Rose Bowl would welcome Penn St if it earns bid

The chief administrative officer of the Rose Bowl says if Penn

State wins the Big Ten title, the Nittany Lions will be free to

play in the top-tier postseason game as far as he’s concerned.

Kevin Ash said Thursday that the Rose Bowl would let the Big Ten

decide if there is a reason its champion shouldn’t play the Pac 12

winner in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 2.

”Whoever the champions are,” Ash said, ”we’ll welcome with

open arms.”

There have been calls for Penn State to decline a bowl bid in

the aftermath of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former

defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The scandal led to the

firings of coach Joe Paterno and the school president.

New PSU president Rod Erickson didn’t give a definitive answer

last week when asked about a prospective bowl bid.

”We’ll wait and see at the appropriate time what decision is

made,” Erickson said. ”At this point, the expectation would be

where they deserve to play, they will play.”

Interim coach Tom Bradley also has said he hopes his team plays

in a bowl.

The Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-1) are among eight bowl-eligible teams

in the Big Ten and are alone in first place in the Leaders Division

with two regular-season games left.

Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman said his conference has taken no

position on whether Penn State should accept a bowl bid and that

the league’s selection procedure would not be altered because of

the scandal.

Capital One Bowl chief executive Steve Hogan, whose bowl is No.

2 in the Big Ten selection order, said his committee would base its

matchup on on-the-field performance and that it would be unfair to

penalize players who had nothing to do with the scandal. Sandusky,

who is accused of molesting eight boys over 15 years and says he is

innocent, retired from Penn State in 1999.

Spokesmen for the Outback and Insight bowls, Nos. 3 and 4 in the

Big Ten order, declined to comment on how Penn State would be

viewed by their selection committees.

The Gator (No. 5), Meineke Car Care (No. 6) and Little Caesars

Pizza (No. 8) bowls didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Tom Star, president and chief executive of the TicketCity Bowl,

the Big Ten’s No. 7 bowl, said he wouldn’t hesitate to take Penn

State if the Lions were available.

”Our uppermost thoughts are with the victims,” Star said. ”I

don’t think anyone has been dealt more of an injustice in life than

them. I think it would be a further injustice if the right to play

in a bowl game was taken from the players. I don’t see how it helps

the situation. It’s not an academic situation, it has nothing to do

with the players on the current team, and there are no NCAA

violations.”

Penn State is still very much in the running for the Rose

Bowl.

The Lions are a game ahead of Wisconsin in the Leaders Division

and would clinch a spot in the inaugural Big Ten championship game

on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis if it wins road games against Ohio State

and Wisconsin the next two weeks. PSU, with help, could get to the

title game even if it loses one of those games.

The Rose Bowl matches the winner of the Big Ten and Pac 12

unless one of the conference champions is Nos. 1 or 2 in the BCS

standings. In that case, the Big Ten or Pac 12 team is released to

play in the BCS title game and the conference runner-up takes the

champion’s spot in the Rose Bowl.

The Big Ten-Pac 12 agreement with the Rose Bowl has been in

place since 1946.

”Based on our long-standing relationship,” Ash said, ”we

would embrace any champion from the Big Ten Conference.”

Hosting the Nittany Lions this year would certainly mean dealing

to some degree with the Sandusky scandal. But fan interest in how

Penn State responds to its first bowl game without Paterno in

almost a half century would likely draw ratings, too.

Rose Bowl spokeswoman Gina Chappin said she couldn’t predict how

the public would feel about Penn State playing in one of college

football’s premier games. Chappin said Rose Bowl officials have not

discussed any potential backlash from inviting Penn State.

”I don’t think we can control public opinion on this,” she

said. ”We can’t emphasize enough how sensitive a subject this is.

I think it really is going to be a split story out there for people

who still have anger or are upset versus the people who try to pull

together and see through this should they come to Pasadena.”

Hogan, of the Capital One Bowl, said the child sex-abuse scandal

won’t be a factor when, and if, his selection committee considers

Penn State.

”It’s about what they’ve earned on the field and how it

compares to their brethren in the Big Ten,” Hogan said. ”Anything

that comes with that we’ll deal with.”

Associated Press writer Genaro Armas in State College, Pa.,

contributed to this story.