November 11, 2011

Roundtable: Penn State's impact on prospects

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Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

How difficult will it be for Penn State to recover on the recruiting trail from this awful scandal, and regain the trust of high school prospects and their parents?

Mike Farrell: In the short term it will be difficult. In the long term I think recruits, parents and even coaches have short memories when it comes to scandals. A new president, athletic director, head coach and group of assistants will be put in place and a new start will be had. Then it will be about selling the tradition, fan base, facilities and chance to play for BCS titles and in the Big Ten that will be the focus after a year or so. Those saying Penn State is dead and this is the end of PSU football are being nave. With the right hire, PSU will be back as early as the 2013 class.

Adam Gorney: It's going to be the biggest challenge in college football, maybe ever. We're not talking about scholarship reductions, or scandals about money, tattoos, extra benefits or anything that seems so unimportant right now. We're talking about an alleged child rape case by a former defensive coordinator and serious questions about why the police were never alerted. A new staff will come in but that might not be enough. The stain that this scandal will leave will not go away soon. Who knows if the NCAA gets involved and how the future will unfold? There are just too many changes coming for any recruit to feel totally secure.

Josh Helmholdt: It will be more difficult than at most schools. You can clean house and clear out all of the elements associated with this situation, but what does that leave you with? Joe Paterno is Penn State football. Not even the parents of these recruits can remember anyone besides Paterno coaching Penn State. This will be a long and difficult process for Penn State.

Chris Nee: It is pivotal that the Nittany Lions retain the commitments they have, as beginning new relationships would be extremely difficult at this stage. Long term, it comes down to the school cleaning house and making a culture shift away from the scandal, and making the right hire. A new coach and a new staff, backed by a new athletic department and school president, will go a long way to restoring faith and trust in Penn State among parents, coaches and prospects.

Keith Niebuhr: Incredibly difficult. In the short term, maybe even impossible. Prospects are looking for a school that can help them get to the NFL. But parents typically have a major say in that final decision. And more than anything based on my experiences they want their child at a school that looks after his best interests. Confidence in Penn State right now to do that just isn't there. This isn't something that can be easily repaired. It will take the school time to fix its image.

Brian Perroni: It really depends on who they hire as the next head coach. If the school can convince recruits and their parents that anyone culpable in all of this mess is gone then I think the trust could be gained back relatively soon. I'm not sure that it is going to be an easy sell that everyone is completely gone, though, since details keep coming out about how Sandusky was on campus as recently as last week. It seems it would almost take a completely clean sweep of the institution. You have a lot of recruits now who are using mediums such as Twitter to convey the fact they are no longer considering Penn State.

Of all the high-profile scandals involving major college football programs over the past year, which is most damaging in recruiting and why?

Mike Farrell: That can't be determined just yet because we still have to see what happens with North Carolina, Ohio State (the NCAA just accused OSU of "failure to monitor" and handed the Buckeyes a second letter of allegations) and Miami as far as sanctions are concerned. From a PR standpoint it's obviously the Penn State scandal. But from a football standpoint, right now USC - with the loss of scholarships starting to hit - is the worst off. And from football-only perspective I think the Miami scandal was the worst I've seen. It's just hard to focus on any of that now with the Penn State issue being so repulsive and sickening overall, but yet not an NCAA issue.

Adam Gorney: By far, without a doubt, nothing even close, Penn State's current scandal is the most damaging and damning. Even if the Nittany Lions totally clear house, will there be a high-profile coach (calling Urban Meyer) that wants to get involved in this legal and ethical mess for years to come? Maybe Al Golden would want the job since he has Penn State ties and is involved in his own imbroglio at Miami, but recruiting is not going to be easy. Recruiting to Penn State will be a difficult endeavor for any coach that takes the job - not only following Paterno, who is beloved beyond belief in State College, but to heal a community and a program that is reeling right now.

Josh Helmholdt: Certainly the loss of a big-name coach hurts. The loss of scholarships and postseason bans also hurt recruiting. Kids want to play for championships; they do not want to be sitting home on New Year's Day. So, we do not yet know which of these situations will most hurt recruiting until the NCAA hands down punishments. Those that result in postseason bans and loss of scholarships to further augment the loss of popular coaches will likely have the biggest impact in the short term. As I said earlier, though, Penn State has issues long term because it has lost a big part of its identity.

Chris Nee: While what occurred at Penn State is heinous, it likely won't bring much punishment from the NCAA. I'd say the scandal that is going to have the biggest effect is with situations such as Ohio State's and Miami's. The results are unknown and that will lead to negative recruiting and kids who aren't willing to walk into a situation where the end-result is unclear. Difficult task to recruit when you can't clarify what will and won't happen to your program over the next few years.

Keith Niebuhr: This one. Not even close. The others seem like a joke compared to this. They don't even belong in the same conversation. At Penn State, you saw something that transcends sports. We have witnessed a complete failure by men we presumed to be so intelligent.

Brian Perroni: I would have said Miami due to the fact that it is still unknown what kind of sanctions the Hurricanes will face but I think Penn State trumps that. With NCAA violations, you don't have worried parents. With the allegations in State College, it will matter a lot more to the recruits' parents than if the school can't go to a bowl for a year or two.

If it's at all possible, what coaching hire could return credibility to and faith in the Penn State football program in the eyes of recruits and their families?

Mike Farrell: Tony Dungy would be my first call if I'm the BOT at Penn State followed by Urban Meyer and Jon Gruden. A person of character such as Dungy would certainly help clean up the image and a big name such as Meyer or Gruden would be an immediate boost to recruiting. After that I think Al Golden is the perfect fit. He was lied to in Miami and fell into a bad situation, and as a former PSU player and coach this could be an attractive option to him. He has had success up the road at Temple, he's one of the best recruiters in the country and an energetic, quality coach.

Adam Gorney: I don't think there is a hire that will bring instant credibility back to the program. This is beyond anything ever seen in sports - arguably at any level - and even though most everyone will probably be gone and an entirely new staff will be brought in, it's the stain on the program that will resonate. Plus, who is going to be in charge of the coaching search? There is no school president, no athletic director and the coach who was just fired seemingly cannot speak to the media or just hasn't chosen to yet. It would be neat if Meyer was hired because he would bring instant excitement to the program, but does he want to get involved in all this?

Josh Helmholdt: The Nittany Lions could hire a big-name coach who will be able to get recruits to the school based on his name alone, but I do not think they will go that way. I think they will go with a safe pick, one that does not run the risk of creating any more scandals in State College; a straight-laced guy who has never even been rumored of running afoul of the law or the NCAA. Finding that combination of impeccable values and outstanding coaching ability is not easy. Pat Fitzgerald is one that comes to mind, but I do not see him leaving Northwestern.

Chris Nee: Someone who has no ties to the program and the staff, both football and in the school's hierarchy, being driven out by the current scandal. You need to find a good coach, who can handle difficult situations, but who will also put it on the line for a school with history, tradition and support. The right hire can do a very good job very quickly at a unique school such as Penn State.

Keith Niebuhr: I'm not smart enough to figure that out. But if I'm Penn State, I'm trying to find someone who is everything we thought Paterno was before this story broke. Anything less at this point probably wouldn't do. If a guy has had even a single NCAA issue, I wouldn't touch him. If his players have had troubles with the law, I wouldn't call him. If he's not a man of the highest morals, I'd pass. This eliminates many, I realize. But right now, the whole country is watching. Penn State has to get this right, so it can begin to move forward for all it did terribly wrong.

Brian Perroni: It really would have to be somebody with no ties to the school who did not keep any of the current staff members around. I think it would have to be somebody who has a reputation as a very stand-up guy. There aren't names that immediately jump to mind that would be legitimate possibilities though. I think a lot of coaches would be wary of taking the job, even ones at lower level schools. Coming in during the midst of a scandal is tough enough but replacing a legend adds to it.




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