Monday, November 21, 2011

Penn State – Earned their 2011 bowl game

The Penn State Nittany Lions are 9-2 heading into their regular season finale at Wisconsin this Saturday. If the Nittany Lions win Saturday, they are headed for the Big Ten title game.

The winner of the Big Ten championship is heading to the Rose Bowl, the Granddaddy of them all. Regardless of whether or not Penn State wins any of their remaining 2011 games, the Penn State football has earned the right to play in a bowl game.

Most bowl projections don’t have Penn State going to the Rose Bowl but virtually every 2011 bowl projection has Penn State heading to a bowl game. College football teams need to win at least six games to be bowl eligible and with 9 wins heading into Saturday’s game at Wisconsin – the Lions have earned the right to play in a bowl game.

Sunday, the University of Miami decided to declared themselves ineligible for a 2011 bowl game as a punishment for violating NCAA rules.

“The University of Miami has made the decision to withhold the UM football team from bowl consideration following the 2011 regular season in response to the ongoing NCAA inquiry and has informed both the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference of its decision.

“We understand and share the disappointment that our student-athletes, coaches, staff, supporters and fans are feeling but after lengthy discussions among University leaders, athletic administrators and outside counsel, it is a necessary step for our University. The University of Miami has not self-imposed any other penalties.

“The team was informed of the decision earlier today and is in preparations for their final game of the season.

“As we stated in August, the University of Miami maintains the highest standards in our academic and athletic endeavors and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to building winning programs with the utmost of integrity. We will be more vigilant in our compliance efforts and continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA on the joint inquiry to determine the true facts.

“To continue to protect the integrity of the inquiry, the University will not comment further at this time.”

Yahoo Sports first reported University of Miami booster, Nevin Shapiro, provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010, including current members of the football team.

Even though only a handful of current players broke the rules, Miami made the only decision they could, banning themselves from playing in a bowl game.

The current members of the Penn State football team bear no responsibility for the horrible allegations and scandal that will forever taint college athletics, Penn State football and the University.

Penn State will, one day recover, from the Sandusky Scandal and the massive cover-up, but the current member of the football team have earned the right to play in a bowl game this year.

Will Penn State follow Miami’s lead? Indeed they may.

Penn State president Rod Erickson wasn't definitive, saying, "we’ll wait and see at the appropriate time."

"Yes, I want to make it. The players and the guys on this team didn't have anything to do with this that's surrounding them," said interim Head Coach Tom Bradley.

It is all but certain whoever the next coach of the Nittany Lions is it won’t be Bradley or any member of the current coaching staff. Whatever the current coaching staff knew or didn’t know about the allegations against Jerry Sandusky, Penn State will fire everyone and start over.

Does anyone believe any of the current coaches of the Penn State football program will ever coach again? But Bradley is right, if nothing else, the current football team had nothing to do with the scandal. And if Penn State decides to turn down a bowl game – the message they are sending out to potential recruits about the program’s future is not a good one.

It won’t be easy for the Penn State team to travel to a bowl game.

At the University of Miami a booster corrupted some members of the team, but they did accept gifts and money. Penn State could ask the players to vote on whether or not they want to play in a bowl game.

There will be members of the team who will have had enough of the 2011 season and want it all to end. Bowl teams have to make themselves available at media conferences and various bowl related events.

Most bowl games offer the student athletes gifts. Penn State has to know that when they accept a bowl game bid – the team will be under tremendous scrutiny.

Saturday, the Nittany Lions played at Ohio State before more than 100,000 football fans, winning 20-14. The Nittany Lions were up to the task and proved they had what it takes.

"It's an unprecedented situation for Penn State, the bowls and everyone involved," Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl spokesman Andy Bagnato said in a USA Today report. "We can't speculate on how Penn State will finish the year, and everyone needs to remember and keep in mind that this is a sensitive issue."

Bagnato is right in what he’s saying. Again the current football team has earned the right. What message are bowl game sending to young men who have earned the right to play in a bowl game but have that right taken away from them because of the actions of their coaches?

If Penn State wins the Big Ten the Nittany Lions will be heading to the Rose Bowl. Other bowl games are by invitation. Participating schools have to make a commitment to buying thousands of tickets – bowl games are a big business and bowl game organizers may look at Penn State and try and look the other way.

"We absolutely think about it," said Steve Hogan, Executive Officer of Florida Citrus sports, which is affiliated with the Capital One Bowl. "This transcends the game we're playing because it's so much bigger than that.

"There've been distractions over the years," Hogan said to the USA Today. "Coaches retired, or were fired, left the program, athletes were ineligible or lost in the final game that cost them a chance in the National Championship, a variety of things. But nothing of this level."

"I wouldn't be concerned because I saw the support that the university showed at the rallies and there are a lot of Penn State alums in the Dallas area," TicketCity Bowl President and CEO, Tom Starr said in a USA Today report. "If nothing else, they might be more supportive."

Penn State’s football program needs to be held accountable for their inaction when it comes to the Sandusky scandal, but that needs to be addressed after the season.

The NCAA is in the early stages of an investigation of its own. Whatever the NCAA decides to do it shouldn’t be at the expense of the 2011 football team.

Miami is paying a fair price. Penn State deserves better.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

Labels: , , , , , , ,