Seven hundred and eighty seven days following a ban that was ruled worse than “the death penalty” by some sports analysts and journalists, Penn State football is eligible for a bowl game.
Two head coaches, 11 key transfers and 24 meaningless games later, the Nittany Lions will play a season where every game matters.
For the players, coaches, fans and university in a whole, University Park has to be the happiest college town in America.
In case you live under a rock, the reason behind the ban itself was the case of Jerry Sandusky. A case in which a total of 52 people came out saying they were sexually molested by Jerry Sandusky on June 11, 2012, and a case that took a even wilder turn when Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno knew about it.
A national story that was saddening and twisting, which ended in jail time and Paterno – one of the most famous coaches in collegiate history – losing the job he had for a total of 61 years. “Joe Pa,” as he was called by the Penn State faithful, had a record of 298-136-3 and a bowl record of 18-12-1, had a total of 117 wins vacated because of this case, six of them being bowl wins.
The Sandusky case lasted until Oct. 9, 2012. Meanwhile, Penn state was banned $60 million, faced a reduction in scholarships and was banned from postseason play until 2019.
James Franklin is now the head coach of the Nittany Lions and had a lot to say about the ban being lifted.
When he was asked about how he feels by Mark Wogenrich of “The Morning Call,” he said, “We are very appreciative of the opportunities the NCAA and Big Ten have provided with today’s announcement. This team plays for each other. We play for Penn State, our families, the former players, our students, alumni, fans and the community.”
When players were interviewed about the ban, senior linebacker Mike Hull said, “I just love Penn State, I love the school, love everything about it. I’m just a Penn State guy at heart.”
Hull was one of the 39 players that were on the team when the ban was enforced, and he chose to stay – showing leadership and qualities that coach James Franklin thinks are needed and well-valued for the team and university.
“We are all in debt to [the players that chose to stay],” Franklin said Tuesday. “We’re going to play for them because they were here for this program and this university when we needed them most.”
This year, Penn State has started out 2-0, with an opening exhilarating 26-24, last-second, game-winning field goal by kicker and captain Sam Ficken to beat the University of Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland.
This year, the Nittany Lions have a chance to make a deep run in the conference with quarterback Braxton Miller of The Ohio State University out for season, an early loss from Michigan State University caused by the University of Oregon and Michigan University being weaker than years previous. These factors give the Lions a chance to turn around the football team and university.
A second win came on a dominating 21-3 performance over Mid-American conference team the Akron Zips. With key games ahead against Ohio State and Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road, the Nittany Lions will look to go bowl bound for the first time in three years.