Penn State Sanctions Will Likely Have Immediate Recruiting Impact
By Brandon Castel
It was a tragic, but necessary, day in college football.
The NCAA ruled with an iron fist Monday, dropping a hammer of sanctions against Penn State University for the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s illegal behavior in State College, Pa.
The Freeh report ruled that officials at the highest level—including the university president and then football coach Joe Paterno—were complicit in shielding knowledge of Sandusky’s heinous crimes in order to protect their own interests.
For that, Penn State was handed ‘unprecedented’ sanctions from the NCAA, including a $60 million fine (average annual revenue of the football program), a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating back to 1998.
“These funds must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university,” the NCAA said in statement.
Penn State must also reduce 10 initial scholarships, then 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.
The impact and weight of the penalties will be as far-reaching as any since the NCAA hit SMU with a death sentence back in 1987. Unlike the Mustangs, the Nittany Lions will continue to play football this season, but the fallout from the latest NCAA sanctions could be devastating.
One of the most immediate side effects could be the chain reaction set off in the recruiting world, as PSU commits begin to rethink the decision about their future and what it might look like in Happy Valley without much happy.
There was a mass exodus from the Penn State recruiting class when Paterno was let go by university officials last November, and Urban Meyer was one of the quickest to cash in on the surplus of talent to hit the open market.
Ohio State’s first-year head coach was able to land signatures from a number of former PSU commits—or at least targets—including defensive end Noah Spence, linebacker Camren Williams, defensive back Armani Reeves and offensive lineman Joey O’Connor.
There may not be as much fallout from this punch to the gut, but Ohio State is one of the schools that could be in position to benefit if a few key players start to question their commitment to Bill O’Brien and his staff at Penn State.
*2013 OL Dorian Johnson (6-6, 280, Belle Vernon, Pa.)
The one player who could truly be in play after the dust settles in State College is offensive tackle Dorian Johnson. The 4-star tackle committed to Penn State after visiting last month, but he was also considering Ohio State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia before making the call.
If Johnson does de-commit, Ohio State would be in the mix for his services, but they would definitely be behind Pitt at the start. Johnson did reportedly visit Columbus in early June and Urban Meyer would likely come hard after the 6-6 tackle if he becomes available.
*2013 TE Adam Breneman (6-5, 228, Camp Hill, Pa.)
The No. 1-rated TE prospect in the country according to Rivals.com (No. 2 by Scout.com) could be on the market once again, but it’s too early to tell. He was “blue and white” all the way before Monday’s sanctions were released.
“If there is football at Penn State, I'm playing at Penn State,” he said recently in an interview.
“The only thing that would keep me from going there is if football was stopped at Penn State, that's basically as simple as it gets.”
There will be football in State College going forward, but will it really include Breneman? He was asked about his status on Monday, but responded with “no comment.”
Having grown up a Nittany Lions fan, he quickly became one of Penn State’s most outspoken leaders in the 2013 class, but the Buckeyes were among his four finalists (along with Notre Dame and Maryland) before he committed to the Nittany Lions in March.
Chances are, Breneman will reopen his recruitment after the magnitude of the sanctions really sets in.
*2013 DE Garrett Sickels (6-4, 245, Little Silver, N.J.)
Sickels is another player in Penn State’s class who had the Buckeyes high on his list before committing to the Nittany Lions back in March. The 4-star prospect from New Jersey was planning to take a visit to Columbus before pulling the trigger, but he wasn’t wavering on his commitment before the sanctions were announced Monday.
“On a scale of one to ten, I'm a ten,” he said of his commitment to PSU.
“I have no reason to go anywhere else and I'm not even going to look anywhere unless I find out that I don't have a scholarship.”
Now, who knows? Sickels should still have a spot if he wants it, but he will have to decide if he wants to stay and play for a team that won’t be bowl eligible for quite some time. Even if he does de-commit, there is no guarantee the Buckeyes would come hard of Sickels at this point, though he is one of the highest-rated ends in the country.
*2014 LB Michael Ferns (6-3, 235, Saint Clairsville, Ohio)
One player who could truly be affected by the outcome of the NCAA’s decision at Penn State is 2014 LB Michael Ferns. Considered to be one of the top players in the state of Ohio for next year’s class, Ferns was looking strongly at the Nittany Lions before Monday.
He is also reportedly very interested in Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame, while Ohio State appears to be on the outside looking in. One of the top junior linebackers in the state, Ferns has said he wants to attend a school with a “college town feel,” but that almost certainly won’t include Happy Valley anymore.
*2013 CB Ross Douglas (5-10, 180, Avon, Ohio)
The lone player from Ohio in Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class has already de-committed following the announcement Monday morning. Douglas is rated as a 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com, but did not hold an offer from Ohio State before committing to PSU in February.
That was a long time ago, and the Buckeyes may have renewed interest in Douglas, who does currently hold offers from Nebraska, Wisconsin, Boston College, Maryland, Syracuse and Tennessee, but their space is limited unless the NCAA is going to allow them to go over their limit.
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