- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Penn State commit Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson) relaxed on his couch, his eyes fixed to the TV screen during Tuesday's Capital One Bowl, when a few words on ESPN's ticker caught his eye -- something to do with NCAA sanctions and a lawsuit.
The three-star cornerback stopped watching the Georgia-Nebraska game and focused on that scrolling bar at the bottom. His eyes remained on that spot for what felt like 5 or 10 minutes until he spotted the news again and fully grasped what was happening:
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was going to file a lawsuit against the NCAA in an attempt to force the organization to overturn the Nittany Lions' sanctions.
"I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me at first," said Smith, an early enrollee who starts class next week. "It was total shock. And after that, I just started saying to myself that, oh yeah, the sanctions will be lifted.
"I just started saying that over and over again. That's what I believe. That's a bold and great step from the governor's office."
The 43-page lawsuit was filed Wednesday and takes the NCAA to task for, what Corbett believes, is the organization overstepping its boundaries. The lawsuit seeks to repeal the sanctions, which currently include fewer scholarships and a bowl ban for three more seasons.
Two-star commit Tanner Hartman (Lynchburg, Va./Liberty Christian) first heard the news the same way Smith did. He followed the updates but, unlike Smith, he doesn't want to get his hopes up.
"It's kind of neat to see but, bowl games or no bowl games, that's not a factor in the decision I made," he said. "It's interesting to see and if it happens, that's great. But, if not, that's just the way it is."
Eighteen members of the Class of 2013 have committed to Penn State with the understanding they'll miss three bowl games. For those who don't redshirt, that means they'll have only their senior seasons to qualify for the postseason.
Bill O'Brien has tried to counter those sanctions by telling recruits that playing at Penn State, inside one of the country's largest stadiums, is like competing in a bowl game every week. Enough commits have believed in O'Brien and pledged to PSU that the class is currently ranked No. 24 by ESPN.
Most of those commits seem to be playing it safe, tempering their expectations and adopting the mantra of "Expect the worst; hope for the best." But the possibility of reduced or repealed sanctions has definitely grabbed their attention.
"If we can play in a bowl game, oh my gosh, I'd be excited," three-star safety Neiko Robinson (Bratt, Fla./Northview) said. "But I'm excited just to play here."
Added linebacker Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest): "It's somewhat exciting, but you don't want to get your hopes up. I just want to wait to see what happens, actually."
Bell said he didn't pay much attention to the news at first. But when the chatter on Twitter picked up, he couldn't ignore the story any longer and began reading a few linked articles.
"I mean, this was kind of a shock," he said. "I thought everything was done with, that they kind of got what they got. But there's nothing wrong with fighting against it."