Blue White Illustrated

March 2024

Penn State Sports Magazine

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 71 of 75

7 2 M A R C H 2 0 2 4 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M T here was no fanfare at Penn State on Feb. 7 when National Letter of Intent Day arrived. No such letters appeared in anyone's in-box at the Lasch Building, and neither James Franklin nor any of his recruiting staffers held press conferences extolling the latest batch of Nittany Lion signees. Throughout college football, the three-day December signing period has turned the first Wednesday of Febru- ary into an afterthought. There's just not much left to say on the traditional signing day when most schools have had their classes nearly or entirely finished for more than a month. Contributing to the ho-hum atmo- sphere is the push that most schools have made to get their freshmen enrolled early. It's not enough to have those letters signed and sealed as early as possible; coaches now want players delivered early, too. This year, Penn State welcomed 16 members of its 25-member class to State College for the start of the spring semes- ter. By the time the traditional signing day arrived, the majority of PSU's in- coming signees were approaching their first college midterms. The accelerated pace is at least par- tially aimed at ensuring that players are better prepared to compete for snaps in the fall if there's a need for their ser- vices. Players, in turn, are acutely aware of the potential benefits of arriving early. One of the members of PSU's 2024 class — four-star receiver Josiah Brown of Malverne, N.Y. — even changed high schools ahead of his senior year because he wasn't convinced that his previous school was going to allow him to gradu- ate in December. When the spring semester began at Penn State on Jan. 8, Brown was fully enrolled. Forced To Relent It's been a stark departure from the early years of the Joe Paterno era, dur- ing which Penn State was one of the staunchest opponents of freshman eli- gibility. As far as Paterno was concerned, there was never a need for a freshman's services. When the NCAA decreed in January 1972 that first-year players would be allowed to compete beginning that fall, he decried the move, explaining that "the freshman year is not a time for learning football nearly as much as it is a time for academic adjustment." He wasn't alone. Writing for The New York Times, Gordon S. White Jr. asserted that 90 percent of major-college coaches didn't want freshmen playing varsity football. "What most coaches fear is that some coach will tell a high school boy, 'You will definitely play for us as a freshman next fall,'" White wrote. "There may never be a freshman starting on a ma- jor power team with the strength of the 1971 Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State or Oklahoma squads. Freshmen just are not good enough — although a place- kicking specialist may be able to qualify as a freshman." Paterno declined to play any fresh- men in 1972, even though there were a THE NEW NORMAL It's not uncommon anymore for first-year players to take on major roles, but freshman eligibility was an unwelcome development at PSU in the early 1970s MATT HERB | M AT T. H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M Jimmy Cefalo played in 11 games as a true freshman in 1974, finishing with 472 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue White Illustrated - March 2024