- Associated Press - Monday, July 23, 2012

All the big prizes Penn State usually plays for _ the conference championships, the marquee bowl games _ are off the table.

For the next four seasons, new coach Bill O'Brien will be in survival mode after the Nittany Lions got walloped by NCAA sanctions Monday. Even before the hammer dropped in the morning, one recruit had decommitted.

“I think it’s going to be a great case study in perseverance,” former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.

The NCAA weighed in on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and handed down penalties that will handcuff Penn State’s mighty football program at least until the latter half of this decade.

The Nittany Lions won’t be allowed to play in the postseason over the next four years or hand out a full allotment of scholarships for several seasons.

The current players on the Penn State roster are free to transfer immediately. And the door to leave the program will remain clear throughout their college careers.

Add it all up and the Nittany Lions will be literally be outnumbered by their opponents in the coming years, with just 65 scholarship compared to the normal 85 by 2014. As if it wasn’t hard enough already to compete against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

O'Brien’s initial public response to the sanctions was to show resolve.

“I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead,” the former New England Patriots assistant and first-time head coach said in a statement. “But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.”

Neuheisel said O'Brien’s competitive nature undoubtedly kicked when he found out about the sanctions.

“All coaches are from that school that we can handle any adversity,” Neuheisel said. “It’s the culture of coaching. No matter what happens you can find a way to overcome.

“That was probably the topic of the (team) meeting today.”

The Nittany Lions met on campus in State College, Pa., but players did not stop to speak to reporters after it was over. Many of them could be facing tough decisions in the upcoming weeks.

With Penn State’s season set to start Sept. 1 against Ohio, anyone who wants to find a new place to play this year has to do it soon.

“There will be a lot of sharks circling,” said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports. “The top 30 guys, the starters, will be looking around. (O'Brien) has to recruit those 30 players back to Penn State.”

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