In the midst of scandal, the Penn State Nittany Lions 8-2, are bowl eligible and control their own destiny in the Big Ten. Should they forego a bowl game? There are compelling arguments in both directions.
Bowl games claim to be celebrations for the student-athletes. The alleged incidents did not happen this season. This in no way involved the players presently playing for Penn State, perhaps the only official members of “the Penn State family” who have shown the requisite level of grace and fortitude. They are in no way the victims here, but ending the season prematurely would taint them and their accomplishments unfairly, but that may not be the overarching concern.
The Sandusky scandal transcends football, those playing football and any football-related concerns. The question is not whether it’s the greatest sports scandal of all-time, but whether it should be categorized as a sports scandal. Time normally engenders moderation. Here, reflections and subsequent revelations spark higher levels of outrage. Penn State has a metastasized tumor. Excising it will be complicated and painful. Maintaining the semblance of normalcy in the football program is at worst indecent and at best distracting from the wholesale changes which must take place.
Penn State might have the decision made for it. Bowl games pick them. Unless PSU wins out, wins the B1G and earns an automatic BCS bid, they might not get picked, or get shoved so far down the pecking order the trip would not be worth the PR hit.
Hypothetically, let’s say Wisconsin beats MSU in the B1G title game. PSU finishes 8-4. The bowls pick in order, but are not obligated to choose teams in order. Wisconsin returns to the Rose Bowl. Michigan State returns to the Capital One Bowl. Michigan goes to the Outback. Nebraska goes to the Gator. Then you have the Insight Bowl. Do they want a trouble-laden 8-win Penn State or a safe 7-8 win Iowa or Ohio State? Presumably, the Meineke Car Care Bowl would take the next best one. The Nittany Lions would then be fighting with Purdue, Illinois and Northwestern to earn a TicketCity or Little Caesar’s Pizza bid. At that point, would the bowl experience even be worth the negative PR and keeping the story at the forefront for another month?
The tactful thing would be for Penn State to play out its conference obligations, let their seniors play for a B1G Title and politely decline consideration for a bowl bid while donating their bowl proceed share to charity. Though, this is the leadership that went radio silent for days after this scandal broke, panicked in the face of public pressure and could not even rouse the mettle to fire Joe Paterno in person. All possibilities are in play.
[Photo via Getty]