Penn State Meets Scholarship Reduction Early

Penn State received many penalties from the NCAA last summer. The three penalties that affect Penn State’s on-field performance each run for four years. But all three cover a different four years:

  • Postseason Ban: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16
  • Initial Counter Limit (15): 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17
  • Overall Counter Limit (65): 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18

Penn State is on track to meet the last of those penalties, the limit of only 65 overall counters, a year ahead of schedule:

“This is really a six-year sanction,” O’Brien said. “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.”

The sixth year O’Brien is talking about is 2018-19, when it will be virtually impossible for Penn State to get all the way back to 85 scholarships, although tricks like blueshirting and scholarships given to junior walk-ons can help.

Penn State being at 65 scholarships for 2013-14 raises a valid question: why is the school not allowed to start the sanction early? Scholarship sanctions are routinely delayed when a school has already committed itself to more scholarships than the sanctions would allow. In Penn State’s case, the NCAA built in a delay to allow the school to get down to the reduced number.

Penn State did not need the delay. The NCAA should allow PSU to move its overall counter sanction up by a year, ending now with the 2016-17 academic year. This is even more appropriate given the additional elements of the sanctions which contributed to the attrition, like allowing transfers with no penalty or restriction and letting athletes quit the team but keep their scholarships.

Otherwise the penalty, supposedly a four-year reduction, appears intended to be what O’Brien says they are: a six-year reduction. And that gives credence to the claim that the NCAA simply took a convenient opportunity to hammer a successful program as hard as possible.