The chief administrative officer of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio 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 Penn State 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 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (No. 5), Meineke Car Care of Texas (No. 6) and Little Caesars (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. Penn State, 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."
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."