The second act begins for Penn State
After the Sandusky abuse scandal, the college is rebuilding on and off the field
Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien yells to players Jesse James and Christian Hackenberg at Beaver Stadium. (Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/MCT via Getty Images)
“I knew that something horrible had happened here . . . But this is a fantastic place.”
- Coach Bill O’Brien
The crowd of 90,000 people went awfully quiet as the clock ticked down. No Domhnall O’Donovan or Brian Gavin to save the day. On Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, the Penn State Nittany Lions lost 34-31 to the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights.
That result was not in the script but, in typical American fashion, the rewrite was instantly drafted.
“Sets up the revenge match nicely, doesn’t it?” said a straw- clutching Penn State alumni. “See you in Dublin.” His business card is added to the stack.
On to the next chapter they always go. That being the Croke Park Classic on August 30th, 2014 when these giants of college football meet again.
The Next Chapter is also the fly-on-the-wall documentary Penn State commissioned as part of the rehabilitation process of their football programme and the entire community of State College following the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
As F Scott Fitzgerald really meant, there’s always room for a second act in American lives.
Penn State – football giants
Joe Paterno (1926-2012) was head coach of the Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011, leading them to 37 bowl appearances, winning 24, refusing several offers to coach NFL franchises.
Penn State won national championships in 1982 and 1986. There was five undefeated seasons under Paterno’s watch. They won three Big Ten championships, since joining in 1993, but the 2005 and 2008 titles have been erased from the NCAA records. In fact, everything Penn State captured from 1998 to 2011 no longer counts.
Act 2, Scene 1:
Saturday morning, Nittany Lions football HQ
There are 14,000 high schools in America with a football programme. There are 105 Division One schools playing college football. 85 scholarships each. Sanctions, from the Sandusky fallout, have reduced Penn State’s scholarships by 40 over four years but that could change next February.
Senator George Mitchell is the NCAA independent monitor and he recently commended Penn State’s adoption of reforms to protect children from sexual predators. They’ve already paid a €60 million fine, which equates to their previous gross annual income, but playing in Bowls, for titles or silverware, is prohibited until 2016.
Coach O’Brien enters the room. The 43-year-old is in the second season of his first head coaching job. He played linebacker and defensive end for Brown University from 1990-92, becoming an assistant coach under current UCF coach George O’Leary at Georgia Tech then Notre Dame.
The New England Patriots came calling in 2007 and he was Tom Brady’s quarterback coach until 2011. Despite knowing the avalanche of sanctions were imminent, O’Brien took the Penn State job in January 2012 on a four-year deal. Paterno succumbed to lung cancer 15 days later.
“I always say this job at Penn State is one of the top 10 football jobs, regardless of NFL or college, and I am very fortunate to have it right now.”