The Nittany Lions are currently serving a four-year bowl ban due to NCAA sanctions stemming from the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
But that's not stopping many of the program's seniors — who had nothing to do with the scandal — from finding a way to enjoy themselves during the bowl season. A group of them, including fullback and team captain Michael Zordich, have agreed to take part in The RISE and RALLY Bowl 2013 in Atlantic City Jan. 5-7.
The event, organized in part by former Nittany Lions Keith Conlin and Tim Sweeney, is open to all Penn State football seniors who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility. RISE and RALLY is footing the bill for the latest group of now former Nittany Lions as a way of compensating them for their appearances.
“We're all excited about it,” Zordich said. “… This is going to be a great opportunity to get out there and see all the fans … (and to) have a good time — just kind of mix and mingle and be ourselves.”
The three-day event will be held primarily at the Trump Taj Mahal and Showboat in Atlantic City. Organizers are counting on a strong turnout of Penn State fans, who have traditionally traveled to bowls in great numbers.
“Think of this as an un-bowl,” said Conlin, a starting offensive tackle on Penn State's undefeated 1994 squad. “Having been on five bowl trips during my career, I understand what the experience means — especially to the seniors. So we wanted to give this group of seniors, who did absolutely nothing wrong and yet represented themselves and the program so well through so much adversity, the next best thing to a bowl experience.
“In fact, with no game to worry about, this crew may have more fun than we ever did on a bowl trip,” Conlin added with a laugh.
Most members of Penn State's 31-man senior class exhausted their eligibility following the Nittany Lions' 23-20 regular season-ending win over Wisconsin at Beaver Stadium. With no official bowl to worry about, their NCAA eligibility was complete. Several have already signed with NFL sanctioned agents and/or worked deals to participate in autograph shows.
“Some of these guys will play at the next level,” said Conlin, himself a sixth-round pick by Indianapolis in the 1996 NFL Draft. “But a lot of them will never play another game. The goal is to make the RISE and RALLY Bowl a memorable event for all of them. Think of it as one more roar at the shore.”
For more info on the event, check out riseandrally.com