For obvious reasons, there has been an incredible amount of coverage on the penalties levied against the Penn State football program. Loss of scholarships, bowl bans, probation, the immediate transfer of eligible players and a huge, $60M fine, financial impact never before utilized by the NCAA are causing people to compare the Nittany Lion scenario to that faced by SMU in 1987 when the Probation Ponies suffered the Death Penalty.
ESPN and College Football analysts across the board have reached consensus that the penalties were just and that the PSU program could face a decade or more of hard times trying to overcome these sanctions.
Is it possible that things aren't quite as bad as they have been made out to be?
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien:
This may well be the difference between what SMU faced, what people believe Penn State is facing and what will really happen. USC is coming off two years probation, bowl ban, scholarship reductions, many of the same things that PSU is facing, albeit not as severe and not with the same stigma over the program, but two things are the same. The USC program didn't shut down and THEY DIDN'T LOSE TV APPEARANCES! Now just months after coming off probation, the Trojans are the trendy pick to win the national championship.
Back in the day, taking a program off TV was considered one of the staples of probation, now with the huge TV contracts in place, virtually every game televised and therefore the likelihood of impacting more than just Penn State each and every week, a TV ban is something you never see.
Out of sight, out of mind..most definitely, especially for a smaller program like SMU was, without the big alumni base, without the big tradition. Penn State will still be in your living rooms each and every Saturday and although there is sure to be some performance drop off and some player attrition, if O'Brien can keep the core of his current players and recruits (early signs point to success there, but if the program was shut down even for a year, those current players almost assuredly would all leave), the goals that most players are looking for in a program: visibility and the chance to become a pro, are still there. Now I am not saying Penn State will be national championship material during their probation or even immediately after that, because the program hasn't been at that level in recent years. But they may be poised to make a much quicker turnaround than originally thought, due to fielding a team in what will still be a football crazed school and market and continuing to play week after week in a premier conference, in front of what will still be enormous crowds both home and away (please don't be fooled into thinking no one will show up for Penn State home games now) and most importantly, on TV.
I am very curious if a TV ban was ever discussed. My guess, absolutely, but immediately dismissed because of the impact to other Big Ten programs. To me, that's somewhat hypocritical if we are talking about the need to change a football dominated culture and may well be the loop hole Penn State needs to get back toward elite status.