Sponsors face dilemma in Happy Valley

On the heels of the Freeh Report and the NCAA’s drastic sanctions, Penn State sponsors face a major dilemma.

The worst, and I hesitate to use the phrase public relations scandal, to rock college athletics since SMU in the 80s will leave the Nittany Lions football program beleaguered, arguably, until at least 2020. Without the motivation of postseason play and considering the staggering restrictions placed on current and future recruiting, this post-Paterno era will undoubtedly be marked by mediocrity and ambivalence from fans and players alike.

Without the NCAA’s so-called “death penalty,” the Nittany Lions football team will take the field in 2012. But will they do so with the backing of their sponsors?

State Farm joins Sherwin-Williams and Cars.com as the latest advertiser to pull its support from Penn State media properties. A spokesperson for the insurance giant, an in-stadium and radio broadcast partner for the last 20 years, said the decision was made prior to Monday when the NCAA released its sanctions. State Farm pledged to maintain its support of other Penn State sports, such as men’s basketball.

Other brands are sure to follow suit – a tough pill to swallow for the Penn State athletic department, of which the football program accounts for a whopping 51% of revenue.

It will be interesting to see whether local properties, like many Penn State students and alumni, will remain loyal to the late Coach Paterno and their beloved Nittany Lions.

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