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Penn State Football: NCAA Transfer Sanction Window Almost Shut

by on July 19, 2013 1:00 AM

Transfer sanction countdown: 361 days down and 17 to go.

The final two weeks or so are really a moot point at this point. Hardly anyone on the Penn State football team has done that “go” part for quite awhile.

Or even thought about it, says fifth-year senior Ty Howle.

“It’s been that way for a long time. The guys who are here now have been committed since the beginning,” said Howle, standing on the team’s practice field last week. “This is the place they want to be, the stadium they want to play in.”

Then Howle, wearing his white ballcap backwards and his scraggly brown hair almost to his shoulders, pointed to Beaver Stadium. He got serious. “No one was going anywhere.”

Howle wasn't talking about when the NCAA sanctions first hit and over the next few months 15 or so players transferred with impunity or quit the team and remained at Penn State on scholarship. He means since then, especially since the end of the 2012 season when only four Nittany Lion scholarship players have left the program, not counting seniors — running back Curtis Dukes, quarterback Steven Bench, defensive lineman Nate Cadogan and guard Anthony Stanko.

The odds are 409 to 1 that anyone will leave now and play the NCAA’s “get out of Penn State free card” that has allowed Penn State’s players to go to other schools and play immediately.

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The window, opened July 23, 2012, the day the NCAA sanctions were handed down, officially closes on Penn State’s first day of summer practice. That’s Aug. 5. (Players report Aug. 4.)

It’s old news, really, with its main relevancy at this point being that the NCAA’s open-door policy basically failed spectacularly over the past eight months. Most major college football programs would be ecstatic if they lost just four scholarship players from the official end of one season and the official beginning of the next.

How’s this for a comparison? In the same time period the Penn State men’s basketball team lost four scholarship players with a combined eight years of eligibility -- Jermaine Marshall, Jon Graham, Akosa Maduegbunam and Patrick Ackerman. And you can make it five, as StateCollege.com hoops expert Ben Jones pointed out to me, if you count Sasa Borovnjak, who graduated and opted to leave the program to return to Serbia following his graduation despite having a year left on his scholarship.

On the football side, Bench left five days after the Blue-White Game, when coach Bill O’Brien said his first-team reps in summer camp would be limited, in part, because a pair of other quarterbacks exhibited greater long-term potential. Bench’s departure will be felt the most of the four, although O’Brien had the sophomore QB clearly slotted as his No. 3 signal-caller behind freshman Christian Hackenberg and juco transfer Tyler Ferguson, a sophomore. However, if Ferguson does not return from California, where he is spending part of the summer, the loss of Bench will be greatly magnified.

Dukes left because of minimal playing time, much of it self-inflected by deficiencies in blocking and playbook knowledge. Cadogan bounced around both lines and at tight end, and entered his fifth season as a backup facing undetermined and mostly intermittent playing time. Stanko, buried on the depth chart, quit football entirely – but will stay at PSU on scholarship.

When the free transfer era ends in a little more than two weeks, it will be the third sanction levied by the NCAA that Penn State has seen come and go. The other two? No postseason play in 2012 and the first of four recruiting classes with a 15-scholarship limit, which occurred in February.

Still on the table are:

No postseason play (2013-15), a 15-scholarship limit for incoming players (2014-16) and a 65-scholarship limit roster (2014-2017). Penn State may very likely be at 65 scholarships for its 2013 season opener against Syracuse. As a result, that possibility may give Penn State reason to petition the NCAA to start – and therefore end -- that particular sanction a year early. That chance was part of coach Bill O’Brien’s “educational session” with the Board of Trustees last Friday.

There is another phantom sanction that would extend the NCAA’s on-the-field punishment from 2012 all the way into 2018. As it stands now, up to and including the 2017 season, the Nittany Lions will be limited to 65 scholarships. In 2018 a full complement of 85 scholarships will allowable, but unlikely. For that to happen, the maximum 28 scholarships would have to be awarded in February 2018 and a dozen of the 2013 recruits would have to redshirt. That’s doubtful. O’Brien needs bodies now.

No one knows better than O’Brien that the shelf-life of the sanctions goes beyond the original read of the penalties.

“This is really a six-year sanction,” O’Brien said on the Coaches Caravan trail this spring. “We have until 2014 to get down to 65 scholarships. We’re at 65 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and we’re already at 65, probably, in August of 2013. So it’s not just a four-year sanction.”

Still, Aug. 5 will (take that) mark (Emmert) the quiet end of one more sanction.



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