ACC football kickoff: Penn State sanctions elicit reactions from coaches


Coach Mike London and Virginia will host Penn State on Sept. 8 in the second week of the season. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Long before NCAA President Mark Emmert announced unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program, Virginia Coach Mike London had been thinking about what the ramifications would mean for his team.

The Cavaliers face the Nittany Lions in Charlottesville during the second week of the 2012 season, and with many calling for the “death penalty,” London didn’t know whether Penn State would be forced to forfeit the game before it was even played.

In retrospect, after what he called a “shocking” punishment, the consequences make “you wonder what the team will look like whenever we play them,” London said. “It may be even more devastating now than receiving the death penalty.”

Though Monday represented the final day of the ACC’s annual football kickoff, the upcoming season was largely overshadowed by the Penn State situation. Whether coaches wanted to speak about it or not, talk never strayed far from the wide-ranging implications of the NCAA’s actions.

Many wondered whether Penn State’s nationally renowned football program would ever recover. In addition to a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine, Penn State must also deal with annual scholarship reductions.

Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who dealt with scholarship reductions from a previous regime when he first arrived in Blacksburg 26 years ago, called it “the most severe punishment you can dole out,” because of the effect it will have on the program for years to come.

“I think the NCAA made a gigantic statement today,” said Beamer, the winningest active coach in major college football.

Recruiting was also a hot topic. Because current Penn State players are free to transfer without sitting out a season, many coaches began to ponder whether they could buttress their own rosters with reinforcements.

Maryland Coach Randy Edsall said he needed to speak with his compliance staff in College Park because of uncertainty on exactly what rules regarding scholarships limits and contact the NCAA has relaxed to provide Nittany Lions’ players an opportunity to play elsewhere.

Edsall is familiar with Penn State’s roster from his time recruiting the northeast at Connecticut. But he was also cognizant that Maryland would no longer have to regularly compete with Penn State for recruits in the Washington area in the near future.

“When you look at the sanctions, numbers-wise they become an FCS school,” said Edsall, referencing the Football Championship Subdivision that was previously referred to as division I-AA.

For Beamer the scandal has taken on more of a melancholy tone. He won the first — and only — Joe Paterno Award in 2010 and had since displayed the trophy prominently in his campus office.

But after the release of last week’s Freeh report, which detailed the cover-up by Paterno and other top officials in the Penn State administration of allegations of child sexual abuse made against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Beamer put the award in storage.

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

ACC note: For the sixth time in seven years, Virginia Tech was picked as the favorite to win the ACC’s Coastal Division in a preseason poll of assembled reporters. Florida State was tabbed to win the Atlantic Division, and an overwhelming majority picked the Seminoles to beat the Hokies in the ACC championship game.

Coming off its first bowl appearance since 2007, Virginia was was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division. After a 2-10 campaign in Edsall’s first season a year ago, Maryland was tabbed to finish in last place in the Atlantic Division.

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