Town hall meeting prompts statement on Paterno’s dismissal

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It’s been exactly nine weeks and one day since Penn State issued a statement declaring that its Board of Trustees had “determined that it is in the best interest of the University for Joe Paterno to no longer serve as head football coach, effective immediately.”

The abrupt and what some considered heartless end to a 46-year head-coaching career at, and a 62-year association with, the school did not sit well with many individuals connected to the university.  Two months later, it’s still not sitting well, apparently.

At a series of town hall meetings that began Wednesday and was intended to address how the school handled — or bungled — the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal before and after it came to the public light, president Rodney Erickson was peppered with questions by the alumni in attendance regarding the manner in which Paterno was dismissed.  As a result of those questions, the university decided to release a statement from board chairman Steve Garban.

Here’s Garban’s statement, in its entirety:

Many alumni have asked why the Board decided to remove Coach Paterno from his position as Head Football Coach.

On Wednesday, November 9, Coach Paterno announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2011 football season. Given the nature of the serious allegations contained in the Grand Jury Report and the extraordinary circumstances then facing the University, the Board’s unanimous judgment was that Coach Paterno could not be expected to continue to effectively perform his duties and that it was in the best interests of the University to make an immediate change in his status.  Therefore, the Board acted to remove Coach Paterno from his position as Head Football Coach effective as of that date.

Coach Paterno remains employed by the University as a tenured faculty member. The details of his retirement are being worked out and will be made public when they are finalized.  Generally speaking, the University intends to honor the terms of his employment contract and is treating him financially as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 football season.

That’s all well and good, but what we’re anxiously awaiting is a statement on why Sandusky, months after the school was made aware of the grand jury investigation into the alleged pedophile and a week before his indictment, was sitting in the president’s box for a Nittany Lions-Illinois game Oct. 29 at Beaver Stadium.  With tickets provided by then-athletic director Tim Curley.

The reasoning behind that immensely disturbing development, more so than the minutia behind the firing of a head football coach, is what university officials might consider addressing in future town hall meetings.  And something for which those same alumni questioning how Paterno was dismissed should demand an answer to just as loudly.

UPDATED 8:26 p.m. ET: Shortly after Penn State issued its statement, Scott Paterno, one of the coach’s sons, issued a statement of his own in which he again charged that the dismissal was not handled well:

“It is helpful to have on the record the Board’s position re my father’s status with the University. As has become apparent, the termination on November 9, with no notice or hearing, was not handled well. Joe Paterno has reiterated from the beginning that the first priority in this crisis is to serve the best interests of the victims.

“He believes strongly that everyone involved is entitled to due process.

“He also thinks that a wholesale attack on the football program and Penn State’s academic record, as has happened in some quarters, is unjustified. This is a crisis that deserves thoughtful and thorough review. In the course of that review and analysis, however, the legitimate achievements of this University and the many good people who worked so hard to build it into a world class institution should not be disrespected. My parents are unwavering in their loyalty and dedication to Penn State.”

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.