With the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky this week, there finally seems to be some closure on the Penn State scandal and college football is returning to normal. Unfortunately, things seem a little too normal in western Pennsylvania.
Six weeks into the regular season, Penn State is 4-2 and tied with Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. They’ve bounced back from an 0-2 start and have done so with a stifling defense that’s ranked 21st in the country. Senior quarterback Matt McGloin has been a steady hand, with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the year. I kind of wish I didn’t know all that. I wish I didn’t know much about Penn State football at all this year. I wish they were just a team on the periphery, no different than North Carolina State, or BYU, or any of the other teams that are 4-2 that I’ll gladly admit I know nothing about this season. That would be ideal, but ESPN and ABC won’t let me.
Six weeks in, Penn State has had six games on national television. Two have been the national noon game on ESPN, one was the noon game on ESPN 2, and three have been, at least regionally, ABC’s game of the week. How exactly does that send a message to every other school in the NCAA that putting athletics above decency or morality will not be tolerated? In a world where television money is at the absolute core of an athletic program’s revenue stream, Penn State is doing just fine thank you very much. In a recruiting culture where perhaps the biggest advantage possible is a national television spotlight, the Nittany Lions should be ready for business when their scholarship levels return to normal.
So how did the NCAA punish Penn State? They took 111 wins away from a dead man, and told the kids who chose to stay with the program through tough times they can’t go to a bowl game.
The problem lies with a number of factors. ESPN/ABC share in the blame by not being able to resist the storylines that come from the ashes of atrocity. For that they should be ashamed. We should be ashamed as viewers, too, for giving them the ratings that prove they are right. And the NCAA should too, for claiming to lay down the thunder while allowing this sideshow to play out week after week.
This week, mercifully, Penn State has a bye and won’t be on national television. Next week they are on the Big Ten Network, which while carried in a large chunk of the country isn’t quite the same reach we’ve seen through the first six weeks. Don’t worry though, Penn State will be back on a tv near you the week after that. It’ll be a big event – an evening game on ESPN. Of course, there won’t be anything on the line. They’re playing Ohio State. It’s two schools who are both being punished – all the way to the bank.
Matt Regashus is the producer of The Bill Michaels Show. Follow him on twitter @BigRaguSports. Questions? Comments? E-mail him at email@example.com