First things first. This is not a post about whether or not Penn State should have been punished as a result of the Jerry Sandusky coverup. Others on this site and elsewhere have come down, rather sensibly, all over the map on that issue. Now that the word is out on Penn State's punishment, the question obviously arises: what does it mean for college football generally and for the University of Georgia specifically?
For one, we now know that the NCAA under Mark "Palpatine" Emmert is willing to seize control of the situation and go outside the normal, deliberative process. That's a cautionary note. While you can never say never, it is hard to imagine another example of a program concealing anything quite like this in the name of football. But nevertheless a precedent has been set. Apparently the NCAA is no longer simply concerned with what protein supplements schools can provide, who sleeps on whose couch during unofficial visits, and what kind of watches the players get from Bowl committees. You know, the really pressing stuff they've been working on while JoePa was ruling his kingdom and Cecil Newton was busy monetizing his parental investment.
Penn State's punishment includes a whopping $60 million fine, an amount the NCAA considers roughly equivalent to a year of gross revenue from the school's football program. Yes, a lot of that money probably actually goes back into the school's general fund to pay the salaries of education professors, student library workers, and others who couldn't pick Sandusky out of a lineup. That, like most everything else about this tragedy, is unfortunate. Unfortunately the university administrators who had a direct hand in the coverup don't make enough in aggregate to make up the shortfall by simply working for free. Lesson #2: the NCAA is willing to go scorched earth with its punishments now.
Bobby Bowden is probably a bit conflicted about being the new king of college football victories now that all of Penn State's wins back to 1998 have been vacated. And the 4 year bowl ban is, while not unprecedented, on the long end of the spectrum. Think about that: an incoming freshman at Penn State who does not redshirt or leaves after a redshirt junior season could play his entire collegiate football career without ever attending a bowl game. That's an unbelievable recruiting disadvantage. Georgia has always recruited well in Pennsylvania, and I imagine Scott Lakatos will be spending a good bit of time there in the next couple of years. Urban Meyer was just handed a huge gift in recruiting western PA, as were West Virginia and Pitt. Make no mistake, this will have a ripple effect of recruiting in a part of the country that produces a lot of good football players.
But the impact for Georgia could be far more immediate. From the NCAA release:
The NCAA recognizes that student-athletes are not responsible for these events and worked to minimize the impact of its sanctions on current and incoming football student-athletes. Any entering or returning student-athlete will be allowed to immediately transfer and compete at another school. Further, any football student-athletes who remain at the university may retain their scholarships, regardless of whether they compete on the team.
Recall that back in March Georgia hired a new senior associate director of strength and conditioning, John Thomas. Thomas had been the longtime architect of the strength program at Penn State under Joe Paterno, but was not retained by new head coach Bill O'Brien. He is now Coach Tereshinski's right hand man, and a guy who has worked with many of the athletes currently on the Penn State football roster, a roster which still contains a substantial amount of talent. The Bulldogs' roster, on the other hand, is in need of depth at a variety of positions after recruiting misses, discipline problems, and academic casualties that have us entering the season well below a full roster.
I think you see where this is going, and there's some precedent for it. Georgia was among the schools which benefited when SMU football players were allowed to transfer and play immediately. And that roster includes some players who strongly considered the University of Georgia before heading to State College, like defensive end Deion Barnes and linebacker Khairi Fortt.
Obviously the timing of the announcement mitigates some of the danger. Nittany Lions looking to transfer have one week to find a place to enroll and get into school before the start of fall camp. That will likely keep most of the upperclassmen in place. And there's a certain degree of pulling together that often occurs in the face of significant sanctions, an 'us against the world" mentality. But harsh sanctions like these might be just enough to get an underclassman who wasn't happy about his playing time or hasn't gelled with Bill O'Brien's staff to decide he needs a change of scenery.
Feel free to react respectfully and constructively to the news in the comments below, and . . .