Nittany Lions’ future bowl hopes improve

Penn State’s football program still has two years left on its bowl ban as part of the NCAA sanctions, but Friday brought hope that the Nittany Lions night become bowl eligible sooner than that and perhaps as early next year.

Former Sen. George Mitchell, the independent monitor overseeing Penn State’s progress in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, addressed the school’s Board of Trustees on Friday. He praised the university for demonstrating “an unwavering commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the athletics integrity agreement.”

If Penn State continues on its current path of compliance, Mitchell said he could be in position in his annual report next September to recommend further reductions in the sanctions against the football program.

Two months ago, Mitchell’s positive recommendation led to the NCAA restoring football scholarships at a much quicker rate than initially called for by the sanctions.

Aside from getting back the scholarships, being eligible to play in a bowl game is the next major step for the football program.

Mitchell made no promises about which sanctions could be reduced next year, even when asked specifically about the bowl ban.

“It’s premature to speculate on the precise nature of what further modifications may be possible,” Mitchell said.

He did add that reducing the bowl ban “is one [issue] that may be considered along with all others.”

Penn State was not eligible to play in a bowl game last year and also is ineligible this season.