The best thing about the start of college football season next month may be that it officially signals the end of college football’s offseason.
Talk of returning starters and projected depth charts generally rule the buildup to fall. This year, coffee shops in parts of the country that love college football were filled with language more often used in a courtroom or law school class.
All the while, we’ve had to keep up with the constant reshuffling of college football’s geographical landscape spurred by ongoing conference realignment.
The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, obviously, stole much of the headlines in what may have been the most eventful offseason college football has ever seen.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted June 22 of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. Fallout from the case included an investigative report that found the late Joe Paterno and other top Penn State administrators had concealed claims against Sandusky, who began facing allegations of sexually abusing children while on Paterno’s staff.
The school removed the statue of Paterno that stood outside Beaver Stadium in light of the findings.
The next day, the NCAA made a statement of its own, handing down punishment to Penn State football unprecedented for violations unrelated to competition — erasing 14 years of victories, imposing a $60 million fine, slashing scholarships and issuing a four-year bowl ban.
Then came the wait to see which players would exercise the freedom they had to leave Penn State for another school without facing typical transfer restrictions.
Paterno had 111 wins wiped from his résumé, but the longtime Penn State icon wasn’t the only coach who had his reputation tainted.
Up in Arkansas, Bobby Petrino was hospitalized April 1 when he and his mistress skidded into a ditch while riding the coach’s motorcycle. The mistress turned out to be an ex-Arkansas volleyball player Petrino had hired to work in the football office.
Athletic Director Jeff Long fired Petrino for not disclosing the affair, then tabbed John L. Smith to coach an Arkansas team that lost only twice last year.
There was some good news during the offseasaon.
The most positive development came June 26 when a committee of university presidents approved a four-team playoff beginning at the conclusion of the 2014 season. It could be the first step toward an even grander playoff down the road.
Other changes in college football are coming sooner. Conference realignment continues to shuffle the deck, creating odd combinations like San Diego State and Boise State in the Big East beginning in 2013 and West Virginia in the Big 12 starting this year.
But if the bowl system and conference realignment were the hot topic of conversations, then this offseason wouldn’t have been much unlike any other.
This was hardly a typical offseason. With the opening weekend of college football weeks away, it’s time to start talking first downs and touchdowns again and leave the scandals of the spring and summer behind.