Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penn State Players Should Not Be Judged

Right now the players of Penn State have a very difficult choice to make. Should I stay at Penn State and not play for anything but pride and the school? Or should I transfer to another university where I can escape the microscope I'm going to be under for the entire season and have a shot at postseason glory?

I know a lot of fans, me included, would like to believe these players are loyal to the school first and nothing can break that loyalty. But they're not. Most of these young men are there because they were given a scholarship to a Big Ten school that could possibly play for conference championships and national titles. They were there because of a supposedly great man that would help them get to the next level of football. There may be some players that grew up Penn State fans, but I guarantee you most of them are there because the scholarship was right and they felt that they could play there quicker than any other university.

Today's players are a complex creature. Most of them want to make it to the NFL where they can be paid millions of dollars and take care of their families for the rest of their lives. They are looking for a university that will provide them with a quick path to playing time and a lot of television exposure. To most of these men, the education is secondary to their sport. The days of playing for good old State U are but a distant memory.

That's why the Penn State players that choose to leave should not be judged. They were sold a false goods. They never knew that a horrendous scandal was hiding in plain sight while they worked their butts off to make it to the next level. Part of making it to the next level is playing in a big game such as a conference championship game, marquee bowl game, or even the national title game. The current players there will not see any sort of postseason for the rest of their careers at Penn State. If you had no loyalty to the school would you stay?

If you go on twitter and type in @MomentofSilas25 you will see fans supporting Redd, begging him to come to their university, and even insulting him. This is part of the problem that President Emmert was talking about when implied that people are making football a too important part of the college experience. A lot of people take Silas Redd leaving way to seriously and will go after him anonymously on the internet because it makes them feel like a big person. It's sad.

Silas Redd in all likelihood is going to be at USC by the end of the month. I have no problem with this. He is a great tailback that should excel under Lane Kiffin's offense. He'll be on national television every week while USC plays and could even mount a Heisman campaign if he and Matt Barkley put up big numbers. There is also the argument that a winter at USC beats the hell out of a winter State College, Pennsylvania. But that is secondary to him. He is likely playing his last college season and will need to make as big an impact as possible on his draft status to get a bigger contract. He knows the shelf life of an NFL running back is short and that he needs to make hay while the sun is still shining. It's sad that he won't do this at Penn State but they let him down.

For the players that stay at Penn State, they will face a tough row to hoe. They will face questions for several years about the impact of four men and their inaction. Some of the future Penn State players will go to the school and play at a university that will be scraping by for money as the lawsuits mount. It is not going to be a pleasant experience. But they will be building character and great resolve. They will start their own legacy at Penn State under Bill O'Brien. It will be a time in Penn State football history where they have to suffer. I doubt Penn State will win more than 8 games a season while they are there.  But they will have a united fan base and a great number of people supporting them because of the sacrifice they made to stay at Penn State instead of going elsewhere. And that is something special.

The players face two roads right now and both are the right path. It is ridiculously difficult for any of us to imagine what it is like to go through such turmoil. The only things I can compare it too are when Mark Price was fired in May of 2003 and the firing of Bobby Petrino by Arkansas this past April. For the players that leave, know that they may not have wanted to deal with the repercussions of the men that were supposed to lead them and teach them. For the players that stay, applaud them for their loyalty and dedication to the idea of Penn State. Both are right for the right reasons. 

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