Though he has three years of eligibility remaining, Brad Bars’ college career will include just one bowl game.
To the former Montgomery Bell Academy standout loyalty outweighs postseason play. On Thursday night, Bars, a sophomore defensive end, told The City Paper he will stay at Penn State, despite the four-year postseason ban handed down by the NCAA in response to the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
“It was hard. I had to think about it. I did pause a little bit but after that I realized my heart was at Penn State,” the 20-year-old Bars said. “It didn’t matter that we couldn’t go to a bowl game because if we go undefeated or we go 11-1 ... we’re going to know in our hearts that we’re the champion. No one needs to give us a trophy or anything to know that we’re champions.”
When the NCAA unleashed its sanctions on Monday — a $60 million fine, the postseason ban and reduced scholarships — the governing body also said any Penn State player could transfer without penalty.
Thus, Bars could have gone to any FBS school and played immediately this season. He said several coaches from SEC and Big 10 schools contacted him about transferring, including Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
“I had several opportunities to go ... [but] I just can’t do it,” Bars said. “I’m staying loyal to Penn State. We’ve got such a close family between my teammates — they’re like my brothers to me — and the coaching staff, I know they’re going to be upfront with me all the time. We’ve got the best fans in the world and the best alumni. And also the Penn State degree still means a great amount. As a finance major, the business school there is excellent.”
Bars, a former linebacker, redshirted the 2010 season but played in 11 games last year, including the TicketCity Bowl against Houston. He played 97 snaps primarily on special teams and made his biggest play when he blocked a punt in a win against Illinois.
When fall camp opens next week the 6-foot-3, 237-pounder expects to make a push for a spot in the defensive end rotation. Though 10 initial and 20 total scholarships will be reduced at Penn State each year for a four-year period, Bars said the coaching staff, led by first-year head coach Bill O’Brien, has guaranteed he will stay on full scholarship until his career ends.
“All we can do is move forward right now,” said Bars, who made the Dean’s List last spring with at least a 3.5 GPA. “When everything came out, everyone was obviously disappointed and upset and angry about what happened. But the consensus on the team is we’re fighters and we’re loyal to each other and nothing is going to bring us down because we’ve been going through this for six or eight months already.”
Bars was a four-year starter under former MBA coach Dan McGugin. He was an all-state selection in 2009 and over his last two seasons he accumulated 179 tackles, 11 sacks and four interceptions. He was a sophomore on the Big Red’s state championship team in 2007 and led them back to the title game in 2009.
Bars is a third generation college football player. His maternal grandfather, Doug Eggleston, and uncle, Don Kolcheff both played at Michigan, while his father, Joe Bars, and uncle, Mike Bars, played at Notre Dame.
Tradition drew Bars to Penn State and even in light of the scandal he said his opinion of the late Joe Paterno hasn’t changed.
“I have absolute respect for Coach Paterno,” Bars said. “He has done so many good things in his lifetime whether it is contributing to the library, whether it is making sure we have the No. 1 graduation rate of all universities, whether it is pushing us to become better men, whether it is pushing to understand the value of everything we have. So Coach Paterno has taught me a lot about life. I will always cherish everything he has taught me. I have absolute respect for him.”