First, he was gone. Then, he was back.
Now, Manny Bowen’s career with Penn State’s football program seems to be over again.
The senior linebacker’s name was noticeably absent from the first 2018 regular roster Penn State released on Monday, and Lions247 quickly confirmed through the athletic department that Bowen is no longer with the program.
Bowen was initially suspended for a violation of team rules last October, and head coach James Franklin said in December that Bowen would be gone from the program on a permanent basis. But, at the team’s annual media day earlier this month, Franklin announced Bowen was back with the team, which was welcomed news for a program that could use a veteran at the linebacker position. Even though he played in just nine games last season, he finished with 51 tackles, good for fifth-best on the defense. He was also arguably the best pass-rushing linebacker the Nittany Lions had.
That said, Franklin won’t always come right out and say what’s going on. But, if you listen closely enough, he’ll tell you what’s going on. And it was clear from both his and defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s words during their media day press conferences that Bowen’s status with the team had plenty of conditions stapled to it.
“I think probably the biggest part of that is Manny graduates in December, and we felt like this plan was going to give him the best opportunity to graduate in December and leave with his degree,” Franklin said at the time. “But we didn’t make it easy on him. I was surprised when he said, ‘I’m going to try to grind this thing out.’ Because the easiest thing to do would have been just to transfer. We put a bunch of stipulations out and he met those stipulations.
“I can’t tell you what his role on the team is going to be like to be honest with you. I have no idea.”
Added Pry: “In my mind, I’m not planning on Manny Bowen right now. With what we know, the information we have, that’s the way this thing’s playing out right now, and if things change, we’ll take another look at it.”
Things like that get said about players getting second chances all the time, then they wind up being contributors once the feathers fly. But the recent history with Franklin is that if he sounds skeptical, there’s a reason. So, Penn State is back to where we all thought it was at the linebacker position heading into camp. Young and inexperienced pretty much all around. But talented.
UPDATE, Aug. 28: Looks like Manny Bowen decided to focus on his studies rather than football, according to my pal Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call.
Penn State LB Cam Brown said that Manny Bowen "told us he wanted to focus on school and get his degree." On Monday, Penn State confirmed that Bowen no longer is with the program.
— Mark Wogenrich (@MarkWogenrich) August 28, 2018
This is probably best for all sides, honestly. The coaches seemed much more concerned about Bowen getting to the finish line with his degree — and he has always been a good student — than they were with him contributing this season. Now, he can make graduating his singular focus.
UPDATE, Aug. 28: Bowen released a statement through his Twitter account.
— Manny Bowen (@mannybowen43) August 28, 2018
The bottom line is, Bowen’s statement echoes what Cam Brown said earlier in the day, that he left the program to focus on getting his degree.
That being said, the statement leaves open the possibility that Bowen will look to resume his career next season. He’d have been a true senior this season, which means he has a year of eligibility left. So, conceivably, he could look to move on somewhere else as a graduate transfer next year and play immediately.