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Five questions the Freeh report should (hopefully) answer

Louis  Freeh, Ken Frazier AP

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.

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Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly expected to start vs. Washington

Taylor Kelly, Jake Gallegos

There is no Wally Pipp situation breaking out in Tempe.

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham told the assembled media he expects Taylor Kelly to resume his roll atop the quarterback depth chart Saturday versus Washington.

Kelly hasn’t seen the field since leaving the Sun Devils’ Sept. 13 win over Colorado early with a foot injury.

Backup Mike Bercovici finished that game and started the next three. He threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns with two costly interceptions as the Sun Devils were bludgeoned over the head for a 62-27 loss to UCLA on Sept. 25, but the junior has rebounded nicely since then. He hit 27-of-45 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-34 stunner over USC, and threw for 245 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 26-10 win over Stanford.

Most importantly, Bercovici has not thrown an interception in 50 combined attempts over the last two seasons.

Alas, Kelly was the entrenched starter heading into this season, and the entrenched starter he will remain.

For the season, Kelly has completed 42-of-68 passes for 625 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 19 times for 168 yards and two more scores.

The 14th-ranked Sun Devils will visit Washington at 10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN this Saturday.

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Purdue loses linebacker Robinson to torn ACL

Sean Robinson, Malcom Agnew

Purdue senior linebacker Sean Robinson has played his final game of the 2014 season. Boilermakers head coach Darrell Hazell announced Monday Robinson tore his ACL in his right knee in a game earlier this season.

Robinson’s ACL was torn back on October 4 against Illinois. He recorded five tackles in the game before having to leave for medical treatment. He did not play in either of Purdue’s two most recent games, against Michigan State or Minnesota. Hazell said Robinson will undergo surgery later this month, on October 28.

Robinson was Purdue’s fourth-leading tackler this season with 42 tackles, including 27 solo tackles.

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Sorry Florida fans, Muschamp not going anywhere (yet)

Will Muschamp

As the season got off to a poor start in Gainesville, Florida, athletics director Jeremy Foley issued a statement saying the performance of head coach Will Muschamp and the direction of the football program would be evaluated at the end of the regular season. That still appears to be the case despite one of the worst losses the Gators have experienced in some time at the hands of Missouri.

“At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out,’’ Foley said in a statement released on the school’s athletics website. “We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia.”

Florida’s 42-13 loss at home to Missouri dropped the Gators to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. Florida still has games against Georgia in two weeks and Florida State at the end of the regular season. Coming off a blowout loss and going into a bye week feels about as good a time as any for a school to make an in-season coaching change. As it appears Muschamp will manage to hold onto the job, it would appear Muschamp will remain on the sideline in charge of the Florida program through the end of the regular season.

Making a change in season likely does nothing in terms of making changes for the future, other than showing fans change is coming. Florida should be attractive enough as a football program to lure just about any coach it would have its sights on, even with a potential vacancy opening up at a school like Michigan. There could be some former Florida assistants worth keeping an eye on as well, such as Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Steve Addazio at Boston College. Charlie Strong is another former Florida assistant as well, and is currently the head coach at Texas. Would Strong leave Texas for Florida?

We will see where Florida goes from here, but for now, the program is in the hands of Muschamp.

At least for another week or two.

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Media doesn’t learn lesson, Jimbo Fisher cuts interview short

Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Florida State is coming off its biggest win of the year, against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are now staring down a possible 12-0 regular season and third straight ACC championship en route to a spot in the first College Football Playoff. They will do so while facing all sorts of drama off the field surrounding Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. The focus on Winston may be getting to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher lashed out at media coverage of his program a week ago, and today he decided to cut an interview short after fielding too many questions about Winston.

Asked if there was any update on the university disciplinary hearing for Winston, Fisher attempted to shift the focus to Louisville in a similar fashion to how he did last week with Notre Dame.

“We’re moving on with Louisville and talking about the other things,” Fisher said. “Everything should be great.”

Fisher soon got hot under the collar and brought an end to the interview opportunity once questioned about his reputation.Fisher put his integrity on the line with his public defense of Winston, saying there was no crime committed because Winston was never charged. Coaches will come to the defense of their players, so this is not exactly going against the grain for Fisher, but to do so in such an adamant fashion and direct blame on media coverage opens Fisher up to possible warranted criticism if Winston is found guilty of violating the university code of conduct.

“I don’t want to get into this,” Fisher said. “These questions weren’t supposed to be asked today.”

If not today, Fisher, when would work best for you?

Fisher put his integrity on the line with his public defense of Winston, saying there was no crime committed because Winston was never charged. Coaches will come to the defense of their players, so this is not exactly going against the grain for Fisher, but to do so in such an adamant fashion and direct blame on media coverage opens Fisher up to possible warranted criticism if Winston is found guilty of violating the university code of conduct.

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Ohio State assistant Larry Johnson not bitter, looks forward to return to Penn State

Larry Johnson

Former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson has no bitter feelings about his previous employer, and he is looking forward to returning to Beaver Stadium this week.

Johnson is now a member of the Ohio State coaching staff. Urban Meyer was quick to pounce on Johnson after the longtime Penn State assistant stepped away form the program. Johnson had interest in the head coaching vacancy after Bill O’Brien left Penn State to coach the Houston Texans in the NFL, but Penn State opted to go with James Franklin. With Franklin bringing as much as his staff as possible from Vanderbilt, Johnson saw the writing on the wall and decided to move on from Penn State. Franklin made it clear from the day he was hired he is extremely loyal to his guys. That should have suggested Johnson was not coming back.

“I had a great time in 18 years at Penn State,” Johnson said Monday in a conference call with the media. “Made great friends and the great players I coached and have been a part of their lives for a long time. It’s a new job and a new place and a new school. So, I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Ohio State visits Penn State this weekend in a primetime Big Ten contest at Beaver Stadium. For the first time, Johnson will be coaching from the visiting sideline.

Penn State was hit hard by NCAA sanctions in recent years, but Johnson stepped up to keep things afloat as much as he possibly could. Johnson was named the interim head coach after O’Brien left for the NFL, but because this happened after the season Johnson’s job was more to keep the roster stabilized and keep the recruits calm. Johnson could have left Penn State a handful of times before for a more prominent role on a coaching staff as a defensive coordinator, but he stuck by Penn State through some tough times on and off the field. After giving the program as much as Johnson had, you could understand if Johnson had some hard feelings about Penn State after not being given a chance to be the head coach or even defensive coordinator, but he says that is not the case.

“There was no bitterness when I left,” Johnson said on Monday. “It was my decision to leave, it was my time to move on. I felt that, with Coach Franklin coming in with a new staff, he had a lot of guys he really liked a lot and I just felt it was the right thing to do to have a chance to step away from it for a while. It was a tough decision to make. But, looking back, it was the right decision to make. So, I have no bitterness at all.”

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Alabama starting center set to return this week

Florida v Alabama

Alabama certainly came back with a strong showing against Texas A&M after critics nitpicked a 14-13 victory over Arkansas enough to set head coach Nick Saban off. Now, as the Crimson Tide get set to travel to Tennessee, the offensive line should get a little stronger. Center Ryan Kelly will return to the starting line-up in the middle of the offensive line this week, according to Saban.

Kelly missed the last two games for Alabama with a minor knee sprain. While out of action, Alabama used redshirt freshman Bradley Bozeman in the middle of the line. As reported by Al.com, Kelly was dressed for Alabama’s game against Texas A&M but was not used. Also, starting right tackle Austin Shepherd injured his ankle or knee during the win over the Aggies that took him out of the game. He is expected to skip practice on Monday but should return after Monday.

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Clemson loses leading rusher to torn ACL

Clemson v Boston College

Clemson managed to avoid an upset at the hand of Boston College, but came at a cost. Freshman running back Adam Choice has been lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Saturday.

The injury occurred early in the game, on Clemson’s second offensive possession of the game. Choice will now rehab and work to return to the field in 2015. It should be expected Clemson will go light on him in the spring as a precaution, but if all goes well Choice will be back in the mix in 2015 for the Tigers. Choice ends his freshman season with 218 rushing yards and one touchdown.

With Choice now done for the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will be quick to try and get Tyshon Dye plugged in on offense. Dye tore his Achilles back in February. Dye has been practicing with the team recently and he made the trip up to Boston last weekend. Swinney says Dye is in good shape and said Sunday Clemson is close to getting Dye back on the field. Without Choice, Dye’s return may be accelerated if it does not pose a threat to his health.

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Texas Tech’s leading receiver treated for laceration from off-campus melee

Jakeem Grant, Lloyd Carrington

Texas Tech wide receiver Jakeem Grant was injured in an off-campus alumni gathering gone bad with a shooting and melee incident early Sunday morning. He was treated for a laceration and released at a nearby hospital, but his status with Texas Tech’s football program is unknown or unconfirmed at this time.

According to the information in a report by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, more than 20 rounds were fired from multiple weapons early Sunday morning, but the details of the incident appear to be hazy right now due to the number of people potentially involved. An officer providing details for the report suggested there is no way to tell right now what may have caused the laceration Grant was treated for. As of now, no arrests have been made for the incident that is currently being reviewed by authorities.

Through seven games, Grant is the leading receiver for Texas Tech with 629 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His 50 receptions this season lead the team.

UPDATE (11:55 a.m. ET): Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said on the weekly Big 12 conference call he is hopeful Grant will be able to play this weekend. Texas Tech will visit TCU this weekend.

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No update on QB Trevor Knight form Bob Stoops

Trevor Knight

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was forced to be taken out of Saturday’s game against Kansas State, but he did return. On Monday, during the weekly Big 12 coaches conference call, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops had no updates to share on Knight’s status moving forward.

Knight returned to Saturday’s game with a brace on his left arm. He was seen testing the flexibility in his elbow before heading to the locker room after being knocked out by Kansas State’s defense. Knight had taken off to run with the football when he stretched for some extra yards with a head-first dive. He landed on his left arm and required some medical attention that forced him to sit out the remainder of the offensive possession, but he returned the game after a brief absence. He was intercepted deep in his own side of the field, which Kansas State returned for a short touchdown, but he answered back on the next possession with a quick two-play, 69-yard touchdown drive.

Oklahoma is off this week. The Sooners return to Big 12 play next week with a road game at Iowa State.

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Heisman trust ‘erroneously’ removed integrity from Mission Statement after website redesign

Heisman Trophy

There was a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this month when Sports Illustrated noticed the word “integrity” was no longer part of the Heisman Trust’s Mission Statement. Now we know why: A mix-up in a redesign of the Heisman’s website.

“During the website creation process ‘integrity’ was erroneously omitted from the Trust mission statement by staff without Trust authorization,” Heisman Trust president William J. Dockery told Sports Illustrated.

Seems to me like that’s a pretty significant omission, especially at a time in which Jameis Winston’s integrity is being questioned and the Heisman front-runner was suspended for signing autographs for money.

But breathe easy, folks. The word integrity is back in the first line of the mission statement, which is now updated to read:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.

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The Will Muschamp era at Florida summed up in one stat

Will Muschamp AP

Florida held Missouri to 119 yards of offense on Saturday. Maty Mauk completed six of 18 passes for 20 yards while Mizzou combined to rush 31 times for 99 yards, barely a three-yards-per-carry average.

The final score: 42-13 Mizzou.

Three years ago, Florida State gained 95 yards on the Gators in the Swamp. E.J. Manuel completed six of 13 passes for 65 yards while the Seminoles rushed 46 times for 30 yards.

The final score: 21-7 Florida State.

Now take a look at this:

No doubt Will Muschamp will make an excellent defensive coordinator for someone when his time at Florida is up. And that time, one would think, will be up soon.

Hat-tip to Dan Wolken’s misery index for pointing out the stat.

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Archie Manning takes leave of absence from College Football Playoff selection committee

Logo No. 2 of four AP

Archie Manning will take a leave of absence from the College Football Playoff selection committee following complications stemming from a knee replacement surgery and will not participate in picking the four teams for the inaugural tournament this year.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was the first to report Manning’s decision to step down.

“It is an honor to serve on this committee, and I enjoy the group and was looking forward to the opportunity ahead,” Manning said in a statement. “My health had to be my primary concern and I intend to be up and about as soon as possible.”

Manning, the former Ole Miss quarterback and 1969 SEC Player of the Year, was one of 13 members of the selection committee, which will release its first top 25 rankings Oct. 28.

“We will miss Archie,” executive director of the College Football Playoff Bill Hancock said. “He has such a great knowledge of college football and history with the game, but we all understand his reason for taking a leave. I wish him all the best and look forward to his return in 2015.”

The College Football Playoff selection committee will not add a new member and will move forward with 12 members this year. The other members: Jeff Long (chair), Barry Alvarez, Mike Gould, Pat Haden, Tom Jernstedt, Oliver Luck, Tom Osborne, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Mike Tranghese, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.

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Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks ties Bear Bryant for sixth all-time with 323 wins

Ken Sparks

The football programs at Carson-Newman University and the University of Alabama have next to nothing in common beyond playing the same sport.

Until now.

Carson-Newman, a Division II school in Johnson City, Tenn., stormed back from a 35-27 halftime deficit to defeat Tusculum College 55-35 on Saturday, giving head coach Ken Sparks his 323rd all-time win. The victory moves Sparks – now 323-87-2 at Carson-Newman, a job he’s held continuously since 1980 – into a tie for sixth-place on the all-time victories chart with legendary Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who went 323-85-17 from 1945 to 1982.

“I told (my players) if anybody wanted to talk about the number of victories that I had, you tell them that I didn’t play a play,” Sparks told the Associated Press.

Sparks, 70, is now within striking distance of the top five, trailing legendary Mount Union coach Larry Kehres by just 10 victories. Saint John’s head coach John Gagliardi holds the all-time wins record at 489, followed by Grambling’s Eddie Robinson (408), Howard, West Virginia and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden (377), pre-modern era titan Glenn “Pop” Warner (336) and Kehres (332).

Sparks was diagnosed with prostate cancer over the summer of 2012, and earned his 300th career victory in his first game after the diagnosis.

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Upon further review, ACC defends offensive pass interference penalty against Notre Dame

Notre Dame at Florida State

Just as surgeons are highly unlikely to announce they botched it, officials are very reluctant to announce one of their one got it wrong. Especially in a high-profile case like the decisive call that took Notre Dame’s would-be game-winning touchdown off the board Saturday night at Florida State.

NDFSU

In the wake of the call, the ACC trotted coordinator of football officials Doug Rhoads out to explain the ruling.

“Offensive players on passing plays are restricted from going downfield and blocking anytime from the snap,” he said. “If the ball is first touched behind the line of scrimmage then that would be legal and it’s okay, but if it’s touched beyond the line then it’s offensive pass interference.”

Instead of kicking an extra point to take a 34-31 lead over second-ranked and defending national champion Florida State, Notre Dame faced a fourth-and-goal from the 18-yard line. Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson was pressured by Seminoles defensive back Jalen Ramsey, and his hurried pass sailed through the back of the end zone untouched. Final score: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 27.

Rhoads’ explanation isn’t going to make the loss any easier to swallow for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. In fact, Kelly said he had less clarity about the penalty a day later than he did when the flag first hit the Doak Campbell Stadium grass.

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Criticism of USC DC Justin Wilcox reportedly at core of spat between LenDale White and Pat Haden

LenDale White carries the ball Getty Images

“You can win championships for this program,” former USC running back LenDale White told the Los Angeles Times Saturday, “but you can’t voice your opinion.”

That opinion White is talking about is the opinion the former Trojan holds of USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. White tweeted the following during last Saturday’s game with Arizona, which USC eventually won on a last-second missed field goal.

Fast forward to Saturday. According to InsideSoCal.com, athletics director Pat Haden – no stranger to sideline drama - confronted White about his tweets, and the two began arguing. Following USC’s 56-28 defeat of Colorado, White tweeted the following:

The USC athletics department denies Haden kicked White out of L.A. Coliseum. Reached on the field following the game, White told the L.A. Times, “I’ve never met some of these coaches. I’ve never been a part of them. I am a Trojan 20,000%. I back them 120%. I just get emotional during football games. I’m sorry.”

Minutes later, White had changed his mind. “I feel that exact same way as I did last week,” White said, before the paper quoted him shouting, “Fire Sark tonight.” Again, this was minutes after USC won a conference game by 28 points. It’s also worth noting Sarkisian was USC’s quarterbacks coach during White’s freshman and junior seasons.

“I think LenDale is a passionate guy,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said of his former running back. “He loves USC. We all want to win. We are all passionate about what we do. It is what it is.”

Indeed, Mr. White. Indeed.

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