed Penn State football to become Beaver Stadium to become a cult compound. There is no professional team

Penn State is the football equivalent to Kentucky Wildcat basketball. Paterno was Adolph Rupp, Eddie Sutton Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari rolled into one.

Kentucky basketball was the first program to receive the death penalty.

In 1951, the year before Paterno became an assistant at Penn State, three former Kentucky basketball players were arrested for taking money from gamblers to shave points during the 1948-49 NBA season. In 1952, the NCAA ordered Kentucky to cancel its 1952-53 season.

Almost 40 years later, the program was nearly given a second death penalty after a bevy of academic and monetary benefits were uncovered within the basketball program.

In Kentucky's first season of NCAA Tournament eligibility, it's undermanned, '92 team advanced to the Elite Eight before being eliminated by Duke and they are still celebrated as 'The Unforgettables'.

When asked how close the program had come to getting the needle, then-Kentucky president David Roselle spread his arms apart and said "about four feet".

Penn State officials can only blame their leadership's choice to ignore what was transpiring within Sandusky and his Second Mile charity.

This is the beginning of a new era for Penn State's football program. They haven't hit rock bottom yet but Penn State rebounds will determine how well they bounce back.