Penn State football players and coaches have plenty more to aspire to than what they did just two weeks ago when the season began.
The NCAA announced Monday the final two years of Penn State’s bowl ban have been lifted and the Nittany Lions are eligible to take part in the first college football playoff immediately on recommendations from former U.S. Senator George Mitchell.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten announced Penn State is immediately eligible to compete for the conference title.
The news couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nittany Lions, who are preparing for their Big Ten opener at Rutgers, slated for an 8 p.m. kickoff Saturday. Both Big Ten East teams are 2-0.
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“We are very appreciative of the opportunities the NCAA and Big Ten have provided with today’s announcement,” Penn State coach James Franklin said in a university statement. “This team plays for each other. We play for Penn State, our families, the former players, our students, alumni, fans and the community. We are so proud to represent Penn State and the Big Ten Conference and are working hard to prepare for our Big Ten opener at Rutgers.”
Shortly after the NCAA announced the return of all scholarships in time for next season and the elimination of the bowl ban, the Big Ten conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors met with Mitchell and followed suit.
“Following our briefing with Senator Mitchell, the COPC reached consensus agreement to support his latest recommendation and also agreed to restore the school’s eligibility for the Big Ten Football Championship Game, which ran concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban” COPC Chair and Iowa President Sally Mason said in a statement from the conference. “We support the NCAA announcement acting on that recommendation, thank Senator Mitchell for his dedicated service and appreciate Penn State’s ongoing commitment to improvement.”
Meanwhile, Penn State players have been committed since the sanctions were announced more than two years ago.
A handful of players took advantage of the NCAA’s transfer waiver — included as part of the sanctions and allowed any Penn State players to switch schools without having to forfeit a year of eligibility. But most stayed.
“Have 2 take a moment 2 appreciate all the upperclassmen 4 their bravery of staying true to PSU,” freshman defensive lineman Antoine White posted on his Twitter account. “Sanctions gone, now on to NJ for Rutgers!!!”
Nyeem Wartman was a freshman when the sanctions against Penn State came down.
“The bowl ban was lifted ! Extremely appreciative and excited for the opportunity but we still have a mission: win this game against Rutgers,” Wartman tweeted.
Sophomore tight end Adam Breneman was one of a handful of players in the 2013 recruiting class who helped keep together most of a class that also included quarterback Christian Hackenberg, linebacker Brandon Bell and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
“Thank you to everyone who supported us when few did... we came here for you guys! It’s a great day to be a Penn Stater,” Breneman tweeted.
Franklin is set to address reporters at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday, with players to follow.