While much of the attention from mainstream media regarding the possible transfer of players from Penn State University in the wake of NCAA sanctions handed down to the Nittany Lions football program last Monday has centered on star running back Silas Reed, junior quarterback Rob Bolden’s name grabbed headlines this morning as various press outlets verified the former starter under center for PSU was given release from scholarship Sunday evening by head coach Bill O’Brien.
This, of course, isn’t the first time Bolden has been said to be on his way out of State College. In January 2011, Bolden was rumored to have contemplated transferring – much to the chagrin of then-head coach Joe Paterno, who denied the quarterback’s request to leave – while just this past May, reports circulated that the rising junior was weighing leaving the program after falling to third-string on the depth chart behind Matt McGloin and Paul Jones.
But this time, things appear permanent.
Fueled by the disenchantment felt from going from starter under center as a freshman – Bolden was, in fact, the first true freshman to open a season at quarterback for Penn State in 100 years when he took the helm of the Nittany Lions’ offense back in 2010 – the No. 3 passer under new head coach Bill O’Brien, plus the unbearable weight of sanctions which would prevent Bolden from ever piloting PSU to victory in college football’s post-season during his remaining time on campus, the recruiting highlight of Penn State’s Class of 2010 suddenly seems destined to become a distant afterthought.
Where might Bolden surface again? The New Orleans Times Picayune reported Sunday morning Bolden was making an official visit to LSU over the weekend and strongly considering the possibility of transferring to Baton Rouge, where he would provide some much needed depth behind presumed starter at quarterback for the Tigers, Zach Mettenberger.
Striking about this story, however, is not so much who Bolden might play for come this fall – though, as Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports points out, how fortunate would the junior be to land on a team in LSU “that will likely start the 2012 season ranked in the top five, if not No. 1, in most preseason polls.” – but just how much Bolden might benefit from having been at the wrong place at the right time.
Bolden, after all, is eligible to transfer to another school without penalty – as is any current Penn State football player seeking to leave the program prior to the start of the 2012 season.
Normal NCAA regulations regarding transfer of a player from one institution to another at the Division I level maintain a player must sit out one year before being able to suit up for his new team, less special exception is made by the NCAA itself.
In regards to the current situation at Penn State though those same rules don’t apply, and a player can transfer out of the program and be immediately eligible to play football starting this fall – a stipulation provided Penn State players as a means of not punishing the individual, but rather the institution to which sanctions were handed down.
That Redd very likely could be heading to Los Angeles in the next few days in order to play for Lane Kiffin at USC is perhaps the purest example of what the NCAA’s ruling regarding Penn State football players and transfers was intended to do – let a student-athlete who otherwise would have remained in State College go elsewhere in order to further his collegiate football career outside the scope of sanctions best described as crippling.
Bolden, however, would appear a different story. It’s no secret, after all, that the passer has long been unhappy with his situation at Penn State and, given the opportunity, would sooner leave Happy Valley behind rather than sit second (third?) fiddle to another quarterback.
Thanks to the sanctions levied against the Nittany Lions, Bolden now has the chance to do just that - and still retain his eligibility to play in 2012.
Ultimately, Bolden’s departure won’t likely hurt Penn State to any specific degree, with The Patriot-News noting the Nittany Lions still retain three scholarship quarterbacks (McGloin, Jones, and true freshman Steven Bench).
In fact, many within the program – including O’Brien, who when asked about Bolden’s standing at Big Ten Media Days last week, responded, “At this point he’s with us, and that’s all I can comment on.” (The Altoona Mirror) - may even find Bolden’s transfer a blessing in disguise.
But that Bolden – the same quarterback who back in 2011 told the Mirror he was “pretty upset” with Paterno because of the coach’s refusal to release him from scholarship, pointedly commenting, “I didn’t understand why [Paterno] would want me to stay if I didn’t want to be there. I was looking to get out and get a release …” – might benefit from the circumstances that have befallen and darkened the Penn State football program recently somehow seems unfair.
Making matters worse, a source told ESPN.com Sunday afternoon that Bolden was “technically off the team once he was released from his scholarship – before the NCAA’s sanctions against the university were handed down …”
If true, Bolden very well may have dodged a HUGE bullet thanks to the NCAA’s interpretation of the Freeh Report, discovering an unintentional loophole where, in reality, none existed.
Sad that coincidence should intervene in such a way, in such a matter.
And ironic that the Nittany Lions first freshman to open a season at quarterback would also potentially end up its first player to turn its back on the university when the tables turned on the program he once played as a heralded star for.