By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A laurel to the Penn State players who chose to stay with the program after the NCAA hammered the Nittany Lions with a four-year probation, which freed any player wishing to transfer to be eligible immediately.
But this is not to condemn the nine — including receiver Justin Brown to Oklahoma — who chose to leave.
As running back Silas Redd, who transferred to USC, said, it was a “business’’ decision.
Penn State — even with the probation — could have been a vehicle for Redd and Brown to go on to the National Football League, especially since new coach Bill O’Brien is a former pro assistant.
But USC and OU offered one thing Penn State can’t right now — a chance to play for a championship, even if it’s just the Pac 12 or Big 12 titles.
The days of a team winning a national championship on probation — OU (1974) and Auburn (1957) are long gone, although technically Penn State could win an AP championship.
No doubt Redd and Brown went to Penn State for a chance to play for championships. At OU or USC, players almost look upon that as a birthright.
Players are caught in the middle, being punished for something they didn’t have anything to do with.
It will be interesting to see if O’Brien takes an “us versus the world’’ approach as OU’s Barry Switzer did when the Sooners were put on probation in 1973 by the NCAA.
Switzer, in his defiant manner, said while OU couldn’t go to a bowl, no one said they couldn’t play for championships.
The players quickly fell in line.
The Sooners, picked fourth in the Big Eight, would finish the season with a 10-0-1 record, the only blemish being a 7-7 tie with USC.
They even bragged OU 2, Cotton Bowl 0 after the Sooners beat both Cotton Bowl contestants (Texas and Nebraska).
That probably was the most underrated team in Sooners history with the three Selmon brothers anchoring a defense that did not allow Nebraska to snap the ball in OU territory in a 27-0 win over the Huskers.
OU was supposed to be in trouble after quarterback Kerry Jackson was declared ineligible for a season because his transcript had been altered. Steve Davis, his replacement, turned out to be one of the top quarterbacks in school history with a 32-1-1 career record.
Probations didn’t have the devasting effect they have today. OU lost no scholarships and no key players transferred. There was a TV ban for 1974 and 1975, but teams could be on TV only twice anyway.
Take a look at the 1989 probation. OU lost 14 total scholarships — seven for both 1989 and 1990. OU felt that a few years later when the Sooners went 5-4-2 in 1992.
The Sooners lost a number of players that year (more than 20), but most of that was due to disciplinary reasons.
Penn State can at least appear on TV, but it will be interesting to see how they handle adversity.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.