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Why Penn State's Scholarship Reductions are crippling (some math) Stuck
Posted on July 25, 2012 at 05:50 PM.

The penalties at Penn State are indeed massive. We're going to do some math and play with it all to see how bad it could be.

People have been quick to point to USC and say, "the penalties at Penn State aren't all that bad, see? Look at USC!"

But the simple fact is, USC's scholarship reductions just kicked in this past recruiting season. In two years, USC will be incredibly thin at every position and in three years, they're going to have a devil of a time competing with their Pac-12 brethren. Pointing to USC at this point and saying, "its not that bad" is quite a fallacious statement. The worst for the Trojans is yet to come, just stick around awhile.

As for Penn State, I like showing things by the math -- there's no better way to show off the future of the program and how these scholarship reductions will cripple the program. While personally I don't think it's as bad as the death penalty, especially the four year one Penn State apparently feared was coming, they still are going to make it very hard to win at Penn State.

I've decided to break the penalties down by each season and to basically make some big assumptions and use some averages -- basically the math isn't accurate completely but it definitely can be used as a very broad guide for what the program is facing plus my broadly first blush thoughts on a realistic win total. With that disclaimer thrown out there so (hopefully) people don't take my numbers completely literally but more as an illustrative guide, here is what Penn State is facing with some assumptions and conjecture all thrown in to give you an idea:

  • No penalties.
  • 96 total players on the roster. 85 total scholarship players.
  • No Bowl Game
  • Assuming Penn State doesn't have any transfers, they will graduate 25 seniors. This isn't a likely scenario, but we'll give them the best case.
  • Thus Penn State will be down to ~70 scholarship players at the conclusion of this season when you take into account they can only recruit 15 new players for next year's class.
  • Realistic win total: 4-6 wins.

  • Can only offer 15 players for incoming recruiting class.
  • No Bowl Game
  • Assuming Penn State goes into the season with everyone still on roster, no defections, etc. they will have 70 scholarship players on the roster give or take.
  • Penn State will have 26 seniors graduating next season.
  • Their total number of scholarship players when graduations happen will be down around 50.
  • Penn State again can only offer 15 new players.
  • Realistic win total: 3-5 wins.

  • Can only offer 15 players
  • Can only carry 65 scholarship players total
  • No Bowl Game
  • The roster in 2014 will be at 65 total scholarship players most likely.
  • The 2014 recruiting class will likely be at 25-30 players. So Penn State will most certainly not be able to recruit to fill out their full compliment of players. They will likely enter 2015 with 60 scholarship players or less. FCS programs can carry 65 scholarship players, for the record.
  • Realistic win total: 1-3 wins.

  • Can only offer 15 players
  • Can only carry 65 scholarship players total
  • No Bowl Game
  • The roster for the 2015 season will have 60 scholarship players max given the recruiting restrictions -- although I admittedly don't know if giving walk-on scholarships goes against the initial 15 grants-in-aid. I think they would, but I can't find a clarification.
  • If you just take an average of 20-25 players graduating, Penn State's scholarship situation will go from bad to worse. They could enter the 2016 season with 50-55 scholarship players.
  • Realistic win total: 0-3 wins.

  • Can only offer 15 players
  • Can only carry 65 scholarship players total
  • The 2016 season will be the last season Penn State can only enter with a max of 15 new recruits. With 50-55 players on scholarship possibly, the program will struggle immensely obviously. Recruiting class quality will also take a huge hit and the upperclassmen won't be on the same level as prior seasons either.
  • Realistic win total: 0-2 wins.

  • Can offer 25 players once again.
  • Can only carry 65 scholarship players total
  • The 2017 season will be tough. While Penn State's scholarship total will likely rebound to 65 total, but competitiveness will still be a huge problem. Don't expect any miracles, but the program could be showing some signs of life.
  • Realistic Win Total: 2-4 wins.

  • The program will still be short on scholarships, with 2019 being the first year the program can possibly hope to be near 80 scholarship players once again. While recruiting class quality will likely have gone up, the program won't be competing for a bowl game anytime soon.
  • Realistic Win Total: 2-5 wins.
As I said, there is a lot of conjecture and a lot of assumptions and the math is FAR from perfect...but this gives you an idea of what the program is facing. If the program see's major defections via transfer, it is entirely plausible that they will have to cancel a season or two in the next 3-4 years because they don't have enough players to field a team. With coaches on campus actively recruiting players right now, there's no doubt that this could become a problem.

Interesting times in Happy Valley to be sure.
# 1 DirtyJerz32 @ Jul 25
# 2 N51_rob @ Jul 25
Wait, so they can only have 65 players on the roster? So they can't even add, convince marginal instate kids to "walk-on"? I don't remember reading that.
# 3 MMChrisS @ Jul 25
65 scholarship players total Rob. I'll fix that small error!
# 4 mf756193 @ Jul 25
4-6 wins for 2012!? Wow, you must not know much about Penn State football.
# 5 N51_rob @ Jul 25
Okay, yeah they are not better off perse, but if they can get 5 or so, instate kids to walk-on and pay their way they might not be in as bad a spot. What is the per year cost for instate students to attend PSU? What kind of grants/aid packages could those kids qualify for?

Over under Bill O'Brian is the coach there when the punishments end?
# 6 smiley @ Jul 25
Are you ********? Or do you just love drugs?
# 7 AGG_JD @ Jul 26
Penn State is a big name school! That can't be argued, but what player would accept a scholarship knowing they have no shot at a BCS Bowl for years? Not when you have 4 or 5 other schools coming after you that have the ability. I figure this year to be the best of the next penalty years. Besides, you have no way in knowing how the program will respond to this new coach.
# 8 chi_hawks @ Jul 26
It will be mediocrity, at best, for Penn State over the next decade. I think they will still make some bowl games and I doubt they fall to 2 and 3 wins per year, but, 7 wins is probably their ceiling.
# 9 N51_rob @ Jul 26
I think their best bet, is to get guys into the NFL. If O'Brien can use his connections to get some fringe guys drafted, he may be able to still pull kids. I mean they are still gonna be on TV and he has an NFL type coaching staff. I think it will be an uphill battle, and I think states like Maryland will start to close the door to them more.

I know that Penn State has always been able to generate interest in the top HS kids here, so maybe UMD, can better defend its boarders better with the punishments.
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