July 24, 2012
Dave Rocco's ties to Penn State University go back decades. The Covenant School football coach played one year for and then coached under Joe Paterno, eventually earning his degree in 1997.
The sanctions leveled by the NCAA on Penn State Monday left Rocco scratching his head.
"My initial reaction was I thought about the players and the football team and I thought about the many people who had nothing to do with it that are getting punished right now and I totally disagree with that," Rocco said at his home Tuesday evening.
The Nittany Lions were hit with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998. Penn State also must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.
Rocco was with his family in Harrisburg, Pa. when the news broke. He had an idea something would happen but didn't think the NCAA would come down as hard as it did.
"To be honest I felt it coming. I didn't know how harsh the NCAA would deal with it," he explained. "The people that did the wrong things should be punished. I feel bad for the people that were hurt but at the same time, should a kid who's dream it was to play at Penn State be shut out?"
"I've been going through this for a year now and it's so hard to deal with. I can't believe some of the things that happened but at the same time it's not the players fault, it's not the family's fault, it's the upper echelon of the University and that's what upsets me."
Rocco said he's spoken with friends he played and attended school with and they all have the same opinion on the ruling.
"I think we've all come to the same consensus. We all played there, we're all Penn State family. I truly believe the people that did the wrongdoings need to be punished by law but don't hurt people who weren't involved are are trying to do the right thing. Penn State is still a great university and a great education."
There was speculation Penn State might receive a "death penalty" but in Rocco's mind, the NCAA dealt a much harsher blow.
"I believe this is a bigger punishment than the death penalty. I think it's going to take 10 years (to come back)," he said.
New Penn State coach Bill O'Brien is facing an uphill climb, according to Rocco. O'brien must work hard to keep the current team together and convince the incoming class, including Fork Union quarterback Christian Hackenberg, to stay strong in their commitments.
"I don't know Coach O'Brien at all but I feel for him," Rocco explained. "I think he did the right things, he brought new people in."
"In my opinion, if I'm (O'Brien) you go back to 'let's be high school football players again, believe in each other and win because we want to win.' With that approach, maybe you have a team that's not going to win but is going to be competitive over the years and people will respect them and eventually it's turned around."
"I hope he can do that, for all Penn State alums and the community at large."