When star running back Silas Redd transfered from Penn State to USC in July, it seemed like an eminently reasonable decision. Redd had come to Penn State when its football program was known for its immense fan base, for Joe Paterno, and for its recent resurrection after a few down years—in the five seasons prior to Redd's first, the Nittany Lions had won 11, 9, 9, 11 and 11 games. By the end of Redd's second season, Paterno was gone, the fan base was fractured, and those wins (and every Penn State win from 1998-2011) had been vacated.
On July 23, in the wake of the Freeh Report, the NCAA handed down sanctions against Penn State that included the stipulation that its players were free agents: they could transfer to different schools without enduring the traditional redshirt season. It was a sanction for the university, but it was also a gift to the players—Penn State would be bowl ineligible for the next four seasons, and short on scholarships. Simply put, they were going to be bad and playing for nothing, by design. The conventional wisdom was that Redd may as well leave—"you couldn't blame any Nittany Lion for not wanting to stick around," said ESPN—and he did about a week later, announcing his transfer to USC. Redd may well be happier in Los Angeles, but his exit from Happy Valley has a strange dissonance to it: he a left scandal-wracked PSU program with, by order of the NCAA, nothing to look forward to at the end of the season, and went to go play for inveterate jerk Lane Kiffin at a USC program with, because they kind of suck, not much to look forward to at the end of the season.