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.

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.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.