Penn State has never received major sanctions from the NCAA in any sport - which has long been a source of pride for the university and its fans - but that distinction will end this morning.
The NCAA announced Sunday that it will levy sanctions on the Nittany Lion football program, with the "corrective and punitive measures" potentially including but perhaps not limited to a multi-year bowl ban and significant scholarship reductions.
Those kind of penalties, stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, could devastate the football team's chances of competing on a high level nationally or in the Big Ten for many years.
Penn State is not expected to receive the death penalty, ESPN and CBSSports.com reported Sunday, meaning the Lions will be able to field a football team this year and beyond. How competitive those teams will be, however, figures to depend heavily on just how hard the NCAA comes down on PSU.
Sources have told the Mirror in recent weeks they did not believe Penn State would be punished by the NCAA, which usually handles only sports-related and competitive-advantage issues.
But as NCAA President Mark Emmert said last week during an interview with PBS, the actions of Penn State officials in covering up the Sandusky scandal warrant the unprecedented punishment.
PSU faces hefty fine
On top of sanctions for the football team, Penn State University could face an NCAA fine of between $30 million and $60 million, according to CBSSports.com.
With PSU getting penalized, Stanford is now the only major-conference school in the country that has never faced major NCAA sanctions or been involved in a major scandal. Northwestern and Boston College have avoided major NCAA sanctions, but both have been involved in point-shaving scandals in men's basketball, which were not subject to NCAA punishment.
Penn State reaction
A sampling of reaction from Twitter on Sunday:
"The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel." - QB Matt McGloin
"I don't need a chunk of metal to remind me what a man did for me or where I am because of him. ... don't get me wrong. I fully agree with Erickson's decision to take the statue and leave the library as is. definitely the right thing to do." - Kick snapper Emery Etter
"The people saying this is more than football, are the same people wanting a death penalty, thus making it about football again, really?" - TE Garry Gilliam
"Whatever is decided-I hope such decision are made 2 support the victims & promote healing 4 ALL affected-and not to just simply punish PSU." - Board of Trustees member and former PSU player Adam Taliaferro
"Once again [what] did my brothers & future nittany lion brother do." - CB Stephon Morris
"If they want to punish us for something none of us did, so be it. Just know you're waking a beast. A giant family across the world. ... WE will be beyond successful for the sole reason that WE ARE PENN STATE!!" - QB recruit Steven Bench
- Compiled by Cory Giger
"I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of overall conduct and behavior inside of a university," Emmert told PBS.
Emmert and Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA's executive committee and Oregon State's president, will reveal Penn State's sanctions during a 9 a.m. news conference in Indianapolis.
The NCAA typically takes six to nine months or longer to investigate programs and levy sanctions, a source told the Mirror. Penn State's punishment will come without an independent NCAA investigation, and instead appears to be based primarily on former FBI director Louis Freeh's investigation, which was closely monitored by the NCAA.
"I don't want to take anything off the table," Emmert, speaking of possible sanctions for Penn State, told PBS. "The fact is, this is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal that happened at SMU or anything else we've dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem."
Whatever sanctions it receives, Penn State is not expected to appeal the NCAA's decision, according to a story in the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
As for the sanctions, here's a closer look at punishments Penn State could be facing and the repercussions:
SUBHD: Multi-year bowl ban
Penn State has been a postseason fixture for decades, with its 44 bowl appearances ranking eighth nationally. The Lions' 27 bowl wins rank third in the country, and their 63.6 winning percentage is second.
It could be a long time before PSU plays in another bowl, though, as the NCAA is expected to deliver a multi-year ban. It's unclear just how many years, but by comparison, USC received a two-year bowl ban from the NCAA for providing improper benefits to former standout running back Reggie Bush.
A bowl ban for this year and next might not be enough to prevent class of 2013 recruits from keeping their commitment to Penn State. Prized quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg told the Mirror last week he would remain committed to PSU even if there is a bowl or TV ban, and the father of standout tight end recruit Adam Breneman said the same thing. Hackenberg was to speak with Penn State coach Bill O'Brien on Sunday night, according to published reports.
However, a bowl ban of three or more years - if coupled with other severe sanctions - could lead to mass defections from not only top recruits, but also current players.
When the NCAA dropped the death penalty on SMU in 1987, it allowed players on the team to transfer and be eligible to play immediately, without having to sit out one season. The current PSU players had nothing to do with the scandal, so the NCAA could allow them the same transfer benefit.
The question then becomes: How many would leave? Some players addressed that issue Sunday on Twitter.
"Stop asking if im transferring im staying at PSU no matter what I love my school," redshirt freshman offensive tackle Donovan Smith tweeted.
"No matter what happens I'm staying at Penn State," redshirt junior tight end Garry Gilliam tweeted.
It's easier for current players to say that, but recruits might not remain enamored with playing at Penn State if the punishments are severe. They, like everyone else, will be waiting to see what the NCAA does today.
"We appreciate the attention, but how bout people wait til after 9 am tomorrow to ask us how we feel," standout defensive end recruit Garrett Sickels tweeted.
SUBHD: Scholarship reductions
This potentially could be "crippling" from a long-term competitive standpoint for PSU, one recruiting expert told the Mirror.
The limit for a football program is 85 scholarships, but if the NCAA chooses to level Penn State, the Lions could see a loss of 10 or more scholarships per year for several years. Again, using the USC case as a comparison, that school lost 30 scholarships over a three-year span, or 10 per season.
"Anything double digits or more would be crippling, and it depends on how many years," said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "If it's 10-plus for three years, that's horrible. If it's 10-plus for four years or five years, that's absolutely crippling."
Farrell said he wouldn't be shocked if PSU loses 12 or even 15 scholarships a year.
"If it's 20, you might as well give them the death penalty," he said. "That's more than crippling. That's a death blow."
USC overcame its bowl ban and scholarship reductions to go 10-2 last season and is expected to be strong this year. Penn State, though, probably wouldn't bounce back as well as USC did, Farrell believes.
"People say, 'Well, USC got hit that hard, look how they're doing,'" Farrell said. "But Penn State is not USC. It's not a sexy program. It's not in Southern California, you can't sell great weather and all the things that USC can sell in State College, Pa., especially without an established head coach."
SUBHD: TV ban
This gets talked about a lot but is rarely used by the NCAA. The last Division I team in any sport to be banned from TV was in 1996, and that was Maine's hockey team.
Penn State has appeared on TV in 216 of its past 218 games, and that not only has brought great exposure but also a tremendous amount of money to the program. Last season, each Big Ten school received $22.8 million from its partnership with the Big Ten Network - it's expected to be closer to $25 million this year - and PSU also makes millions from appearing on ESPN and ABC.
A TV ban for a year or two could cost Penn State tens of millions of dollars, plus it could be devastating from a recruiting standpoint since players all want to appear on TV so their family and friends from around the country can watch.
One thing that could work in Penn State's favor is that a TV ban would serve as a de facto punishment for opposing teams, and the NCAA may not want to punish other schools by preventing them from being televised.
SUBHD: Other possibilities
Could some of Joe Paterno's record 409 wins be vacated? That would seem unlikely, but then again, anything could be possible in this unprecedented situation.
Paterno's win total is one more than the late Eddie Robinson of Division I-AA Grambling (408) for the Division I record. Florida State's Bobby Bowden is second in the Division I-A record books with 377 wins (he had to vacate 12 because of an NCAA sanction after he retired).
The NCAA could decide to vacate wins by Paterno since the 2001 Sandusky allegations, or it could avoid that aspect of punishment altogether.
O'Brien will meet with his players today at 10 a.m., the Mirror learned Sunday night. The new coach surely expected potential problems when he took the Penn State job in January, but he may not have been ready for the type of punishment the NCAA is expected to announce today.
O'Brien signed a five-year contract worth $2.3 million per year, and there doesn't appear to be an out clause. ESPN's Darren Rovell reported Sunday night that O'Brien would have to pay back any years left on his contract if he leaves early.
Whatever punishment the NCAA hands out today, the football program likely will not be the only athletics program at Penn State to suffer. Football is the university's cash cow and helps pay for most other teams and athletic activities, so if football has to pay a hefty price, other programs, athletes and fans almost certainly would feel the pinch.
"It could ruin everything that we've built here," Lionettes dance team member Kayla Weaver told The Associated Press.