Finally, after eight months of horrific and haunting and harrowing revelations, Wednesday brought Penn State football what it needed most.
A glimmer of light. Hope emerged in the form of two raw-boned Penn State football players who stood in front of more than two dozen teammates and made America think that maybe the Nittany Lions could be what we once thought they were.
In declaring their allegiance to Penn State, the players said harsh NCAA sanctions – four-year bowl ban, $60 million fine, massive scholarship reductions -- would not cause them to flee.
“We're proud of who we are,” said fullback Michael Zordich. “We're the true Penn Staters.
“We don't see this as a punishment. This is an opportunity. This is the greatest opportunity a Penn Stater could ever be given.”
Said linebacker Michael Mauti, “This program was not built by one man and this program sure as hell is not going to get torn down by one man.”
Whether that one man was Joe Paterno or Jerry Sandusky doesn't seem to matter much anymore. Wednesday was a day of moving forward for Penn State, and here's how forward the Nittanys went.
On this day at least, Penn State didn't bare all the shame in college football. That dubious distinction was shared by the poachers who descended on State College, Pa., to recruit the free-agent Nittanys.
Part of the NCAA sanctions was not only the freedom, but the encouragement, for Penn State players to transfer without having to sit out a season. Any Nittany Lion transferring will not count against his new program's scholarship limit.
Which brought out the vultures.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien told ESPN that his players were holed up in the football building, reluctant to even exit because rival coaches were waiting in the parking lot.
Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris tweeted: “We have chosen to stay at PSU & other opposing coaches are outside our apartment. Was that the intentions of the NCAA”?
ESPN also reported that when O'Brien and his colleagues were at the airport Wednesday morning to fly to Connecticut for ESPN interviews, they walked past six University of Illinois coaches who had just arrived.
Tuesday in Dallas, Kansas coach Charlie Weis even admitted “that any program that didn't do homework” on Penn State's roster “prior to this (sanction) decision coming out, was behind.”
Good to see college football get back to business as usual. Good to see the sport's somber mood, brought on by the Penn State scandal, is gone. Good to see that coaches still are capable of unsavory acts.
Note to college football. No matter what happened at Penn State, those Nittany Lions remain Penn State football players.
Just because the Nittanys are free to transfer without penalty doesn't mean common decency should be suspended. And to recruit them without consent, to initiate contact, is rotten. Just because it's within the scope of relaxed NCAA rules makes it no less distasteful.
Some Nittanys will want to leave and will do just that. But there are proper channels. O'Brien even mentioned some coaches who had contacted him – Central Florida's George O'Leary, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Syracuse's Doug Marrone – and O'Brien had no ill will toward them.
But gee, can't we let the Nittany Lions gather their ashes in peace? Penn State football has been sufficiently defrocked.
Now some guys guilty only of picking the wrong school are trying to make the best of a bad situation. The least college football could do is leave them alone and let them try to rise.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.