Louis  Freeh, Ken Frazier

Five questions the Freeh report should (hopefully) answer

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In a little under 12 hours from now, the Freeh report investigating Penn State’s actions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal will come to light.

Leaked emails to multiple media outlets over the past several weeks suggest the contents of the report will be nothing short of devastating to the upstanding reputation PSU has spent decades building. Most notably, the emails hint that several people, possibly including former coach Joe Paterno, willingly covered up incidents of child-sex abuse by Sandusky. But, outside of those select messages sent among university admins, we know almost nothing about the details of the report.

The lack of information, the absence of true details, has been perhaps the most frustrating portion of the Sandusky scandal from its beginning because it’s left us with nothing but questions. How could a man convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse have been allowed to prey on young boys using his charity, The Second Mile, and his university as avenues for as long as he did?

Rightfully so, you want answers. I want answers.

Will we get all the answers we want? Certainly not. I would even count on more questions being raised.

But, for now, here’s what I’m looking for in the Freeh report:

1. Exactly what did Paterno do when informed by Mike McQueary of the Sandusky allegation in 2001?
This should be obvious. Paterno’s actions in the Sandusky scandal have been the lead talking points since the story broke open last November. I’m a firm believer that Paterno should not — nor will not — be the only person blamed in this tragedy. There are others, perhaps several depending on the information provided in the results of the investigation, who deserve equal if not greater scrutiny. But I also believe Paterno was not just a head coach and to suggest that the face of an institution of higher education was somehow able to do no more than pass a message up the proverbial chain of command is insulting.

Which leads me to question 1b: did Paterno fail to do the right thing, or purposefully look the other way? Emails obtained by CNN claim that former Penn State VP Gary Schultz had planned to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare in 2001, but that changed following a conversation, presumably with Paterno.

2. Who else knew of the allegations and remained silent or otherwise aided in a possible cover-up?
To date, there are five members of Penn State who have been identified as major players in this story: McQueary, Paterno, Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier. Who else inside Penn State, if anyone, knew about allegations against Sandusky, or perhaps noticed odd behavior from Sandusky themselves? Emails obtained by CNN show former VP of student affairs Vicky Triponey had heated arguments with Curley and Spanier over the supposed culture of the athletic department, which apparently preferred to handle matters internally. Yes, Triponey had an ax to grind, but a culture is not limited to the actions of one or two people.

3. Did someone, anyone, at Penn State know about Sandusky’s red flags before 2001?
Penn State officials have given mixed responses on this. Curley said previously he had some recollection of a 1998 investigation of Sandusky, while Schultz claimed to have never heard of it. The misjudgment alone — if that is indeed the case — is despicable considering the subject matter, the person in question and the rank of those who should absolutely be on the same page. I would venture to guess, though, that it wasn’t a miscommunication. Sandusky was an active, high-profile member of his community. Perhaps it is for that reason that if someone did know about his history of being a “likely pedophile” (in the opinion of one child psychologist) that it was never addressed.

4. What’s up with the school’s Board of Trustees?
At least one trustee suspects a cover-up. Several of you have voiced suspicion that the board is in on it too. The curiosity surrounding the board and what they may or may not have known lends itself, at least indirectly, to the two previous questions above. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in January that the board had been briefed on a Sandusky investigation last year — possibly as early as last May.  Assuming the timeline is correct, that would create a roughly six-month gap between the point where the board was made aware of the investigation and its decision to fire Paterno and Spanier last November.

And, don’t forget, the board has a meeting on Friday.

5. Will there be evidence that piques the interest of the NCAA? 
To be clear, and I’m not alone in this line of thought, I don’t think the NCAA has the jurisdiction to get involved with Penn State, let alone administer something as severe as the death penalty… as of right now. Today, July 11, 2012, the Sandusky scandal and any possible cover-up of his actions is a violation of the law, not of athletic rules. Involving itself with Penn State solely over criminal acts because it breaches some ethical code or bass ackwards “lack of institutional control” rhetoric is shattering the boundaries of the NCAA’s capabilities.

Now, if the Freeh report finds Penn State athletic officials covered up or failed to report an impermissible benefit or practice time overage on a separate occasion, then by all means, the Committee on Infractions can hammer them however it sees fit. But the NCAA cannot, should not, take matters of the law into its own hands.

Pat Narduzzi believes Pitt RB James Conner will play in 2016

In this photo taken Nov. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, right, applauds a touchdown by his team next to James Conner in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Pittsburgh. Conner spent the last three months weighing whether to return next fall or head to the NFL after a torn knee ligament ended his junior season before it really began. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MONESSEN OUT; KITTANNING OUT; CONNELLSVILLE OUT; GREENSBURG OUT; TARENTUM OUT; NORTH HILLS NEWS RECORD OUT; BUTLER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
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The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.

“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”

The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.

The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs for a first down against Temple during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Houston won 24-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.

Former Wolverine Brian Cole transferring to Kentucky

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013, file photo, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops watches from the sideline during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. Stoops has recruited some high-level talent since coming to Lexington three years ago and the Wildcats have taken substantial steps forward. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File
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Maybe it’s the new uniforms. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. Whatever the reason, former Michigan wide receiver and defensive back Brian Cole is heading to Kentucky.

Cole was a four-star recruit in Michigan’s Class of 2015. The second-ranked player from the state of Michigan was a significant addition to the Wolverines by then first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, which helps make his decision to leave for another program now a bit interesting to note considering the momentum seemingly being generated in Ann Arbor. He was released from his scholarship in Michigan in January.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Cole will be forced to sit out the 2016 season and will be eligible to return to the playing field again in 2017. The good news for Cole is he will still have three years of eligibility remaining.

Cole appeared in two games for the Wolverines in 2015, but he spent most of the season held back by injury issues. His addition to the Kentucky roster is a big win for head coach Mark Stoops, who has developed a little bit of a habit for adding some talented transfers to his program in Lexington.

Michigan and Notre Dame could be rekindling their football series

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 1994, file photo, Notre Dame's Derrick Mayes (1) pulls in a touchdown catch in front of Michigan's Chuck Winters (35) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. Mayes may have grabbed this spectacular catch for a score, but Michigan's Remy Hamilton kicked four field goals, including a 42-yarder with 2 seconds left, to give the Wolverines a 26-24  victory. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)
AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File
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The bitter divorce between Michigan and Notre Dame on the football field could soon be forgiven. There are hints and clues the series could be heading to a revival.

Michigan athletics director Jim Hackett started lighting the fire for the rivalry series renewal discussion last week when he mentioned during a radio interview the two schools have opened communication on the subject.

“I will tell you this, the relationship is good, and it started with [Jim Harbaugh] and coach [Brian Kelly] working together on a desire to play together,” Hackett said. “But (there’s) nothing firm yet.”

In 2013, when the two schools were beginning to play what was to be their final game son the existing contract, Kelly downplayed the rivalry with Michigan by noting it has not been one of the best rivalries in Notre Dame’s history. In his defense, he is right. In fact, Notre Dame has a more storied history with Michigan State, not to mention USC or Navy.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

Kelly did later go on to say he was optimistic the series with Michigan would return in the future. Harbaugh was quick to follow up on the idea of playing Notre Dame again. Now we just sit and wait to see when that may become a possibility.

Scheduling for both Michigan and Notre Dame have become a bit more complex in more recent years than it used to be. Notre Dame is part of an ACC scheduling rotation that guarantees a certain number of power conference opponents from the ACC each season and the Irish continue rivalry game son an annual basis with USC, Stanford and Navy. Michigan is moving to a nine-game Big Ten schedule with the requirement to play at least one power conference opponent in its non-conference slate each season. The Wolverines already have that requirement met through the 2027 season but have shown a willingness to schedule two power conference opponents in a season, which is the case in 2020 and 2021 (games vs. Washington and Virginia Tech in alternating home-and-home deals).