Its players can immediately transfer to other schools and have instant eligibility. That looks like a killer. All of Penn State's Big Ten and national rivals will be pitching the starters. Won't there be a "tipping point" if several of them leave? Especially since Penn State is also banned from postseason bowls for the remainder of the current players' college careers. That's loss of valuable television exposure and a possible shot at a pro career.
And Penn State loses 40 football scholarships over the next four years.
Certainly some good football players will still attend Penn State, but not the future All-Americans that made the school's football program famous.
College football is moving closer to free agency.
Wisconsin has made a specialty of signing quarterbacks who started for other schools. My alma mater, Michigan, is probably already checking out the roster for some upgrades at, say, linebacker and offensive line, where we lost some good players to graduation. There is a big difference between starters and second-stringers, and if Penn State is forced to field several non-scholarship players the team will be slaughtered.
This isn't the NCAA death penalty but it sure looks like it.
Maybe Penn State holds most of its starters this year, but it will be harder next year. And the loyalty and courage of those players that remain is admirable, but Penn State versus Michigan in 2013 (they're not on the schedule in 2012) should be as mismatched as, oh, Michigan and Appalachian State.
As for the prospects of a permanent change in the culture of college football, you might as well look for a permanent change in the nation's attitude toward beer, pickup trucks, or hunting and fishing. In the same segment that reported the Penn State penalties, ESPN also reported the colleges with the most "blue-chip" high school football prospects. Nothing will change outside of Happy Valley.