CHICAGO -- The Penn State football team will be hitting something of a milestone Aug. 1. That's when the NCAA sanction allowing Nittany Lions to transfer to other schools without penalty expires.
Funny thing is, that came as news to the PSU players on hand for Big Ten Media Days here Wednesday. Asked if Aug. 1 held any special meaning, they responded with curious looks.
“What's Aug. 1?” guard John Urschel asked.
“Aug. 4 does. Aug. 31 does. Dates like that are what really matter,” safety Malcolm Willis added.
Aug. 4 is the date Penn State reports for preseason camp. Aug. 31 is the season-opener vs. Syracuse at the Meadowlands. When clued in to what Aug. 1 is, the players downplayed the significance of it.
“That's not a relevant date for our football team,” Urschel said. “That's not an issue we have. Our football team is very much together, very much working toward one goal -- winning football games in the fall.
“It's definitely a non-issue, we're over it,” linebacker Glenn Carson added. “We're looking ahead to Syracuse. It was tough at the time, for sure, because a domino effect could have happened there. But we all stuck together and did a great job of keeping it under control. The smoke cleared. There was a lot of weight off our shoulders.”
Last July, when Penn State was hit with the sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, many assumed the ability of players to transfer to other FBS schools without penalty would spell doom for the program.
In the end, however, only three impact players left -- tailback Silas Redd (USC), receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma) and kicker Anthony Fera (Texas).
Second-year PSU coach Bill O'Brien said keeping the vast majority of the team together last year was far more important than any milestone that may pass a week from now.
“For a long time now, I've felt very confident about our players' commitment to us and our commitment to our players,” O'Brien said. “There's a lot of respect between the players and the coaches. We're not their friends, but there's just a lot of respect. So I don't think about that much.
“I understand the milestone because of that date,” he added. “But I haven't thought about that transfer deal really since the season started last year. I felt like those were the guys who were committed to us.”
The players who stayed have no regrets.
“The guys who left, more power to them and I wish them the best,” Willis said. “But the guys who stayed here, we're doing something special.”