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Time for JoePa to shuffle into retirement

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The child abuse sex scandal that has rocked Penn State over the past few days has sparked horror, outrage and plenty of opinion, particularly in light of the school’s latest bumbling misstep to cancel at the last minute a press conference scheduled for Tuesday.

But, more than anything, I have questions.  Many, many questions, chief of which is this: Why did Joe Paterno not go to the authorities when it became clear that the athletic director and president and everyone in between were going to keep the 2002 incident — you know, the one where Jerry Sandusky was witnessed by a grad assistant sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the shower of the football building — in house, under the rug. From the moment I read the grand jury’s findings, that was the one thing — the reprehensible coverup notwithstanding — I simply couldn’t shake.

Why did Coach Paterno, who has carte blanche when it comes to the keys to the Nittany Lion kingdom, not assert the authority, power and influence he had banked during his more than half a century at the school to do something, anything, more than the bare minimum as required by law?  In 2004 or thereabouts, when athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier reportedly came to his house and asked him to resign, Paterno kicked his bosses out the door and continued coaching.  Certainly a man who can tell his bosses when he will or won’t step down as the head football coach can go over the heads of those same bosses and report suspected criminal activity, particularly as it involved innocent, defenseless children.

In the grand jury’s findings, one of Paterno’s graduate assistants, unnamed but later identified as current wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, witnessed in 2002 “a naked boy… whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall [of a shower], being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”  After discussing with his father what he had witnessed, McQueary “went to Paterno’s home, where he reported what he had seen.”  Paterno testified in front of the grand jury in January that he “called… Curley to his home the next day, a Sunday, and reported to [Curley] that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

The only action taken by Curley and others upon hearing the allegations?  Banning Sandusky from bringing children onto the campus, an “unenforceable action” signed off on by President Spanier. That’s it.  No authorities called, no attempts to even track down the victim.  Nothing, merely a slap on the wrist for the most horrific of allegations.

And, incredibly, no other action other than the bare minimum by Coach Paterno.

Where was the storied Paterno leadership when that victim needed it most?  How many more kids became victims because nobody at Penn State, up to and including Paterno, did anything to put a stop to a predator on their own campus, in their own football building, after that incident in 2002 as well as the one in 1998?  Based on the letter of the law, the state’s attorney general’s office has determined Paterno did everything he was supposed to.  He handed the information he obtained from McQueary over to Curley and others.  Morally, as a human being, he, along with many, many others, failed miserably.

JoePa could’ve done more.  As a man with as righteous a moral compass as you’ll find in the sport, and as powerful as he is at that university and in that state, he should’ve done more.

I’ve long felt that Paterno, because of the legacy he has built and how he had built it in more than six decades in Happy Valley, deserved to step down, retire, whatever of his own accord when he damn well felt like it.  Based on the information that’s come out since last Friday, there’s really only one opinion that can be reached:  it’s time for Coach Paterno to realize that the time to step down is after this season comes to an end, if not sooner.

As gracefully as possible given the current scandal and his blatant inaction other than the bare minimum, Coach Paterno needs to announce that this will be his final season — or, better yet, that he has coached his final game — and he will be ending his 46-year run as the Nittany Lions’ coach.

Don’t do any more damage than what’s already been done by fighting it, either publicly or privately.  The last season had to come sooner or later.  For those that still believe in you, make it this season, Coach Paterno.

The end of a storied coaching career under these circumstances is sad on at least some level.  It can’t even remotely compare, however, to the horrors those victims endured at the hands of one of Paterno’s most trusted lieutenants, some of whom may have escaped the predator’s grasp if just someone, anyone had alerted authorities in 2002.

And that’s what this all boils down to: because of the inaction and active coverup of individuals at Penn State University, Jerry Sandusky was permitted to continue preying on children.  And, because of this, Coach Paterno and others have forfeited their right to be gainfully employed by a publicly-funded state institution.

“I’m infuriated that people would not report something like that,” the mother of one of the victims told the Patriot-News. “I still can’t believe it. I’m appalled. I’m shocked. I’m stunned. There’s so many words. I’m very mad. They could have prevented this from happening.”

Not could have, should have.  And that’s precisely why heads should rightly roll, immediately and without hesitation.

(Photo credit: AP)

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.