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

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

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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.

Mean Green DC Mike Ekeler formally announced as Tar Heels’ LBs coach

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Linebackers Coach Mike Ekeler of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on from the sideline during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against University of Arizona Wildcats on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s reported poaching of North Texas’ coaching staff is officially official.

UNC acknowledged in a press release Friday that Mike Ekeler has been hired as the Tar Heels’ new linebackers coach.  Ekeler will take over the job previously held by John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik abruptly stepped down to spend more time with his family.

“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”

Ekeler spent the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Mean Green. Prior to joining UNT, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia.

He’s also worked on coaching staffs at USC (2013), Indiana (2011-12), Nebraska (2008-10), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04).  At the latter two stops, Ekeler served as a graduate assistant.

Top Syracuse DB Antwan Cordy gets medical redshirt for 2016 season

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 31:  Wide receiver Travis Rudolph #15 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to maneuver by safety Antwan Cordy #8 of the Syracuse Orange on October 31, 2015 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Syracuse’s top returning defensive back will get to spend a little additional time with the Orange.

On social media Thursday, Antwan Cordy announced that the NCAA has granted him a medical hardship waiver for his 2016 season. Because of the medical redshirt, the safety will have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal instead of just the one prior to the decision.

Should he choose, Cordy could play for the Orange in 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Cordy started the first two games last year, but sustained what turned out to be a season-ending arm injury in a Week 2 loss to Louisville.

In 2015, Cordy started all 12 games for the Orange, with the 5-8, 175-pounder’s 12 tackles for loss leading the team and setting a school record for defensive backs. That total was also second in the ACC amongst secondary players (Duke’s Jeremy Cash, 18).

Former Wisconsin offensive coach returning… as defensive assistant

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15:  Helmets are raised by the Wisconsin Badgers before the start of the game between the Utah State Aggies and the Wisconsin Badgers September 15, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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Paul Chryst is certainly taking a unique approach in reconstituting his Wisconsin coaching staff.

Earlier this month, Chryst hired Jim Leonhard as his new defensive coordinator despite the latter having just one year of experience as a coach at any level. Now, reports have surfaced that Chryst is bringing Bob Bostad back to Madison to fill a vacancy on the staff.

While Bostad was an offensive assistant during his first tour of duty with the Badgers, he’ll be a defensive coach in this latest stint. Specifically, he’ll serve as UW’s inside linebackers coach.

Bostad would technically replace Justin Wilcox, the coordinator Leonhard replaced after Wilcox took the head-coaching job at Cal last month.

From 2006-11, Bostad was an assistant for the Badgers — the first two seasons as tight ends coach, the last four as offensive line coach. After spending four seasons as the line coach for two NFL franchises — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Tennessee Titans (2014-15) — Bostad spent the 2016 season as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois.

In a coaching career that spans 27 seasons, this would be Bostad’s first job on the defensive side of the ball.

UPDATED 12:59 p.m. ET: Wisconsin has confirmed the hiring of Bostad.

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.