The New Penn State Football Legacy


Penn State enters their third season following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

When you say Penn State football there used to be a connotation of glory, pride, and success. Now almost three years since the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Penn State football name is slowly climbing back to a respectable stature. The Nittany Lions might not ever return to the status held by Joe Paterno from 1966-2011, but the Shakespearean tragedy that is Penn State football is seeing a rebirth.

The journey of healing began with the hiring of Bill O’Brien. This was the second most important hire in university history. O’Brien, a former NFL coordinator and alumni, took over the program and gave people hope of a new successful Penn State program. With O’Brien’s leadership and a minority of loyal returning players, Penn State went 8-4 in the first season after the scandal.

After an emotional first season, O’Brien and company went 7-5 in 2013. Another winning season, including a dramatic victory at Wisconsin to close the season, put Penn State on the football map again. Although both seasons did not end in a post season opportunity, the winning success for two seasons was the healing period Happy Valley needed.

O’Brien resurrected a program facing the worst scandal in American college sports. His guidance, passion, and determination gave the Penn State community hope and motivation to move forward. At the beginning of 2014, O’Brien left Penn State to be named head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans. After two successful seasons at Penn State, it was no secret that NFL teams were heavily pursuing O’Brein for a head coaching position. The decision was tough for Penn State fans, but understandable. O’Brien’s legacy will never be forgotten. His leadership brought the entire school out of the darkest nightmare in its history.

Now Penn State football looks onward. No longer weighed down by the sins of the past, the Nittany Lions are looking to be an innovative and new program. The hiring of James Franklin, former Vanderbilt head coach, marks a new era at Penn State. He is the first African American to be head coach for the Nittany Lions and brings a new fresh personality to Happy Valley. The 2014 spring game at Beaver Stadium had a jaw dropping attendance of 72,000, showing the fans and community’s support of the new head coach.

Will Franklin continue to pursue forward like his predecessor? Will winning seasons continue as Penn State serves the second half of their post season ban? And will the new legacy of Penn State restore a new glory for the football program? This fall we will see a new chapter and a new destiny for Penn State football.


Guest blogger Dan Reatch is a die hard Penn State fan and representative of the Ledges Hotel in northeast Pennsylvania.

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