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Crippling penalties for Penn State leads to sadness, disbelief at ACC media days

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Ex-PSU player Al Golden on the program's critical blow: 'It is all just very hard to believe.' (US Presswire)  
Ex-PSU player Al Golden on the program's critical blow: 'It is all just very hard to believe.' (US Presswire)  

Greensboro, N.C. -- I was sitting in a golf cart with Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer on Monday morning when word came of the crippling NCAA sanctions against Penn State. One by one the penalties registered on my iPhone.

A whopping $60 million fine by the NCAA. Another $13 million from the Big Ten.

"Wow," said Beamer.

Loss of 10 scholarships per year for four years. Total scholarships capped at 65 (instead of 85) for four years.

"Oh, my goodness," said Beamer.

Four-year bowl ban.

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"Wow," said Beamer.

Joe Paterno is stripped of 111 of his 409 career victories.

"Incredible," said Beamer.

Every single player at Penn State can transfer today and be eligible immediately.

"Oh wow," said Beamer, college football's winningest active coach with 251 victories. "Man, we are going to remember where we were the day this news broke."

Beamer's reaction was typical of the ACC head football coaches who met with the media on Monday at the Grandover Resort. The emotions ranged from sadness to utter disbelief.

"I'm still trying to piece it all together," said Miami coach Al Golden, who played for Joe Paterno at Penn State and later coached for him. Golden was often mentioned as a possible replacement for Paterno should he ever decide to step down.

"The only thing I can say is that it is disheartening for the people of State College," Golden said. "I just hope that while all of this happening everyone will keep the victims and their families in their hearts. I just hope the State College community can start the process of healing."

Golden said he still can't process everything that has happened to Penn State in a relatively short amount of time. And now the program has been dealt a critical blow. It wasn't the death penalty. But it was close.

"It's more than surreal, and I don't know when it is going to sink in for all of us," Golden said. "I'm going to go home tonight and read everything I can. It is all just very hard to believe."

Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani played for Penn State (1967-69) and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant to Paterno in 1969.

"It's a tough day on a lot of fronts but while people are focusing on all these penalties I hope they will not forget the victims," said Spaziani, in his fourth season at BC. "This is like a Greek tragedy. People just have to watch."

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said people should also remember the current players at Penn State.

"We always have to keep the victims first but after that what about the players? Their whole lives have been turned around. This is their one time in college and now they have to say 'do I stay or do I go.'

"It's a dark day for the sport and for all of us who love it," Fisher added. "We have had an image of something [Penn State] for so long and we had that image change. And when something like that changes you start to question a lot of things."

Virginia coach Mike London had a unique perspective on Monday's announcement because Penn State comes to Charlottesville on Sept. 8. That game takes on an entirely different look -- literally.

"The first thing you always think about are the victims because I am a father," London said. "But the football coach in me wonders how this is going to work. This is an unprecedented situation because the team that we see [on Sept. 8] may look totally different from the team they now have. I've never seen anything like this."

No one here at ACC media days has seen anything like what happened at Penn State on Monday. And, as Beamer said, it was a day that none of us will ever forget.

The Tony Barnhart Show begins August 28 on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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