No one, even Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, was immune from offseason troubles

Issues involving Sooners and Cowboys were not good. But nothing in college football compared to the child-abuse scandal at Penn State
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 29, 2012
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photo - Workers handle the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno before removing the statue Sunday, July 22, 2012, in State College, Pa. The famed statue of Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant. (AP Photo/John Beale) ORG XMIT: PAJL102
Workers handle the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno before removing the statue Sunday, July 22, 2012, in State College, Pa. The famed statue of Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant. (AP Photo/John Beale) ORG XMIT: PAJL102

It's hard to say which is more exciting, the start of the college football season or the end of this offseason.

This terrible, horrible offseason.

As good as it is to welcome back the games — the wonderful, glorious games — putting this offseason behind us feels even better. Sure, it will be grand fun sitting back and watching the season's first games Thursday night, a slate that starts with Bob Stoops' old boss (Steve Spurrier and South Carolina at Vanderbilt) and ends with the Sooner coach's old play caller (Mike Leach and Washington State at BYU). Yes, it will be a high time seeing some of the year's best matchups before the weekend is out.

I mean, does it get much better than Alabama-Michigan or Boise State-Michigan State?

Of course, all of you Sooner and Cowboy fans would probably insist that your teams being back on the field is the best thing about this weekend.

We can all agree, though, that the season can't start soon enough. That's because college football has been through an offseason like no other.

Granted, much of the trouble happened outside our fair state, but we care about college football in a way few other places do. Oklahoma City (No. 2) and Tulsa (No. 7) were among the highest ranked television markets for ESPN's college football telecasts last season. No other state had more than one market in the top 10. Oklahomans are invested in college football.

So, when something bad happens in the sport, regardless of where it is, it resonates here.

Needless to say, there was lots of resonating this offseason.

It started with the child abuse scandal at Penn State. And if it ended there, this would still have be the worst offseason in college football history. Sadly, the litany problems do not end there — more on that in a moment — but what happened in Happy Valley is the most heinous cover-up in the history of sports.

Black Sox tanking? East Germans doping? Pete Rose betting?

None of it comes close to Penn State.

At least 10 boys were abused over a 15-year period by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, may he rot in prison. What happened to those victims will always be the worst thing about the Penn State scandal.

But, of course, this tragedy has hurt so much more. It crushed a coaching legend's reputation, ended the careers of several administrators, and brought severe punishment upon the school and the program. And rightfully so. The penalties had to be significant.

That hasn't made it easier, though, to stomach.

What happened at Penn State cast a huge, ugly shadow over all of college football this offseason.

But it wasn't the only incident that did.

There was the Bobby Petrino mess at Arkansas. There was the attack on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. There were the ongoing NCAA investigations at Miami and North Carolina. And there have been several high-profile players dismissed from their teams — Tyrann Mathieu at LSU, Greg Reid at Florida State, Isaiah Crowell at Georgia, Ray Armstrong at Miami, Da'Rick Rogers at Tennessee and Michael Dyer at Auburn.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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