Joe Paterno: 1926-2012

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Sadly, the grim reports that dominated the college football news cycle beginning Saturday evening were a precursor to the inevitable but still numbing reality: a coaching legend has passed.

A family spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press that Joseph Vincent Paterno has died at a State College hospital at the age of 85, just over two months after being diagnosed with a form of lung cancer.  A posting to Penn State’s official Facebook page read simply: “With great sadness we mourn the passing of Coach Joe Paterno…Few have done more.”

Paterno passed away at 9:25 a.m. ET Sunday, and the official cause of death was metastic small cell carcinoma of the lung.

The legendary former Penn State head coach was surrounded by family and friends, who had been summoned to the on-campus hospital when Paterno’s health took a turn for the worse recently.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today,” a statement from the family read. “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

A statement attributed to university president Rodney Erickson and the Board of Trustees was released shortly after Paterno’s death.

“We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary and his commitment to education is unmatched in college football. His life, work and generosity will be remembered always.

“The University plans to honor him for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy. We are all deeply saddened.”

Paterno was born Dec. 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, NY, and, after his playing days at Brown University were complete, was hired as an assistant at Penn State in 1950.  Shortly after the 1965 season had ended, Paterno was named head coach of the Nittany Lions; for the next 46 years, Paterno lorded over Happy Valley as the face of both a football program and a university.

During his nearly five decades as head coach, Paterno accumulated 409 wins, the most in Div. I history; a record 37 appearances in bowl games; and two national championships.  As great of a coach as he was on the field, he was widely hailed as, at least until the events that have transpired since last November, an even greater man off of it, donating millions back to his beloved university and shaping the lives of untold numbers of players, coaches and other football support staff.

The legacy he had built in more than a half a century at the school, however, was threatened — or erased in the minds of some — by the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the football program specifically and the university in general.  Mere days after his former assistant was indicted on more than 50 charges relating to the sexual molestation of underage boys, Paterno was fired by the school’s board of trustees, which declared in a statement that their “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.”

Nine weeks after his final game Nov. 5 — eerily and vaguely similar time-wise to the passing of Bear Bryant after he had coached his last game at Alabama — Coach Paterno is gone.

Our condolences go out to his family, friends and every single person touched by a helluva coach and a great-but-fallible human being who will ultimately be defined by the totality of his life, both the good and the bad.

RIP Coach Paterno.

(Photo credit: NBCSports.com)

BYU wearing special patch in honor of LaVell Edwards

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BYU got the summer media day fun started on Friday with their football media day. BYU tends to pull out all the stops on its media day with coach and player interviews, alumni returning, and a handful of announcements about the future of the program. In addition to news about their relationship with ESPN, BYU also announced the football team will be sporting a patch this season in honor of the late LaVell Edwards.

In addition to players wearing the patch on their jerseys, BYU coaches will also wear the patch on their sleeves.

Edwards passed away in December at the age of 86. The BYU coaching legend spent 29 seasons on the sidelines in Provo and accumulated 257 wins along the way. Among those was a national championship season in 1984, which remains the most recent national championship to be claimed by a program not currently in a power conference. Edwards took 22 BYU teams to a bowl game.

Now if we can just keep getting BYU to stick to that lighter shade of blue as their main home uniform, we’ll be in great shape.

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.