One year ago it would have been unconscionable to use the term “role model” in the same sentence as “Penn State University.” The institution that at one time served as college football’s gold standard for turning high school athletes into men had been shaken to its very core by the vile actions of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Penn State became the black sheep, relegated to history as the university that stood idly by during the most heinous scandal in NCAA history.
The head coach of 46 seasons was fired and passed away three months later. The school was hit with a $60 million sanction, four-year postseason ban and watched as all wins dating back to 1998 were vacated from the record books. Star players transferred out while recruits renounced their commitments, opting instead for a more stabile environment. Penn State had a one-way ticket to college football oblivion, the likes of which had not been seen since SMU’s fall from grace in 1987.
This is the point in our story where Penn State was supposed to plummet deep into the abyss never to be heard from again. To this point it’s been a story without a protagonist, one that featured only villains and victims. However, the latest development in this story is one that has gone largely unmentioned by the national media because scandalous headlines are what sell newspapers. But that doesn’t mean the public has lost its affection for a good underdog story. And from deep within the abyss, our protagonists have emerged.