By now we all know about the smack-down of sanctions Mark Emmert and the NCAA put on Penn State Monday. Starting with a $60 million fine, four-year bowl ban, a total of 40 scholarships revoked, and granting immunity to current players and incoming freshmen to immediately be released to become eligible at any other school. That means every player on the Nittany Lions’ roster becomes a free agent and there is nothing the university can do about it.
The power house of Penn State, one of the most talent-rich states in the country in terms of NFL draft picks, has the potential to unload a crop of athletes like we have never seen before. The question is can Joker Phillips take advantage? Don’t worry about scholarship limits either, because the NCAA is strongly considering allowing any school that accepts a PSU transfer to waive its scholarship limits, provided they reduce their roster the following year. Let the feeding frenzy begin.
With so many elite players now up for grabs, John Pennington of MrSEC.com says this is a huge opportunity for Joker Phillips and the Kentucky football program to go all-in and make a statement. There is no reason Kentucky cannot recruit in the north the way they recruit in the south.
UK needs to go outside its own state borders to find talent. Georgia has served as a key target for the Cats under Phillips and his predecessor, Rich Brooks. Driving I-75 South, Lexington is 280 miles from the Georgia border. Taking I-64 East, Lexington is about 340 miles from Point Marion, Pennsylvania, but the states are closer than that as the crow flies. The point? It shouldn’t be that much tougher to sell Pennsylvania recruits on UK than it is Georgia athletes.
On the recruiting trail, Phillips and company already use the Southeastern Conference to their advantage. The SEC will always be well represented annually at the NFL Draft, that will never change, and Kentucky has had their share of players selected too. Why not take that strategy north — where Pennsylvania high schools have produced 184 draftees since 1988, compared to just 56 from Kentucky.
The idea that Kentucky can rush in and fill the crater that’s going to be left where Joe Paterno’s statue and the Penn State football program once stood might look silly to non-Wildcat fans. But if Phillips could supplement his roster with just one or two Pennsylvania players per season, it might be well worth the effort involved in putting down roots just a little to the north and east.
Kentucky currently has zero players from Pennsylvania on the roster. Surely it can’t hurt to look there for a little help in the coming years. Penn State is going to be crushed for at least four years under sanctions, at possibly more. With ten less players per season, there are ten players that would otherwise be a Nittany Lion looking elsewhere.
It’s not to say every player will be a perfect fit, or that any players will even want to supplant the pinnacle of the Big Ten for Kentucky. Let’s just not be left in the dust while the rest of the nation is cashing in.