Joe Paterno, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell

Franco Harris blasts JoePa’s firing


After playing for Joe Paterno from 1969-1971, Franco Harris has remained staunchly loyal to his former head coach in the ensuing decades.

Despite the circumstances surrounding Paterno’s firing late Wednesday night, the former Nittany Lion and Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Harris remains a very vocal supporter of the former head coach.  In fact, Harris may be even more resolute now in that support than he was prior to the events that came to light exactly a week ago today.

In an interview with Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the NFL Hall of Famer blasted his alma mater’s Board of Trustees for their decision to fire Paterno.  In Harris’ mind, the decision amounted to nothing more than making Paterno a scapegoat for a deeper institutional issue.

“I feel that the board made a bad decision in letting Joe Paterno go,” Harris told the Tribune-Review. “I’m very disappointed in their decision. I thought they showed no courage, not to back someone who really needed it at the time. They were saying the football program under Joe was at fault.

“They really wouldn’t give a reason. They’re linking the football program to the scandal and, possibly, the cover up. That’s very disturbing to me. … I think there should be no connection to the football program, only in the case that it happened at the football building with an ex-coach. I’m still trying to find out who gave him access to the building, who signed that contract.”

Harris also questioned those who have stated Paterno and others had a moral obligation to go beyond the letter of the law and report the sexual abuse of a child, including the Pennsylvania state police commissioner.

“When I heard that, it blew my mind,” Harris said. “Why would they bring the moral into the legal? Now, everyone gets to interpret in their own way. That’s what really bothers me: Joe did what was right for him to do. He forwarded the information to his superiors. That’s the legal procedure at Penn State.

“If I had to choose today between the moral integrity and character of Joe Paterno and the politicians and commentators criticizing him, I would pick Joe Paterno, hands down, no contest every time.”

Harris is free to parse the legal and moral obligations of all who had knowledge of the allegations, but we’re guessing that the eight — or morealleged victims would have a different interpretation.

There’s nothing wrong with supporting your former coach, especially one as storied as Paterno.  There’s also nothing wrong with stating that, based on the information contained in the grand jury’s report, he’s culpable morally for sitting down when he should’ve been standing up for the victims.  Hell, even the coach himself recognizes that.

I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement announcing, before his firing, his retirement at season’s end.

Even hallowed legends have lapses in judgment, with the lapse in this case setting off a string of unintended but nonetheless tragic consequences for children who might have been kept from becoming victims of an alleged pedophile.  If Harris can’t see that, well, that’s on him and his blind loyalty.

Memphis suspends two in wake of physical altercation, shooting

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In a statement Wednesday night, Memphis head coach Mike Norvell confirmed that he has indefinitely suspended wide receiver Jae’Lon Oglesby and cornerback Kam Prewitt from his football program.

The teammates were reportedly involved in an on-campus physical altercation Tuesday.  Later that day, several gunshots were fired into Oglesby’s car while the receiver was sitting in his apartment. Oglesby told police he did not see who fired the shots, but did indicate that he had been involved in the altercation with Prewitt.

No one has been arrested in connection to either incident, and Memphis police are currently investigating the situation.

“I will make no further comments on this matter while it remains under investigation,” the Tigers coach said in his statement. Norvell’s decision to suspend the players came after consultation with athletic director Tom Bowen.

Bowen said in his own statement that the university has “offered our full support to the local authorities investigating that incident.”

The past two seasons, Oglesby, a sophomore, has caught 25 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.  Five of those catches and 46 of the yards have come in 2016.  He also has carried the ball eight times for 64 yards.

A redshirt freshman, Prewitt has yet to play a down for the Tigers.  According to the Commercial Appeal he was suspended during summer camp for undisclosed reasons.

Florida’s leading tackler a game-time decision vs. Georgia

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Ross Comis #2 of the Massachusetts Minutemen passes Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators to score a touchdown during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Whether Florida will have its leading tackler for its annual rivalry game with Georgia won’t be known (still) for another couple of days.

The good news is that, for the first time since severely spraining his ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, Jarrad Davis returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.  If the linebacker takes the field for the UGA game, it won’t be known until Saturday shortly before kickoff.

“Obviously, that will be one of those that it’s got to be right with him, got to be right with the doctors. We’ll see. Kind of game time,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought he moved pretty well. One of the tackling circuits he got beat up by one of the sleds. The sled bit back, but it was good to see. The opportunity to play in this game is something that’s real special and that guy is a real big part of our team. He’ll do anything he can to help us.”

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

While the status of Davis remains up in the air, McElwain did confirm that two starting defensive linemen, end Jordan Sherit and tackle Joey Ivie, will play against the Bulldogs.  Sherit underwent arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago while Ivie had surgery performed on his thumb the week before.  Additionally, starting defensive end Bryan Cox has a chance to play despite his own thumb injury.

BYU, Utah announce ‘Holy War’ extension through 2022

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes runs for a touchdown against defensive back Micah Hannemann #7 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Thankfully, one of the more underrated in-state rivalries isn’t going away anytime soon.

BYU and Utah announced Thursday that the schools have reached an agreement on a two-game extension of their series.  The Cougars will host the first game of the extension Sept. 11, 2021, in Provo while the Utes will return the favor Sept. 3 the following season in Salt Lake City.

The schools had previously agreed to games from 2017 through the 2020 season.

“BYU-Utah is one of the great college rivalries in the country. There’s a lot of history and tradition between the two schools and I’m glad we were able to extend the series through 2022,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in a statement. “I’ve loved this rivalry as a player, coach and administrator, and look forward to the future games.”

The teams have played 91 times since the series kicked off in 1922.  The Utes hold a 56-31-4 advantage all-time, including a 20-19 win earlier this season.

Jimbo Fisher rules Derwin James out of Clemson game

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When Derwin James went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2, Florida State had the Clemson game circled as a potential date for a return.  Unfortunately for both the player and the team, that won’t be the case.

On his weekly call-in show Wednesday night, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that James and his surgically-repaired knee will not play in the Seminoles’ game this Saturday against the Tigers.  There is still no timetable for the sophomore safety’s return.

Hopefully Derwin will be back here soon,” the head coach said.

One thing apparently off the table is a redshirt for James as Fisher said if the defensive back can return at any point this season he will.

The Clemson game will mark the sixth straight missed by James.  FSU will close out the regular season against North Carolina State (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 11), Syracuse (Nov. 19) and Florida Nov. 26).

In less than two full games this season, James was credited with 11 tackles and also has an interception.

As a true freshman last season, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists, and is widely considered one of the most talented players on the defensive side of the ball in the country.