COMMENTARY | I have, since the very beginning of this whole ordeal back in November, been very clear about my feelings on former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, the information that's found in the Freeh Report, and the sanctions that were handed down by the NCAA this past Monday. Penn State football absolutely deserved and needed to receive some sort of punishment for all of the heinous acts that occurred at my beloved university over the past decade and a half, and I wouldn't blame any player or coach for leaving PSU for another school. There is a right way and a wrong way to pursue certain players who may, after all that's occurred since the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, be reconsidering their futures.
Wednesday presented examples of the wrong way to do it.
Current Penn State player Adrian Amos made news via Twitter on Wednesday when he posted the following: "We have chosen to stay at Penn State and opposing coaches are outside our apartment, was that the intention of the NCAA? #comeonman." Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, who spent much of the morning on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN Radio, confirmed that coaches from other teams had descended on State College in order to recruit PSU players. "Our players are in (the Lasch Football Building) right now and they don't want to leave the building because there are coaches from other schools in the parking lot waiting to see them," said O'Brien. According to ESPN, O'Brien also encountered "a group of six coaches carrying University of Illinois bags and suitcases" as he prepared to travel to Bristol, Connecticut (home of ESPN).
Under normal circumstances, a player would have to sit out a year before completing a transfer to a different university. That isn't the case with members of the Penn State roster, however, as neither a PSU player nor his new school will be penalized in any way if he makes a move. Running back Silas Redd, thought to be headed to the NFL Draft after the upcoming season, is rumored to be considering transferring to USC.
Other universities must first inform Penn State "of their intention to open discussions with the student-athlete" before actively recruiting any PSU football player. Coach O'Brien stated while appearing on the Mike and Mike ESPN Radio program on Wednesday morning that he and others at Penn State had been contacted by several schools regarding his players. That's fine and within the rules. I also have no problem with certain players receiving phone calls from other college football coaches. It would, after all, be an act of denial to claim that NCAA football isn't big business, and those coaches have to do what they can to protect and build their own programs.
Camping outside the PSU football building and/or outside a player's apartment, however, falls somewhere between "tacky" and "absolutely classless."
Changing the culture at Penn State, a culture that sadly saw the reputation and success of a football program become more important than that safety of young boys, was a significant theme mentioned in both the Freeh Report and by NCAA president Mark Emmert during this past Monday's press conference. The culture that many of us within the Penn State community, myself included, helped build does need to be destroyed. I won't deny that. I don't see how grown men literally chasing after young adults who are being forced to deal with pressure and scrutiny brought on by no actions of their own is, as others have put it, "putting education ahead of college football."
I honestly don't know what I would recommend to my non-existent son if he was a 2012 Penn State football player. I also "get it" enough to realize that, while it's unfair to coaches and players who had nothing to do with the activities that brought all of this upon the university, the Penn State football program deserved every punishment it received; perhaps even worse. I also can't help but ask the following question after reading about the vultures circling around State College: Would Bill O'Brien send assistants to another university to chase after players if that school was in the same position as is Penn State in July 2012?
If the answer is "yes," than we are not remotely close to changing the culture that destroyed far more than a football program and a once iconic coach's legacy.