GREENSBORO, N.C. – Virginia coach Mike London now knows he’ll have an opponent to play in the second week of the season. The Cavaliers will play Penn State Sept. 8 in Charlottesville, but until Monday morning, the possibility of an NCAA death penalty hovered over Penn State for its involvement in the sexual abuse scandal involving former coach Jerry Sandusky.
Prior to the announcement, London said, there were “all kinds of thoughts about what might happen.”
Speaking at ACC Media Days, London and other coaches tried to digest the impending wreckage that will be the Nittany Lions program.
“Now that we know what it is exactly [the punishment] looks like, it may be more devastating what it is right now than receiving the death penalty because of the implications of years from now,” London said.
Among the sanctions: a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and a limit of 65 scholarships starting in 2014 for four years. The limit for the FBS level is 85.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t do what’s right, there’s consequences,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s just a shame because a lot of times when consequences are rendered, a lot of people who have done nothing wrong suffer. That’s kind of the way it is in our society.”
It was a sobering day for coaches and administrators. At a Bulldog Club meeting at the Cobb Galleria, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said he wants to read all available documents to fully digest the scope of the matter. He said that he and his senior staff studied the Freeh report when it was released.
“Like the president of Oregon State said, this is like a gut check for everybody to make sure their house is in order,” McGarity said.
Said London, “It’s a wake-up call for everybody in college athletics and college sports, not just football, of creating a culture of accountability and responsibility.”
Swinney said he hoped that the punishment will give Penn State a chance to start over. He foresaw a process that will last far longer than four years.
“It’s really going to be five or 10 years playing with a lot of walk-ons and so forth,” he said. “It’s just going to be a long process.”
Said Boston College coach Frank Spaziani, “It’s going to take a while before anybody understands what the implications are of what just happened. It’s not going to be good.”
Coaches acknowledged to varying degrees their interest in seeing if Penn State players would be interested in transferring, as the NCAA has granted them immediate eligibility. While acknowledging that he wouldn’t take a player just for the sake of it, O’Brien said “you’d be crazy not to” look into the possibility.
“I think everybody in the country is going to want to know” how the transfer process will work, Miami coach Al Golden said.
Georgia Tech has 81 players on scholarship, four below the limit. Coach Paul Johnson said he didn’t know Penn State’s roster – Tech does little, if any, recruiting in Pennsylvania and has a handful of players from the mid-Atlantic.
However, Johnson said, “if a kid contacts us and has an interest, I’m sure we’ll follow it up.”
At the Bulldog Club meeting, Georgia coach Mark Richt said that while his coaches “don’t have a whole lot of previous relationships with kids on that team,” he said he would at least explore the possibility of luring a transfer to Athens.
Coaches that already have relationships with players from having recruited them in high school stand a far better chance of landing a potential transfer. It stands doubly so in this instance, as teams begin preseason practice in a matter of weeks, which would preclude Penn State players from a prolonged recruitment.
Said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who recruited players who chose Penn State, “I think things are going to happen quick.”
London also recruited players on Penn State’s roster, as did Spaziani, noting he even had a few prospects who had committed to the Eagles before ultimately selecting Penn State.
“It’s a fluid situation that’s happening and we’d be foolish not to be interested,” Spaziani said. “But there are a lot of other factors that have to go into it.”
London finds himself in the rather unusual situation of potentially receiving players that he has spent the offseason preparing for.
Said London, “It makes you wonder what the team will look like when we play them the second week of September.”
He’s not the only one.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog