GREENSBORO, N.C. — The text messages and tweets started to come on a steady basis shortly past 9 a.m. Calls were made. Messages exchanged. Plans put together on the fly.
Monday was officially the Atlantic Coast Conference’s football kickoff program for the 2012 season. Golf in the morning, X’s and O’s in the afternoon media session, and plans to move forward to September.
Everybody from Boston College coach Frank Spaziani to North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien to Maryland coach Randy Edsall attempted to focus on a season five weeks away.
Then came the expected announcement from the NCAA against Penn State. Rumors began circulating among the coaches on Sunday night. The NCAA wouldn’t shut the Penn State program down because of its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, but it would come down heavy. Scholarship reductions, bowl sanctions, fines.
On Monday, reality set in. The NCAA cut Penn State's scholarships, levied fines, and imposed a four-year bowl ban on the program. With that, recruiting season again began in the ACC — intensely.
Suddenly, any player at Penn State was a free agent, immediately eligible to transfer without penalty. Schools that used their scholarship allotment of 25 this season could take additional players and have it count toward next year’s class.
“It makes things interesting,’’ said Edsall, who hit his irons and made calls on an alternating basis as he finished his round. “We have to get things going pretty quickly.’’
Edsall said the Terps had some scholarships to offer and would look closely at doing so. O’Brien, who is in the process of rebuilding N.C. State, said the Wolfpack also have scholarships remaining and would see who was interested and what moves could be made.
Edsall saw the Penn State situation as unfortunate — and unique. “The first thought that comes to my mind is how sad it is,’’ said Edsall. “There are so many victims.’’
“We have to see how it plays out,’’ said O’Brien. “There’s a lot of stuff that is changing.’’
For Spaziani, who played for late Penn State coach Joe Paterno, it was a day of mixed emotions. The allegations against his former coach and the sanctions by the NCAA were painful to witness.
“The whole thing is like a Greek tragedy,’’ said Spaziani.
Spaziani was not happy with what happened to Penn State, but he understands that players who might help BC could be available.
“We started looking and making our plans [Sunday] night,’’ said Spaziani.
“I have opinions on this which I will share with you, but now is not the proper place or time,’’ said Spaziani. “It’s going to take a while before anyone understands what the ramifications are about what just happened. It’s not going to be good.’’
Spaziani said the Eagles would be looking at Penn State players who might become available. “It’s a fluid situation and we will adapt,’’ said Spaziani, also stating that BC was under the 85-maximum scholarship cap. “There are players on that team that we actively recruited. There are a couple that decommitted and went to Penn State. It is something we have to consider.’’
Akeel Lynch, a three-star running back who verbally committed to BC, then chose Penn State when Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was hired to succeed Paterno.
The consensus among ACC coaches is that Penn State could be reduced to a Football Championship Subdivision-level school.
“With all of those sanctions, 65 scholarships maximum, that’s FCS football,’’ said one coach.
Spaziani was asked about the NCAA’s role in the Penn State issue. “The NCAA certainly sent a message,’’ he said. “It’s unprecedented. We are in a society and a culture where we want answers and we want them yesterday and this is another example of that. But we have to live by it and adjust to it and figure out whether it’s good or bad.’’