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Post Penn State, Georgia, and transfers

Monday July 23, 2012

The NCAA’s sanctions on Penn State were announced this morning, and they were as severe as promised. You can read the full report, and here are some basics. Yes, they’re pretty much going 1-AA for a few years.

  • $60 million fine “to be paid over a five-year period beginning in 2012 into an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse.”
  • Postseason ban for four years
  • Scholarship reductions to 65 overall with no more than 15 added per year
  • Vacating all wins since 1998
  • Five years of probation
  • Waiver of transfer rules – any PSU player may transfer without penalty

If the NCAA involvement on a matter that’s much more a criminal and civil issue bothers you, ask yourself why coaches suspend players after an arrest. The coach (or NCAA) isn’t getting involved in the legal questions, and there will be much more done in civil court. But in any organization – a team, the NCAA, a job – there are standards and expectations for membership. Though the NCAA sanctions don’t do much anything to the individuals involved in this horrible cover-up or provide solace to the victims, they do punish the unprecedented organizational failure at Penn State. If it helps, think of the Penn State case as a “violation of team rules” on a grotesque and unimaginable scale. Of course a coach would kick such a player off the team, and the NCAA considered the death penalty. It’s left to debate whether today’s sanctions are a worse fate. The NCAA claims that “what some refer to as the death penalty wasn’t severe enough.”

I’m not going to get into much debate about the appropriateness of the penalties – there’s plenty of that elsewhere. There is one sanction that does affect Georgia and every other NCAA school. The waiver of transfer rules gives every Penn State player the choice of remaining at PSU or joining another program immediately.

Though the 85 scholarship limit will be flexible for those schools accepting PSU transfers, others like Georgia have plenty of room. Georgia’s current scholarship situation isn’t much better than the limit under which Penn State will be operating, but that’s a topic we’ve hit on enough. The point is that Georgia, with plenty of room and the chance to be a part of a possible SEC and national contender, is as attractive of a landing place as there is for any potential transfers.

Should Georgia be aggressive about courting these transfers? There’s the unseemliness of picking over the remains of a gutted program, but that’s the door that’s been opened by the NCAA. There are only a handful of PSU players who considered Georgia in the first place, so those relationships would have to be cultivated quickly from scratch. With the Georgia coaches more or less focused on season preparation now, will they be willing to take the time to work on anyone who doesn’t come knocking on the door?

The date also makes me wonder about the timing of any transfers. We can’t begin to imagine what’s going on in the minds of the PSU players right now. Certainly some will be out the door right away. But on the eve of camp after an offseason working together with this story hanging over their heads, the bonds formed might hold much of the 2012 team together. Transfers are likelier to come later and from underclassmen who will realize the years of desolation ahead of them.

There are two transfer horizons: immediate and longer-term. Can any potential transfers help me now, and will there be those who can fill gaps in coming seasons? In terms of immediate help, Georgia – despite low overall numbers – is in good shape at the top of the depth chart at almost all positions. The exception might be in the secondary and specifically at cornerback. Offensive line is also a possibility. Is there someone who can step in right away at defensive back and give Georgia more flexibility with Malcolm Mitchell? That’s a very narrow set of criteria, and I don’t know the PSU roster well enough to even throw out a name for consideration. But those are the questions you’re asking if you can find someone willing to transfer in the next few weeks.

The picture changes when you look down the road. Georgia will probably face a number of departures from underclassmen, and the overall numbers will still be low. Potential transfers will then be evaluated against not only need and available space but also the pool of prospects Georgia is currently recruiting. The scenario then is someone like an underclassman linebacker or defensive lineman who can bridge the gap between the anticipated post-2012 departures and the incoming freshman class. Though the NCAA’s flexibility will allow Georgia to add PSU players on top of the 25/85 limits in the short term, they’d still have to account for those overages in future recruiting classes. Your criteria widen for these transfers, and it’s with this group I’d expect Georgia to have more success.

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