The Jerry Sandusky scandal has destroyed much of what Joe Paterno built at Penn State. Should players stick around through the punishment era? (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The most crippling penalties that Penn State received in my opinion were the four year ban on bowl games and the scholarship reductions. Barring a redshirt season, Penn State's incoming freshmen will never get to play in a bowl game...and furthermore, with the scholarship reductions, they probably won't qualify for a bowl game for a few years after that. Penn State can only hand out 15 scholarships a year, and will be limited to 65 scholarship football players.
To put that in perspective, 1-AA teams (aka the "Football Championship Subdivision) can have 63 scholarship players.
So essentially, Penn State is going to become a 1-AA team for the next few years.
How is this attractive to current and future Penn State football players? It's not.
They have two things to play for: being a spoiler and being a Nittany Lion. And unless you grew up idolizing Penn State, there isn't a lot of prestige in being a Nittany Lion anymore. Thanks to Jerry Sandusky, the "P" now stands for "Pervert". Joe Paterno's legacy is forever sullied. So for most players, just being a spoiler to someone else's season is all you are playing for. Heck, even lowly Indiana has more to play for in football.
All recruits and current players are now free to choose another institution to play football for. How many will take advantage of their new "free agent" status? It's not a question of if, but how many. What happened to Penn State is not their fault, but the football players will suffer the consequences of this action. I can't blame any one of them from taking a deep breath, talking to their families, and considering their options.
It's late in the summer to consider this type of action; media days are currently underway,and practices begin in just a couple of weeks or so. So a decision for this fall has to be made quickly. Which also might mean that coaches from other schools may be very direct about contacting players to gauge their interest. I'd consider that playing the role of the vulture, but that's how college recruiting works now. You are praised for being first, praised for out-working the competition. So there's no doubt in my mind that some coaches are recontacting players they pursued in high school, but lost out on to Penn State. Especially if you see a need at a certain position.
Distasteful? Probably. But probably necessary, as long as coaches show sensitivity to these players. They've been through a whirlwind of emotions this weekend, and asking them to break the commitments they've made can be a very difficult decision. Especially if they've already developed an attachment to their new coaches and teammates.
I don't blame players for considering and choosing other options. They had no part in this scandal, but if they stay, they will pay the price for it.