Penn State decision angers Jay Paterno but may help school keep Bill O’Brien

September 24, 2013

Bill O’Brien has helped restore Penn State’s football reputation. (John Beale / AP)

Penn State will be getting back some of the football scholarships that were taken away because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, the NCAA announced today. It’s a decision that doesn’t sit well with the son of a past coach, but may help keep the present one.

“This action provides an opportunity to recognize Penn State’s significant momentum, while also providing additional opportunities for student-athletes,” Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, chairman of the Division I board of directors, said in making the announcement.

Five scholarships will be restored next year and more will be phased in until the university reaches normal totals in 2016-17. The decision comes on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who is the school’s athletics integrity monitor..

Over a year ago, Penn State and the NCAA agreed to penalties that, among other things, included a $60 million fine, a five-year ban on postseason appearances, and the elimination of 112 victories. In announcing its decision today, the NCAA said it might also reduce the postseason ban. “This was a positive response to positive action, and as to the future, we’ll have to make judgments in the future,” Mitchell said in a conference call.

Jay Paterno, the son of the Nittany Lions’ legendary late coach, was critical of the move, tweeting: “NCAA gives back SOME PSU scholarships? Why not ALL? ANY football sanctions are still an affront to the truth.”

Paterno took issue with the executive committee’s comment that the school has shown “continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity” and tweeted: “NCAA:’Due to Penn State’s continued progress towards ensuring athletics integrity” Progress towards something that already existed?”

Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel points out that the decision may help sway Penn State’s most important recruit: second-year coach Bill O’Brien. He has led Penn State to an 11-5 record in a little over one season and may be tempted to leave while his reputation is on the upswing. Wetzel writes:

Now, perhaps, Penn State can breathe a little by finding some extra bodies. It may even be enough to convince O’Brien he can weather this storm that isn’t going to last as long as once believed.

This is a talented and competitive coach. Expecting a 43-year-old to spend the next half dozen or more years of his coaching prime trying to win with one hand tied behind his back was unlikely.

Why not go elsewhere to win championships? Why not jump back to the NFL before roster-depleted 7-5 and 6-6 seasons cool your reputation?

That’s still a question. There are no guarantees. This isn’t perfect. It’s just now, perhaps, Penn State is close enough to perfect to keep its most important recruit of all.

Sandusky, of course, is serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence after his conviction of sexually abusing 10 boys. He is currently appealing his conviction.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · September 24, 2013