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

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

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.

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Toddler’s text among Ohio State’s 47 self-reported violations

Cute kid playing with cell phone

Many schools self-report numerous minor infractions to the NCAA on a regular basis. Ohio State has reported a total of 47 rules violations to the NCAA over the last year, and one of them may show just why parental controls on cell phones is a good idea.

Among the 47 violations reported by Ohio State to the NCAA is a text message to a recruit sent from the phone of wide receivers coach Zach Smith. But Smith says it was not he who sent the text, but his four-year old son. As the claim goes, Smith’s son picked up his phone when a recruit allegedly called the receivers coach. Upon picking up the phone, Smith’s son allegedly sent an automatic text reply.

Fortunately, the NCAA actually showed a good sense of humor about the whole incident and decided not to bother reviewing the case. But perhaps this should serve as a lesson about the importance of locking your phone and enabling any child-proof features on a phone for college football coaches.

The violations reported by Ohio State span all sports. According to The Lantern, just two are tied to the football program. In addition to the toddler text message, Ohio State reported a violation of impermissible on-campus contact in late September. Head coach Urban Meyer reportedly had contact with a junior college athlete on campus.

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Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska could gain advantage with Big Ten stipends

businessman with a burlap money bag

A new age in collegiate athletics is upon us with power conferences making a power play to provide more for student-athletes. That means power conference members handing out stipends to college athletes on top of a full scholarship to take care of other financial needs and obligations. How much each school will be able to provide to players will vary by school, and it is believed the divide within power conferences could widen between the top programs and the rest of the pack.

David Jones of The Patriot News dug into the numbers to see what the expected stipends for each Big Ten member could total. Based on the information made available by CollegeData.com, Penn State came out on top with a stipend of $4,788. Wisconsin’s stipend amount came out to $4,265 and Nebraska’s total added up to $3,544. Indiana ($3,036) and Maryland ($3,024) were the only other schools to have stipends over $3,000. By comparison, Ohio State’s stipend total is calculated to be $2,454. Michigan’s is $2,054 and Michigan State is at the bottom of the Big Ten with a stipend total of $1,872.

These numbers are subject to change and, as noted by Jones in his column, you should probably expect people like Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio to push internally for some adjustments in order to allow more stipend funds where possible. Otherwise, programs like Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and even Indiana and Maryland are going to have a nice recruiting chip up their sleeves that could have an impact with certain recruits.

Of course, Texas Athletics Director Steve Patterson previously went on record suggesting the Texas Longhorns could potentially hand out $10,000 stipends if it came to that point.

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BYU to discipline “10-ish” players for role in Miami Beach Brawl

Latanoa Pikula

The last we heard out of BYU regarding the ugly incident at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl against Memphis, BYU was not expected to release names of players serving suspensions or facing discipline for their role in a postgame melee in Miami. That has not changed, although BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has suggested the number of players facing some form of discipline will be in the double digits.

According to a report by Desert News, Mendenhall opened BYU’s spring practice by writing the word “discipline” on the whiteboard. The head coach of the Cougars later told reporters “10-ish” players will be disciplined for their actions following a bowl loss to Memphis. Specific suspensions may not be announced until the week of BYU’s season opener at Nebraska.

“We’ll try to maintain a competitive advantage as long as we can, and protect the kids as much as we can,” Mendenhall said in the report by Desert News. “I think everyone knows I thrive on accountability and don’t back away from it, especially at BYU. So I’m comfortable with who we’re disciplining and how. I’d like to protect our players as much as we can.”

For what it is worth, Memphis has suspended 12 players for their part in the brawl although names and length of suspension terms have not been disclosed to the public at this time. The disciplinary actions taking by Memphis have been endorsed by the American Athletic Conference as well.

BYU opens the 2015 season on September 5 at Nebraska of the Big Ten. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.

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Oregon State has fresh new helmets for spring practice

Oregon State v Hawaii

When Oregon State opens up spring practice tomorrow they will do so wearing a brand new helmet. Could this be a preview of a new look in 2015? If so, it’s not bad at all.

Oregon State will have black helmets with the word “Beavers” scripted across the side. The look is reminiscent to a helmet design previously worn by the program in 1979 (with an orange helmet) and again from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s (with a white helmet). The same basic design elements were used on a black helmet since 1999, although with the Beaver logo on top of the script. Oregon State has also mixed and matched different helmets with uniforms the past few seasons. Now the beaver logo is gone, at least with this helmet.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up. What about you?

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Kennesaw State opened program’s first spring practice today

A total of 91 players went through the first spring football practice of the year on Monday. Ordinarily this would not be of much significance, but this was no ordinary spring football practice. This was spring football practice at Kennesaw State, the first in program history.

“It was a good day. It’s our first time back on the field and it was the first-ever spring ball practice,” Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon said. “The great thing about it is our kids are in pretty good shape. They had a really good offseason.  We had a group of guys who actually knew what to do versus the last time we came out.”

This was the first spring football practice for Kennesaw State, but the program was able to practice in the fall as they go through the motions of operating a football program in season.

“It was a great start and I think the big thing for this group right now is that in the fall we had three segments of 15 days apiece and now we have one,” Bohannon explained. “Now we’re down to 14 and they are going to have to maximize every minute of these opportunities before we get ready to play.”

As noted by Kevin Causey of The Student Section, Kennesaw State will be joining the Big South Conference this season in the FCS and the offensive identity will likely be based on the option that has become the norm at places like Georgia Tech and Navy. The Owls have 52 players on scholarship right now as it builds up to the FCS maximum of 63.

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Alabama and Minnesota add former players to coaching staff

USC v Minnesota

College football programs around the country continue to fill spaces on coaching staffs, and often that means bringing back former players to fill the final pieces. Alabama and Minnesota each added a former player from each respective program to fill a role in 2015.

Alabama has added former walk-on wide receiver Rob Ezell to the program’s support staff. Ezell was a part of Nick Saban’s program from 2007 through 2010. He comes to Alabama after serving the past two seasons as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he worked under former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain. Ezell is also known for a pretty spot-on impression of Saban.

At Minnesota, the all-time passing leader for the Gophers is joining the staff as a graduate assistant. Adam Weber will fill the vacancy as grad assistant, and it is expected he will work closely with the quarterbacks. Given his history with the program, that is not a bad strategy. Weber set school records for passing attempts (1,594), completions (909), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (72).

“I really am excited to join such a great staff under Coach [Jerry Kill],” Weber said. “I’m just looking to be a sponge. It just seems like a great fit.”

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UNC hires Huskers DB coach Warren to fill vacancy

North Carolina has hired away Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to the same job in Chapel Hill. UNC announced the staff hiring Monday.

Warren was Nebraska’s defensive backs coach in 2014, but he had served on the coaching staff at Air Force prior to that. Warren is an Air Force graduate. Warren has a connection to Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora. Fedora was an assistant with Air Force when Warren was playing for Air Force in 1997 and 1998.

Warren’s departure from Nebraska is not exactly to be unexpected given coaching turnover in Lincoln, although Warren was the only coach retained from the Bo Pelini regime by new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

North Carolina is in need of improving its defense, and the additions to the coaching staff this offseason appear to be addressing that need. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn national championship head coach Gene Chizik to be the team’s new defensive coordinator in one of the more notable assistant coaching hires of the year.

North Carolina finished last in the 14-team ACC in passing defense in 2014, allowing 257.4 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 150.35, which is 10 points higher than the next worst opponent passer rating allowed in the ACC (Syracuse, 140.08).

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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Boise State has tough slate in 2015 as MWC releases schedule

Jay Ajayi, Bryan Harsin

Defending Mountain West Conference champion Boise State has quite the challenging schedule ahead of it in 2015. In addition to opening the season on a Friday night at home against former head coach Chris Petersen and Washington, the Broncos visit BYU and Virginia before getting to the Mountain West Conference schedule in October. The MWC conference schedule, released today, will send Boise State to Colorado State and Utah State on consecutive weeks in October. If the Broncos can manage to get to Halloween without a loss, or perhaps just one, then Boise State could be set up well for a return run to the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six line-up.

The Mountain West Conference features 22 games against bowl teams from 2014 including 11 from the Pac-12, 6 from the Big Ten, 3 from the SEC and 2 from the ACC. There are no games scheduled against Big 12 schools this season, but the MWC will go toe-to-toe with other Group of 5 conferences; the MAC, American and Conference USA. There are also five games against independent programs including BYU, a former MWC member.

The 12-team conference will continue to use an eight-game conference schedule format, with each team in the conference getting four home games and four away. Each member of the conference will play five division games and three cross-division games. The conference is in the midst of a four-year scheduling cycle that guarantees each school gets to play every member of the conference home and away.

As has been the case the last two seasons, the highest-ranked division champion will be given home-field advantage for the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. The conference title game will be played on Saturday, December 5. Boise State hosted Fresno State in last season’s conference championship game and won. Fresno State hosted the title game the previous season and defeated Utah State. This makes home teams 2-0 in the MWC conference championship game.

While the conference has set aside games for Thursday night and Friday night dates, the Mountain West will release broadcast details that could move certain games away from the tentatively scheduled Saturday dates. The MWC has broadcast rights deals with both ESPN and CBS Sports Network for national coverage and ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network for regional broadcast options.

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Bret Bielema takes driving privileges from Razorback busted for DWI

Bret Bielema

Arkansas defensive lineman Tevin Beanum was recently arrested for suspicion of DWI. In response, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took a page out of the old parenting handbook and took Beanum’s car away from him.

Bielema refrained from removing Beanum, a sophomore in 2015, from the roster but did need to find a way to respond. This led Bielema to consult with Beanum’s mother, and the two decided to take the keys and the car from the Razorback in addition to other requirements before being reinstated by Bielema.

“It sounds simple. I think a lot of today’s problems can be solved by an old school way of thinking,” Bielema said in a report by Arkansas News. “So I picked up the phone and called his mom. We talked about different things. He has to go through the court system and obviously he’ll have ramifications. But I’ve basically banned the use of his car for any time other than when he’s coming over here or going to academics. His car is to remain parked.”If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

What happens if Beanum is found driving his car outside of those proposed limitations laid out by Bielema?

“If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Here’s hoping Bielema’s old-school way of discipline lets that message sink in for Beanum and the rest of the team.

Arkansas News also reports Bielema has suspended wide receiver JoJo Robinson, but the reason beyond violating team rules is unknown. Robinson could return to the team as early as Sunday.

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SEC fills your calendar with dates for spring practices, spring games and NFL pro days

Alabama Spring Game

Vanderbilt is already midway through its spring football schedule, but the rest of the SEC is just getting ready for spring football. On Monday, as Texas A&M opened up spring camp and a day before Ole Miss gets underway, the SEC released the notable dates for your spring football fix in the southeast.

Each team in the SEC currently has a spring game scheduled, except for Kentucky and Texas A&M. Stadium renovations at Kyle Field will prevent Texas A&M from hosting a spring game for a second straight season. Many of the spring games throughout the SEC will draw large crowds, and the conference should once again lead the way in spring game attendance.

Here are your spring practice start dates, along with dates for spring games and pro days for those looking forward to the NFL Draft. Plan accordingly.

SEC Spring Football

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LSU being used as guinea pig by NCAA and SEC, says recruiting reporter

Les Miles

Last week LSU’s football program was hit with some strong recruiting sanctions by the NCAA. Those who follow the recruiting game seem to think LSU is being punished unreasonably, with one recruiting analyst going so far as to say LSU is being used as a guinea pig by the NCAA and SEC.

“I think the SEC and NCAA are using LSU as a guinea pig,” said Michael Carvell, a recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a report published by The Advocate. “Somebody had to be first. Unfortunately for LSU, it’s them.”

LSU has been banned from signing early enrollee recruits for the next two recruiting cycles and will lose 21 of 210 days on the recruiting calendar to evaluate potential recruits. The sanctions stem from one LSU recruit signing a financial aid agreement with LSU in August with the intent to enroll at LSU in January. That recruit, Matt Womack, ended up committing to Alabama. Football programs that fail to have the player under the agreement to enroll early face penalties. It is believed LSU is the first school to be extended such a punishment, which makes this punishment historical in a sense.

How much this ultimately hurts LSU remains to be seen. Many seem to think LSU will see minimal impact on the recruiting trail, which would make sense. LSU tends to recruit very well, plays in one of the top conferences and is nearby loads of talent. LSU should still manage to recruit effectively, even with the sanctions imposed.

If nothing else, what has happened at LSU will grab the attention of coaches and recruiters around the country as they look to ensure they do not swing and miss on early enrollees.

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Steve Spurrier is now on Twitter

Steve Spurrier

Twitter can be fun, especially when college football coaches get involved and connected. LSU head coach Les Miles is on board. So is Penn State head coach James Franklin. UCLA’s Jim Mora has been known to dabble in the social networking platform, and has gotten in trouble for it along the way. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also decided to start tweeting.

Well, brace yourselves because one more big name head coach never at a loss for words is hopping on board to share his thoughts 140 characters at a time; Steve Spurrier.

Give him a follow.

And if there was any doubt…

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Oregon QB commit scores basket for wrong team

Seth Green

Minnesota native Seth Green is a four-star dual-threat quarterback on his way to Oregon in the Class of 2016. He also happens to be a pretty decent high school basketball player, as his 24-point performance over the weekend would suggest. But as can all too often be the unfortunate case for any talented athlete, it can be a mistake that ends up being the most notable moment for all the wrong reasons.

In a tight regional playoff semifinal game and under a minute to play between Green’s East Ridge High School and Cretin-Derham Hall, Green took an inbound pass and made his way down court for a lay-up. Normally that is a good play, but Green’s lay-up went into his team’s own basket, awarding two free points to Cretin-Derham Hall. The basket turned a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. Oops. Cretin-Derham Hall went on to win by a final score of 70-65.

“That will not define who Seth Green is,” Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Jerry Kline said after the game according to Star Tribune. “He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel bad for him. He was going so hard and just feel for him at this time.”

The good news for Green is he has plenty of opportunities ahead of him. Perhaps one day, if he has not already, Green will get to start laughing about this unfortunate sequence of events.

Green is the 10th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Minnesota according to Rivals.

Photo credit: Rivals

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