It’s a familiar feeling today for USC fans as the NCAA brings down the swift hands of punishment on the Penn State football program.
While the process for rendering the penalties was unprecedented for the NCAA, the dramatic impact of the penalties was not. Just as USC was faced with bowl bans and scholarship reduction that threatened to stagger the program for many years, the Penn State Nittany Lions are faced with a real challenge to maintain any semblance of the elite program they have known for so many years.
This is not to say that Penn State University didn’t deserve punishment; the facts of this case speak for themselves and everybody has their own feelings on what is appropriate. It’s not even a comment on how the NCAA handled the sanctions. It’s simply a recognition from one school to another, from USC fans to Penn State fans, who understand what it feels like to experience the NCAA hammer.
There isn’t any joy or finger pointing from USC fans today. There are a few comparisons of the penalties themselves but for the most part there is the familiar pain of remembering what it felt like two years ago when the sanctions were first handed down against USC.
The Trojans have done a remarkable job of navigating through the sanctions so far, but there have certainly been obstacles and there are likely more tough times ahead. USC fans on the message boards have broken down class numbers, roster limits and available rides in an attempt to figure out the best way for the Trojans to minimize the impact in the coming years, but for Penn State fans that kind of math is going to be a lot harder.
These penalties for the Nittany Lions were simply brutal; recruiting classes of no more than 15 players from 2013-16, no more than 65 on the roster from 2014-17, a four-year bowl ban and the opportunity for current players to transfer now without penalty of sitting out. Oh, and let’s not forget the forfeiture of 112 victories and a $60 million fine.
That is steep, folks. You feel for the coach like Bill O’Brien, a current player like running back Silas Redd or a recruit like Christian Hackenberg, just as you felt for Lane Kiffin, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. These are people placed in the position of paying for the sins of someone else, and it’s not an easy thing to deal with.
There will also be an impact on the fans. The Trojan Family that once enjoyed a unique connection to the team has seen that access altered due to the sanctions, which has hurt many people. But make no mistake, the Nittany Lions fans will respond in the same way that USC fans responded, by continuing to stand by the team no matter how rough the waters may seem. It won’t be easy and it doesn’t mean those fans don’t have empathy for the real victims in this case, it just means that they will continue to support those who choose to stay and represent their university on the football field through these trying times.