The biggest problem for Penn State is the scholarship limitations apply to both the 25 per year cap and the 85 overall limit. They can only give 15 'ships per year while holding at 65 overall starting in 2014. Here's what that really means:
- Without massive defections this Summer, the 2014 recruiting class could be as small as 5-10 kids just to get them under the 65 limit. With 10 kids, you can't be wrong about any of them.
- With normal attrition related to injuries and typical college student transfer issues, PSU will struggle to stay at 65 total scholarships for 2015 and 2016. They could get closer to 60 by the time they exit probation.
- Even after the probationary period ends, they still can't go over 25 enrolling scholarships per year. Which means they may not be staffed to 85 scholarships until 2019.
- From 2015-2017, it's entirely possible that Penn State will enter their Spring Practices with 40-45 scholarship players. A smaller number than that will actually be healthy enough to compete
As PSU exits probation in 2016, they will have a roster full of kids who look like this:
- A few blue chip legacies and kids who also wanted to play at PSU
- Kids who were recruited by Tier 2 Big East Squads and MAC schools, but want to play against Big Ten teams and don't mind a bowl ban.
- Colonial Athletic Association caliber kids to round out the class
It's just very, very difficult to recruit without a bowl or some sort of post season carrot to play for. This punishment package is specifically designed to for PSU into competing in the Big Ten with FCS caliber talent by the end of the probation.
All of that said, this is NOT an SMU situation. SMU was a small, private school who exited the Death Penalty and quickly found themselves without a legit conference home. They had to cheat to build their empire in the first place, and there was no proof that SMU could ever win consistently without cheating.
PSU will exit probation with baggage, but it will be different baggage than SMU. They will rebuild because their facilities, infrastructure for fan support, infrastructure for State Government support, and overall alumni base size will return them to the competitive landscape in 10-12 years. Also, there will be no bowl ban during their last year of scholarship limitations which will help recruiting a little as they exit probation.
It's just going to be gruesome to watch them wither on vine between now and their recovery. Their fans did NOT deserve this. Joe Pa did deserve it, and it's a shame he didn't live to watch this explode in his face.