You never know what you got...till it's gone.
There are no more perfect words that could describe what has occurred in the last 48 hours in one small town, tucked in the Allegany Mountains, at a university that is as recognized as the American Flag. What happened at Penn State University that began on a Wednesday night in November finished on Monday night, taking away everything that once was considered good, great, and heroic.
It's as though everything the students, players, and coaches from the 1998-2011 era no longer matter. Now the focus is to the future of Penn State, but what kind of future will it be?
All the current students that gathered across all campuses of Penn State are still in shock, and likely will not get over what has happened in the last two days. The removal of a statue, the elimiation of anything that had the Paterno name, minus the library, is gone.
So what exactly does remain of Nittany Nation after 112 wins revoked, a $60 million fine, scholarships lost and bowl games banned?
It's quite simple...PASSION.
Nittany Nation is not just about a football program, it's more about a school. Not about administration or coaches, directors and presidents. It's about the students, the degrees, and the desire to earn a better education for all.
The NCAA can take wins off the record, but there are some scars that some will never forget.
Case in point, a young man named Adam Taliaferro. The young man that played for Penn State until against Ohio State in 2000, his career came to an end and nearly his life. A spinal cord injury meant he had a possibility of not walking again. But, against the most insurmountable odds, Taliaferro won, and walked back onto the field a winner.
Now, that win is erased. So did it exist? According to his Twitter, he made sure that no one forgot.
"NCAA says games didn't exist. I got the metal plate in my neck to prove it did..I almost died playing 4 PSU..punishment or healing?!? #WeAre." were the words Taliaferro tweeted. He has since been elected to the Board of Trustees, and has a law degree.
Not one fan of Penn State will ever forget what happened to Taliaferro, but to the NCAA it doesn't exist.
So where does Nittany Nation go from here?
Now, every student at each campus, along with faculty, staff, alumni and friends must rally and show what the real meaning of Nittany Nation is...our love for the SCHOOL, not a sports program. The time is now to show that Nittany Nation is bigger than a football program, bigger than a coach, and much bigger than a scandal.
So there's no bowl games for the next four seasons...no Big Ten championships...no reason to play, right? This is where the entire Nittany Nation can show what they are really made of.
Current students, past students and all fans now must rally not for a football program, but for the university and the entire State College community. Penn State is in the hearts of all that attend or have attended. It can't be erased by sanctions, nor pulled out of the ground and put into storage. It can't be torn by what was or was not said, or tarnished because of a verdict.
The term "We Are Penn State" is not a slogan, it's a way of life in Central Pennsylvania. It's the one item in that area that the entire country knows.
So does that mean that anyone attending or has attended the university now has their records tarnished? For such words to even be considered is far from the truth. There's a reason Penn State is at the top of many lists for student-athlete graduate rates, not just in football but in all sports. It means that education is first priority, and even those that choose not to play a sport, whether funded or non-funded, chose that school because of the education they would receive.
The bottom line of this entire ordeal is that yes, Penn State did make mistakes, some that likely won't be forgiven by many. But the idea of punishing the current and future Penn State classes for the past is not the answer. The NCAA sanctions punish the present team that will be coached by Bill O'Brien come the fall, and the next three classes that come his way.
What did they do to deserve being banned from going after a championship? What did the student body at all campuses do to deserve being punished for the past? What did the alumni do to deserve having their degrees, at least in some eyes, seemingly tarnished?
The answer to all three...NOTHING.
Now, with a new outlook and new reasoning, Nittany Nation must rise up and become a stronger force than ever before. Nittany Nation has a new purpose, to honor those that have been hurt, and to make things better for those coming in.
Nothing will make up for the hurt that Jerry Sandusky caused to so many people, and taking away wins or a statue doesn't erase that memory. Banning a football team from championships won't make up for years of therapy and help for the innocence that was lost.
But, what the entire Nittany Nation can do is show that they are bigger than a scandal, bigger than a program, and are capable of rising above the hate and it's tarnished past.
The phrase "We Are Penn State" now has a new meaning. It means "We are...bigger than this."