2012 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Preview
It's hard to find the words that can describe the 2012 college football season for Penn State University. That's because it's hard to even make an attempt to put the coming autumn in perspective for the program that has been shattered unlike any other in the history of collegiate athletics.
Yes, there's a scandal worse than the one that hit Penn State football last fall. The Baylor basketball program was crushed several years ago when one of its players, Patrick Dennehy, was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. However, Baylor basketball did not and does not carry a national reputation. The story was horrifying, but it did not ripple across the country or transform the way athletic programs were operated. What unfolded last autumn on the Penn State campus in University Park, Pa., has opened the eyes of the college sports community to the limitations of individual human beings and the weaknesses that emerge when a small group of people is given a disproportionate amount of power.
Explanations really aren't necessary – a simple and brief recounting is enough to tell the story of how different life is for the Nittany Lions as they prepare for the coming season. Longtime Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with over 40 counts of sexual abuse that spanned a 15-year period from 1994 through 2009. The details in the grand jury indictment, released on Nov. 5 of 2011, claimed that which iconic head coach Joe Paterno – when being presented with a vague but evident account of sexual misconduct on Sandusky's part – did not report the matter to police. He did report the matter up the chain of command within the Penn State athletic department, but athletic director Tim Curley and vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz (who oversaw the Penn State police department) did not pass the matter along to law enforcement. Clearly, Paterno and the rest of the athletic department did not do all they could to ensure the safety of the young boys allegedly abused by Sandusky. The outcry that emerged on the campus and around the nation was overwhelming and persistent, and just a few days before Penn State's next scheduled game on Nov. 12 against Nebraska, Paterno was pushed out by the Penn State Board of Trustees. A few months later, Paterno – who had taken ill – died at the age of 85. The stretch of time from early November through late January created a dizzying sequence of events that led to the exit of a man who had coached at Penn State for the past 62 years, the past 45 as the head coach.
Only now will Penn State have a different coach under a substantially changed athletic department with a fresh set of personnel. Bill O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, will lead the Nittany Lions into the post-Paterno era. The simple reality of change – total, profound and staggering – will overshadow this season. Emerging from 2012 without incident or further scandal is truly the most important priority for the Nittany Lions this year.
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