The Big 33 game is in the books, the Class of 2012 is making its way to campus and LeBron has his ring. Summer has arrived. It seemed like a good week to touch on a number of topics, so here we go …
Dismissing Devon Smith was probably not an easy decision for Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.
-- Without knowing the full details of the situation (and, if we've learned anything about Penn State's new coach so far, he's not going to share them), I have to credit Bill O'Brien with what was likely a tough decision in parting ways with Devon Smith.
Smith is the third player O'Brien has dismissed from the team since taking over in January, joining defensive end Shawn Oakman and wideout/cornerback Curtis Drake. Both Drake and Smith were established playmakers on a roster that isn't crawling with dynamic skill guys and, though the Nittany Lions have other options at both positions (more options at receiver than corner, of course), a lot of coaches might have found reasons to keep them in the fold.
The fact that O'Brien didn't, though, sends a clear message to those both inside and outside the program that a player's status with the team depends on far more than his position on the depth chart. The new guy in town doesn't want to clear too much house early on, for fear of alienating his players, but when O'Brien was willing to do so with veterans who would have definitely seen lots of the field this season, it showed that the emphasis he puts on how his players conduct themselves away from the football complex wasn't just lip service.
-- College football was eventually going to some kind of playoff system, and the four-team model announced this week is a good one because it isn't a radical departure from the current system (it adds only one more game to the season and allows the major bowls to retain their status) but does do away with the convoluted BCS format that frustrated so many fan bases over the years.
It also allows the decision-makers and string-pullers in college football a smoother transition if they do decide to go to an eight-team or 16-team playoff a few years down the road. So kudos to the commissioners for a weighed and balanced decision. Then again, it isn't as though the life of the sport depended on a successful decision about the playoff model. College football generates incredible amounts of revenue for universities (and the bowl games themselves), and that would have been the case under the old system just as it will be under the new one.
-- I know I wrote about this topic last week, but it's clearer and clearer with every incoming freshman that I talk to just how tight this Penn State Class of 2012 is. They have a Facebook page that only they can access where they keep in touch with one another, and every time I check my Twitter feed it seems that two or three of them have messaged each other or a few players in the Class of 2013. It remains to be seen how much impact this group will have on the field in 2012 but the foundation the program could have gone in a lot of different directions during the last several months and these kids seem determined to keep it solid.
-- Penn State freshman student football tickets sold out in a half hour this morning. The STEP plan is very likely going to make for a few more empty seats in Beaver Stadium this fall than most fans are accustomed to, but it won't be because of the students. Want to give the alumni incentive to buy season tickets, Penn State? Start gradually allotting more seats to the students each year. They might not always get there in time for noon kickoffs, but they'll certainly fork over money for the chance to be there.