File photo of Emily Wilkens of State College Pennsylvania, holding protest sign

The ‘Penn State Way’ at the core of the Sandusky cover-up


The Freeh report investigating Penn State’s actions related to former defensive coordinator and child molester Jerry Sandusky is 10 chapters and 162 pages long — not including numerous additional emails, notes, school policy documentation and general appendices. It took eight months to complete, 430 interviews were conducted and 3.5 million documents dating back over a decade were perused.

It took me hours to read through.

And, yes, it’s as damning and heartbreaking as speculated. Most notably, it corroborates that former head coach Joe Paterno, along with key members of Penn State’s athletic and university administration, were aware of a 1998 investigation targeting Sandusky for a shower incident with a young boy he met, like so many other victims, through his charity, the Second Mile. And that no one did anything about it because it was deemed by at least one person as “not criminal.”

“I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us [emphasis added],” former vice president Gary Schultz wrote in a 1998 email to athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier.

Paterno had previously denied knowing anything about the 1998 incident to the Washington Post.

But sifting through the pages of horrific accounts of inaction, something less blatant stood out on page 129.

“Certain aspects of the community culture are laudable, such as its collegiality, high standards of educational excellence and research, and respect for the environment. However, there is an over-emphasis on “The Penn State Way” as an approach to decision-making, a resistance to outside perspectives, and an excessive focus on athletics that can, if not recognized, negatively impact the University’s reputation as a progressive institution.” 

There are no exclamation points or large, flashing arrows screaming “Look at me! I’m important!” Yet a single phrase that, by itself rarely raises suspicion, can be associated with being the core reason behind why no one at Penn State said anything when Sandusky came under suspicion in ’98… why a 2001 incident involving Sandusky and Victim 2 was quashed… why the former defensive coordinator was free to use university athletic facilities to abuse even more young boys years later…

It was the Penn State Way.

For the longest time, the Penn State Way was defined as something different to people like you and me. It stood for winning with honor and integrity. It stood for graduating players and keeping your NCAA nose clean. Unfortunately, we now know it also stood for a culture of in-house dealings, exclusivity, and later, lies.

Former PSU vice president of student affairs Vicky Triponey knew about the real Penn State Way, even if it wasn’t in the same light as you and I see it today. Say what you will about Triponey and her hyperbolic “Timeline of Terror“, but she butted heads with Spanier over the culture of Penn State athletics, and now she doesn’t work there anymore.

It was a close fraternity, where things don’t change much. Paterno coached at Penn State for 45 years. Sandusky spent the better part of four decades in Happy Valley as a player and coach. Curley, a 1976 PSU graduate, and Spanier served as athletic director and president, respectively, for over 30 combined years before last November.

And, for that, I understand why there was a cover-up. There is no defense for it in this scandal, but the sentiment is more common than you might want to admit.

Especially when football rules a university and a community.

Consider if this had happened with someone you’d known closely for decades, or perhaps a well-respected boss of yours. The moral high ground in us tells us we would have done the right thing. We would have called authorities and taken the proper measures.

But is that really what each one of us would have done? Or, would you have tried to handle the matter yourself… or perhaps dismissed it altogether out of fear?

Sandusky was a legend at Penn State in his own right. A high-profile, active member of his community who, on the surface, dedicated his life to helping underprivileged young people. A noble cause — why would anyone think twice about his motives?

It was the Penn State Way.

But so was the hush-hush atmosphere within PSU’s athletic department in the late 1990’s. Sandusky wasn’t forced into retirement after the 1999 season because of his first investigation; rather, he was essentially given an ultimatum that resulted in his collaborating with Penn State and the Second Mile because the long-time defensive coordinator knew he would not be the next head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Despite the disturbing accusations against Sandusky, or how concerned university admins and Paterno might have been over the ’98 investigation, they continued to work with and protect the esteemed member of the PSU community.

It was the Penn State way.

The same goes for 2001, when former assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky in the Lasch building showers with Victim 2, and each subsequent year that Sandusky was allowed to prey on young boys while those with direct knowledge put in their earplugs, hoping naively that Sandusky had changed overnight.

Without a doubt, that kind of behavior merits the most severe punishment the law can dictate. If found guilty of criminal acts related to a cover-up, Curley, Schultz and Spanier can rot in isolated jail cells for the rest of their lives, thinking about how they chose the Penn State Way no one knew about rather than the Penn State Way that was preached to others.

Waiting for their day of reckoning will be frustrating and there’s already a desire for immediate retribution. And you know what? That feeling is completely merited. People want someone, anyone, to pay for these heinous crimes.

Tear down the Paterno statue! Burn Penn State to the ground! Shut it down! Administer the Death Penalty, NCAA!

Those are all easy ways to find immediate relief, but they don’t change what happened and have zero consequence on those directly involved in this scandal.

If Curley, Schultz and Spanier are thrown in jail — and I have little doubt they will be — what is there left to accomplish by, say, the NCAA?

The focus should be, and will be, on cleaning house and starting over. Maybe that means tearing down Paterno’s statue and removing him from the history books. Maybe it requires shutting down the football program for an unspecified period of time. That’s Penn State’s prerogative.

Just know that whatever is done now, or in the immediate future, will be overshadowed by the real solution: changing the definition of the Penn State Way. For good.

Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).

Kirk Ferentz would be owed $25 million if Iowa fired him this year

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1:  Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes directs play against the LSU Tigers January 1, 2014  in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yes indeed: if there were an Agent Hall of Fame, Neil Cornrich would be a first-ballot inductee.

Early last month, Iowa announced that it had reached an agreement with Kirk Ferentz on a new contract that runs through the 2026 season.  The details of the contract, revealed as part of USA Today‘s annual coaching salary database release, negotiated by Cornrich and agreed upon by the university are staggering.

From USA Today‘s report on coaching buyouts:

— Even if he’s fired after this season for not winning enough games, the 61-year-old Ferentz would be owed more than $25 million, payable in monthly installments until 2026.

— He’s guaranteed an additional $22 million from 2021 through 2025 if he sticks around and wins at least seven games each season through 2020. It wouldn’t matter if he’s dismissed in 2021 after finishing 0-12.

— If that’s not enough, those guarantees wouldn’t even be reduced if Iowa fired him and he took a lucrative new job somewhere else.

Another Cornrich client, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, would be owed nearly $25 million if he were fired today without cause. All told, there are at least seven head football coaches, the paper writes, “who would be owed at least $20 million in guaranteed money if he were fired on Dec. 1 for losing too many games.” Jimbo Fisher tops the buyout list, with Florida State on the hook for $33.1 million in the improbable event that Florida State dismisses him.

Others with the $20 million-plus golden parachute include Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($27.4 million), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($25.6 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($23.3 million), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($20 million).  Another, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, is just shy of that mark at $19.3 million.

Of the four coaches already dismissed this year, Les Miles had the highest buyout with LSU owing the former coach nearly $9 million according to the paper.  Darrell Hazell is due $5 million from Purdue, while Fresno State will owe Tim DeRuyter $3.3 million and FIU will shell out $609,000 to Ron Turner.

Texas will owe Charlie Strong just north of $11 million if, as expected, they fire the coach at season’s end.

The multimillion buyouts are part of a burgeoning trend all across the sport.

In 2011, there were 15 coaches with guaranteed buyouts of at least $8 million. This year, at least 33 are guaranteed that much — well more than half of the 53 publicly available coaches contracts in the Power Five conferences.

When it comes to actual salary being paid in 2016, Saban would sit atop the list at $6.9 million.  However, Harbaugh is the highest-paid coach in college football at $9 million, with $5 million of that coming in salary and $4 million in the form of insurance payouts.

In 2006, the first year the USA Today database was published, there were eight head coaches making at least $2 million annually.  A decade later, that number has risen to 58.

For USA Today‘s complete database, click HERE.

Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  A general view of the Heisman Trophy during a press conference prior to the 2015 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting.

The Louisville quarterback is, once again,‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago.

Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s perceived lead.

Speaking of FSU, running back Dalvin Cook could state his case in the same game and push Bovada odds that currently sit at 40/1. Just three other players are on this particular house’s current board: Washington quarterback Jake Browning (10/1), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (12/1) and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (22/1).

Two other players, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., were taken off Bovada’s board.

Gophers lose TE Brandon Lingen to season-ending foot injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22:  Anthony Cioffi #31 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tackles Brandon Lingen #86 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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Brandon Lingen‘s injury-plagued season continues.  Or, more accurately, has come to an end.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Minnesota tight end will miss the remainder of the regular season.  Lingen sustained a left foot injury in last Saturday’s game against Purdue.

On the weekly injury report, Lingen is listed as out for this weekend’s game against Illinois.  Beyond that, the school has not addressed Lingen’s status moving forward.

Lingen had missed three games earlier this season with a broken clavicle.  That issue helped limit him to three catches for 28 yards on the year.

A starter in 10 of 12 2015 games, Lingen was third on the team with 33 receptions for 428 yards.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.

With Lingen injuries, Nate Wozniak (eight receptions, 92 yards) and Colton Beebe (5-42) have taken over the bulk of the responsibility at the tight end position.