An Opportunity For a Beleaugered University

Given Penn State’s four consecutive national women’s volleyball titles from 2007 to 2010, plus former Nittany Lions Megan Hodge (left) and Christa Harmotto (middle) on the U.S. Olympic team, PSU could re-brand itself as the home of women’s volleyball.

So I’m watching my approximately fiftieth hour of Olympic volleyball, and a certain university keeps showing up in U.S. players’ bios.

This school has been in the news a lot recently, and not for good reasons. Scandals, sanctions — the school is kinda taking it in the teeth right now.

Can you guess which school I’m talking about? That’s right: the University of Hawai (their punter just got a DUI).

Just kidding, of course I’m talking about Pennsylvania State University, the former stomping grounds for Matt Anderson, Megan Hodge and Christa Harmotto. Three Nittany Lions on the U.S. volleyball roster make PSU the second-biggest Olympic feeder behind Long Beach State.

It’s no coincidence that PSU alumni make up essentially an eighth of U.S. Volleyball: the school has one of the best volleyball programs in the NCAA.

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Complicity Proves Costly for Penn State

NCAA president Mark Emmert’s punishments for Penn State Monday may have been stringent, but the severity of the crimes the school knew of but did nothing to stop absolutely merited them. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NCAA handed down its sentence against Pennsylvania State University Monday. It’s just about the most severe sentence possible short of actually suspending the football program.

$60 million in fines, most of which will go to causes that help victims of child abuse. A four-year ban from postseason play. Forty fewer scholarships over the next four years.

And every win the Nittany Lions recorded between 1998 and 2011. All because of Penn State’s complicity regarding Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia.

Is it a harsh sentence? Yes.

Does it punish some people — former players, most notably — who honestly had no knowledge this was going on? Yes.

But is the sentence more than Penn State deserves? No. Not in the slightest. This crime is far too heinous to merit anything less.

Had Jerry Sandusky’s crimes remained unhidden until 2011, perhaps the school would’ve deserved more leniency. But the Freeh Report found that these horrors extended far beyond just serial rapist Sandusky — a man who will spend the rest of his life rottng in jail, at the conclusion of which he will immediately begin spending eternity rotting in hell.

School administrators, trustees and football coaches alike knew about Sandusky, yet they allowed it to continue. Why? Because Sandusky helped PSU earn money, and he did so by helping the Nittany Lions win football games.

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Wisconsin and Penn State Clash for Big Ten Leaders Division

Montee Ball's nearly 1,700 rushing and receiving yards and 30 combined touchdowns make Wisconsin's offense too tough for even Penn State's stingy defense in Saturday's battle for the Big Ten Leaders division title. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Despite two tough-to-swallow road losses, the Wisconsin Badgers will still have a shot Saturday at the Big Ten Leaders division, the next step in their quest back to the Rose Bowl.

Standing in their way: the Penn State Nittany Lions, whose players desperately want the focus on something other than former coach Jerry Sandusky and the accusations of child molestation and statutory rape that have thrown the football program and school into chaos.

Beyond the division title and a shot at Michigan State (or in Wisconsin’s case, another shot) for the conference, both teams will be playing for the right to control the season-long storylines surrounding them.

Wilson the Hired Gun

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson mixes a powerful, accurate arm, with great speed and agility, and a brain smart enough to discern when to use either.

The result: a 73.6 perfect completion-rate, a 26-3 touchdown-interception ratio, and a 199.3 QB rating that leads the NCAA and is more than 30 points higher than his predecessor, Scott Tolzien. And at Camp Randall Stadium – where Saturday’s game will be – Wilson’s numbers somehow are even better.

But Wilson has had to post numbers that good – his place in Wisconsin history is still very much in flux.

Coach Bret Bielema brought in Wilson as a change of pace from the quarterbacks Badgers fans were used to. The move worked, with a 6-0 start that had Wisconsinites dreaming of national championships and Heisman Trophies.

Then came back-to-back road losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. Wilson threw two picks against the Spartans and completed a season-low 62.5 percent of his passes against the Buckeyes. He struggled most in his team’s two biggest tests.

As a hired gun, Wilson knows his story will be defined by how he did on the biggest stage. He’s not a QB who Bielema developed for two or three years before finally giving him the starting job; Bielema brought in Wilson as is. Should Wilson struggle, Badgers fans won’t be able to blame the steady but uncreative Bielema.

If Wilson fails, the loss will fall squarely on the quarterback himself. Wilson set a high bar for himself with his early-season magic, and on Saturday he’ll need to cast a spell over a Penn State defense that ranks second in the nation in opponent-scoring.

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