So the NCAA hammer came down hard on Penn State today, but the school did not get the "death penalty," which would have shut down the football program. Instead, the NCAA has made it essentially impossible for Penn State to compete for about a decade. It also vacated the school's victories since 1998, which is when Penn State should have turned in Jerry Sandusky.
There's a reason that the NCAA didn't shut down the program; it pays for essentially every other sport at the university. This is the open secret of collegiate sport, especially at the D-I level -- if you don't have a football program, you aren't going to have many other programs. Had Penn State had to shut down their football program, it would have made it impossible for the school to compete in all the other sports, men's and women's, that don't generate much revenue. Say goodbye to track and field, volleyball, swimming, wrestling and a whole lot more. The only sport that might be able to support itself at Penn State is men's basketball, although that has been a middling program at best.
So what the NCAA is asking the Penn State football program to do is simple -- be a wage slave. Never mind that nearly every other school in the Big Ten is going to kick Penn State's butt for the next decade -- just suit up a team and take your lumps. So what if Ohio State beats the Nittany Lions 58-0 one week and then Nebraska blasts them 45-7 the next. Maybe they'll beat Indiana here and there, but the rest of the Big Ten? Not so much. And the message to the Penn State program? Just accept the butt kickings and try to remember that your lumps are necessary to keep the field hockey team on the field.
It will be interesting to see what type of kid will even want to enroll at Penn State in the next four years, a period in which the school is limited to 65 scholarships and is ineligible for a bowl game. The best case scenario would be having a team with the talent level of a Mid-American Conference school -- think Eastern Michigan or Bowling Green; worst case would be the equivalent of a FBS program like Holy Cross or Colgate. Will the Penn State fans continue to pay top dollar to come to Beaver Stadium and watch a substandard program, just so it can subsidize fencing? We're about to find out.