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Penn State Football: 12 Reasons Bolden Stays – and a Dozen Why Not

by on April 25, 2011 1:00 AM

As Penn State begins its final week of spring semester classes on Monday, the Rob Bolden Watch hits Day No. 113.

It’s been that long since Bolden and his father announced on Jan. 2, 2011, that the freshman quarterback was leaving Penn State.

(Sorry to remind you, but the day before, Matt McGloin threw five interceptions in the Nittany Lions’ 37-24 New Year’s Day loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl. It was a game in which Bolden did not play.)

The Boldens subsequently met with Joe Paterno back in State College, prompting the coach to say, in a very Leecorsican moment, “Not so fast, my friend.”

So, with the threat of a lost year of eligibility looming, Bolden opted to stay at Penn State. But he was lacking a bit of enthusiasm; witness his Tweet when he returned to campus:

“Finally back...the right thing to do??? #wingsover.”


But that was then and this is now, 14 weeks of classes and 15 days of spring practices later. Nothing has quelled nor quieted the questions.

“Will Bolden stay?” has supplanted “How long will Joe coach?”

The answer to the former will almost certainly come before the latter. The final final exam of the spring semester will be given on Friday, May 6. Sometime after that, with the grades recorded for posterity, the plans of Bolden and his father, Rob Sr., will most likely become known -- for posterity as well.

In his most recent public appearance, after the Blue-White Game last Saturday, Bolden the Younger was diplomatic in not committing one way or the other.

Then, a few days ago on Friday afternoon, Bolden unleashed this clue via Twitter:

“cant wait to get a apartment. i'm over theses dorms man”

At least he’s sure about one thing.

I’ve made my own decision:

This will be my last article about Rob Bolden…until he makes his decision. What will be? I don’t know.

It could go either way. To show how close it is, here are 12 key components that may go into Bolden’s decision-making process; let’s see if we can tell which way he’s leaning by tallying them up.


Bolden Will Stay: The guy’s a legend. It is a chance of a lifetime to play for him. And it was Joe, after all, who handed Bolden the keys to the car even though the kid just got his learner’s permit. Maybe Bolden will remember that.

Bolden Will Go: After the Blue-White Game, Bolen basically said everything was cool with everybody at Penn State. But he never mentioned that was the case with Paterno – an obvious and intended slight. Father and son Bolden both believe that from the Michigan game on in 2010, the quarterback didn’t get a fair shake from the head coach.

When it comes to Paterno, it’s personal with the Boldens. How personal? When I asked Bolden if it would make any difference in his decision if he was named the No. 1 quarterback at the end of spring practice, he said absolutely not. Edge.


Stay: Bolden said that everything is “cool” with Jay, and that their relationship is good. No doubt Jay (the team’s quarterback coach and Joe’s son) has been an advocate of Bolden’s from the very start. And the fact that two very successful students of Jay’s -- Big Ten Player of the Year Michael Robinson and two-time Big Ten first-team QB Daryll Clark – are good role models in word and deed, and also have Bolden’s ear, has to help. (MRob and DC are also testament to Jay's coaching acumen.) Edge.

Go: It may be difficult for the Bolden father and son to separate the Paterno father and son.


Stay: Bolden’s mom.

Go: Bolden’s dad. Edge.


Stay: JoePa said either Bolden or McGloin will get the starting job. Bolden has to be thinking he’s the better quarterback – why else would he be so upset about the last third of the 2010 season (in addition to his relationship with JoePa)? Bolden has the potential to be the (much) better quarterback -– maybe he already is. Besides, if someone said in the offseason that I’d be “a good backup,” that would piss me off and be a great motivator to make that guy my backup. Edge.

Go: McGloin, like a hot No. 2 goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs, rode the wave last season – and up until the Outback Bowl, did well enough to keep the starting job. So he has some decent skills that could (could, not would) keep Bolden on the bench. Bolden no doubt thinks McG is the teacher’s pet.


Stay: Every single player I talked with in the spring did not say a single bad word about Bolden. They indicated they were in support of whatever he decides to do. Of course, they weren’t going to tell me what they really thought. But he does seem to be fairly popular with his teammates. They want to win and it may be they think their best shot is with Bolden. Edge.

Go: After the 2010 regular season was over, I asked six players who the team MVP was (remember, this was before Jan. 1) and five-and-half votes were for McGloin. The players believe(d) in him, and even though he has the reputation of an exceedingly cocky kid, he does have his supporters. (Take into account, too, that Bolden said last week he has some great friends on the team and they’ll remain that way even if he left.)


Stay: Whiteouts, adulation, 4,996 fans on Facebook (out of a max of 5,000). Bolden’s appearance at THON in a rockin’ BJC, where he was front and center with the football team, brought down the house. Off the field, it just can’t get better than that. Edge.

Go: If the message boards and increasingly louder grumblings by undergrads criss-crossing the campus and in the classroom are any indication, Bolden has used up a fair amount of goodwill among his fellow students. The kids I talk to just want the whole thing over with.


Stay: Pass.

Go: Dads Newton and Devlin orchestrated moves that paid off for both of their sons. Edge.


Stay: Bolden was the first freshman quarterback to start a Penn State season opener in 100 years. And getting the start in eight out of 12 games was a good start, maybe even more than the freshman originally expected. Originally. So maybe there was more confidence in Bolden than he and his dad thought.

Go: Nine passes and two DNP’s in the final five games. Edge.


Stay: If Bolden wants to be part of what big-time college football is about, the 2011 Penn State schedule should stick to him like Velcro – Alabama, Iowa and Nebraska at home, and Ohio State and Wisconsin on the road. If Bolden wants to test himself, there is no better program to play for this coming season. Isn't this why you go to Penn State? Should be the edge.

Go: It could be the Saints, Patriots and Packers (or Alabama State, Drake and Norfolk State), and it doesn’t seem like Bolden would care. Probably the edge.


Stay: Bolden decided once to stay at Penn State (knowing full well, of course, that leaving in January without Joe’s signoff would cost him a year of eligibility). It could happen again. And, by all accounts, Bolden had an excellent, enjoyable spring on and off the field.

Go: Again, after the Blue-White Game Bolden said that after the Boldens’ meeting with the Paternos he opted to stay because he couldn’t afford paying the tuition if he transferred. He mentioned nothing else. Edge.


Stay: Whatever motivated Bolden to come to Penn State, to excel in drills last summer, to successfully win the starting job, to earn eight starts, to throw for two TD passes and 239 yards in his first college game and go 14 of 17 for 173 with a touchdown against Minnesota and Northwestern – well, you’d have to think that was still there. Edge, but may be true only if the QB is named Chip Hilton.

Go: He might be that aforementioned competitor, just not at Penn State. He might be thinking he can do the all of the above -- and more -- anywhere.


Stay: Bolden said it himself, countless times, after the Blue-White Game: He likes it at Penn State. He couldn’t find nary a complaint -– at least one that he voiced. Classes, teammates, the school, the atmosphere…he loves them all. He also acknowledged that it would be difficult to move on, and that there is no guarantee that he’s going to like it better elsewhere.

Go: Remember this: When all is said and done, this is an athlete decision, not a student decision.

Edge: Too close to call.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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