FAQ: Penn State football players' options

The NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State rocked the program. And the effects will be felt for years. Scholarship cuts, postseason bans … the list went on. Another aspect of the penalties will allow any player on the Penn State roster to transfer to another school and be immediately eligible. Typically when a player transfers from one FBS school to another, he has to sit out a season. Not so for Nittany Lion players.

Penn State can’t restrict a player from transferring. Those who wish to pursue a transfer simply need to notify the Penn State compliance office that they are “shopping around.” Other schools must also notify the Penn State compliance office if they will be talking with Penn State players about a transfer.

Bottom line: This could have a devastating impact on Penn State. Here’s what else you need to know about Penn State and the potential transfer of its players.

Q: How long do players have to make a decision?
A: Any player on the roster now can transfer under the NCAA prescribed liberal guidelines at any point of their Penn State career. But, they can’t transfer and play right away once a season starts. They have to wait until the conclusion of a season to transfer. The start of a season is considered to be when a team begins training camp. Penn State opens camp on August 6.

[BTN.com: Would Penn State change its uniform?]

Q: Which players are likely to transfer?
A: The incoming freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores would seem most likely to leave. Why? Because they have the most eligibility left. Do they want to play for a team that will be saddled with such severe sanctions, knowing there’s no possibility for a bowl for four seasons?

Gerald Hodges
US PRESSWIRE

Q: Which players are most likely to stay?
A: I would suspect the seniors and many juniors would stay, seeing they already have invested so much into the program and have scant eligibility left. And, honestly, the 2012 season may not be as disastrous as the coming seasons. So, this year’s squad still figures to have a fighting chance to post a decent record before scholarship limits and player transfers begin to take a toll on depth and talent.

Q: What are the benefits to leaving?
A: By leaving, a player could join a program that isn’t hampered by severe sanctions that will cripple depth and compromise talent to make for some long Saturdays and long seasons with little prospect for success. And a player who leaves Penn State could join a program that can compete for conference and national championships while playing for a team stocked with 85 scholarship players.

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Q: If a player left now with training camps about to begin, what type of issues would he encounter?
A: Most schools are within two weeks of beginning camp. If a Penn State player left now, he would be hard-pressed to learn his new team’s playbook. The acclimation prospect could take weeks, depending on the player, where he goes and how he fits in his new team’s system. Leaving at this late juncture would be a bit of a gamble, it would seem.

Q: If many players leave, what type of an impact would it have on Penn State?
A: It could be devastating, especially if some of the Nittany Lions’ star players bolt. There already is a report that USC is wooing star running back Silas Redd, who may be the top player on Penn State’s roster.

Q: What are the benefits to staying?
A: Those who stay will have the chance to be part of a new beginning—a re-branding, if you will—of Penn State football. This is a sad time and an historic time in the program’s history. And there will be a special place in school lore for those players who stick it out and help get Penn State back on track.

It reminds me of the Kentucky basketball players who remained after a devastating probation that followed the Eddie Sutton era. They were known as the “Unforgettables” of the early 1990s (Richie Farmer, Sean Woods, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey, among others) because of their selfless contribution to getting Kentucky hoops back to prominence. And they are remembered with a banner in the rafters of Rupp Arena. Penn State will be back some day. Count on that. And the players who stay can be a part of the new foundation, and will be heroes for it.

Q: If schools accept Penn State now, won’t that put them over the scholarship limit of 85?
A: It could. But that’s OK. If schools exceed the scholarship limit this season by taking Nittany Lion transfers now, the scholarship will be deducted from the total the school can use on new recruits it signs in February. So, if a school has 25 scholarships to give next February—but it takes two Penn State transfers now—it will have only 23 scholarships to give on Signing Day next February.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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