Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

July 24, 2012

Penn State to be a mystery to Virginia

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When Virginia head football coach Mike London first saw that Penn State was on his team’s schedule for the 2012 season, one can only speculate that he eagerly anticipated legendary coach Joe Paterno, with his 409 wins, bringing a very competitive Nittany Lions team into Scott Stadium.

Instead, with the passing of Paterno in January, just two months after he was fired amid the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, and the resultant sanctions imposed against the university on Monday, those anticipations are no longer valid.

For now, London is not sure what kind of opponent he will see on Sept. 8, nor how he will prepare for them.

“At this point, I don’t know exactly how to prepare for them because I don’t know what players will be leaving or what players will be staying,” said London during an interview session at the 2012 ACC Football Kickoff on Monday. “I do know that it is a tragic situation. I knew that something was going to happen in the way of punishment, but I didn’t know to what extent.

“It’s a tough deal monetarily and perception-wise for Penn State, but it’s a wake-up call for all of college sports, not just football.”  

Although the NCAA did not mete out the so-called “death penalty” or cancellation of a team’s entire schedule (i.e. two seasons for Southern Methodist in 1987, 1988), the sanctions imposed on Penn State are sure to have a long-term effect on one of the most storied programs in college football.

For starters, Penn State cannot go to a bowl game for a period of four years. In addition, its scholarships were capped at 20 below the normal limit during that same time period. Those penalties do not necessarily burden a current or incoming player unless they choose to remain at Penn State. Both have the freedom to immediately transfer to another school, even within the conference, which is usually restricted.

London would not rule out bringing in a quality player from State College, Pa., were one to contact him, but with fall camps looming, he wasn’t certain about the logistics of doing that.

Furthermore, he likes the idea of getting to know a football player before asking him to commit to his program.

“Definitely, like everyone else, when you have the opportunity to look at someone that can play right away and perhaps maybe fill a need or position, you look at that,” London said, who is aware that some of the players on Penn State’s current roster are those he tried to recruit to Virginia. “But at the same time for me, I like to try to get to know players, get to know who’s coming and not take a player just for the sake of taking a player.

“I don’t know what that process will be with training camp weeks away and guys being able to transfer.”

London believes the sanctions imposed on the Nittany Lions are so strong that it will cause all college sports programs to look at the way they report improper conduct to their superiors.

“We’re creating a culture of accountability and responsibility, and if you see something wrong like that, you must stand up for someone who cannot stand up for themselves, particularly young boys and girls,” said London. “You have to continue to educate people and make them aware of what their responsibilities are.

“The communication part of it is important whether it be from player-to-coach, player-to-administration, coach-to-administration, or coach-to-player; all of it needs to be addressed.”

Besides the sanctions previously mentioned, the NCAA took away 14 years of Joe Paterno’s wins for a total of 111. His career win total now stands at 298 leaving former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden as the all-time winningest FBS coach with 377 victories.  They also levied $60 million in fines. In a parallel move, the Big Ten announced that Penn State would not be allowed to share in the conference’s bowl revenue during the NCAA’s post-season ban, estimated to be $13 million.   

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