By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia (CBS) —Everyone knew it was coming, it’s just that no one knew the extent to which the NCAA would come down on Penn State until NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement Monday morning.
Suddenly, Penn State went from a powerhouse to a football program that could be thrown into a dark age for four years, with an average of 10 scholarships being taken away each year, no bowl eligibility and a $60-million fine levied at the program.
Despite the ruling of the NCAA, which didn’t exact the “Death Penalty” on Penn State, but levied something that will forever be known as “The Penn State Penalty,” a number of area coaches would still steer their players to Penn State, if they had the chance.
“I wasn’t shocked when I heard about Penn State, because unfortunately, everything seemed to be leaking out over the past couple of days,” Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt said. “That kind of penalty knocks a program back 15 years. I would say at least that. The only bright spot the guys at Penn State have is the fact the new guy, Bill O’Brien, has come in and established himself before all of this became public.
“Everyone has gotten know him and his staff and what they’re trying to do. Coach O’Brien isn’t good, he’s excellent. Think about this, even with the question marks, kids have been committing left and right to Penn State. I hope coach O’Brien keeps it in a good direction, because I would tell a kid to take a good look at Penn State. The new regime is in, and the whole issue that went on is no longer there.”
Neshaminy and Penn State have a long history. Matt and Chris Bahr are Neshaminy graduates, and Kevin Kelly is Penn State’s all-time leading scorer.
But Aron Morgan, a Haverford School senior and among the best place kickers in Southeastern Pennsylvania, was talking to Penn State. Not anymore.
“I don’t know; I have talked to Penn State and what happened has changed my perspective a little bit,” Morgan admitted. “I honestly don’t think I would go there, because so much has happened. With no bowl games, with the fines and scholarships taken away, there is so much scrutiny on them. That program is probably going to go down for the next 10 years. From what I’ve heard from other guys, no one is thinking about Penn State anymore. Before this, everyone wanted to go to Penn State. That was their dream, playing in front of 105,000 people in Happy Valley. Now they’re not even thinking about it.”
Penn State was interested in stellar Downingtown East’s Kyle Lauletta, 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior who is one the top quarterbacks in Southeastern Pennsylvania, once fertile territory for former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Nittany Lions’ assistant coach Ron Vanderlinden, one of two coaches retained from Paterno’s staff by O’Brien with defensive line coach Larry Johnson, had visited Downingtown East during the spring.
“At this point, from everything I understand, I wouldn’t go to Penn State, if I had to make a decision right now,” said Lauletta, who’s receiving attention from numerous Division-I schools. “Back in May, coach Vanderlinden said I was in the running for a spot. It shocks me what’s gone on at Penn State. I was more shocked to hear the statue was coming down. I still respect the program and what’s happened there. I don’t think it will affect them that much. But I have other choices I’m thinking strongly about.”
Haverford High coach Joe Gallagher was once recruited by Joe Paterno in the early-1970s. Gallagher was part of one the greatest high school teams that ever played in Pennsylvania, the 1972 St. James Philadelphia City Championship team. Paterno had recruited Gallagher’s older brothers, Jimmy and Frank, who went on to play at North Carolina. Gallagher himself was recruited by Paterno, but instead chose to play for Tennessee.
“Knowing everything that’s gone on, it’s going to be tough for Penn State,” Gallagher said. “I would never advise a kid to do one thing or another, but there are a lot of things to consider. What happened at Penn State hurt the program. There’s no way it doesn’t hurt the program. If a kid believes very strongly in Penn State, and O’Brien seems like a quality guy and a quality coach, that he won’t run out on a kid, I would advise a kid to look at Penn State.
“It comes down to a kid having a great love for the school. I know a lot of kids aren’t crazy about this. I don’t want to see kids get hurt and kids keep getting hurt through this whole thing. As hard as it is for me, I always loved JoePa, but if they covered things up, it’s not good. Through this, there are innocent kids again that are going to be hurt that don’t deserve to be hurt. That’s the current and future Penn State players.”