Penn State University student Laura Lovins and fellow students react while watching a live broadcast of the announcement of the NCAA penalties

Even Freeh Group member realizes NCAA wrongly punished Penn St.


Gotham City (wrongly) believed in Harvey Dent.

Likewise, there are people who (wrongly) believed in NCAA president Mark Emmert.

The heavy sanctions levied by Emmert against Penn State in the aftermath of the Freeh report was a result of public pressure, the justification to satisfy our culture’s bloodlust and demand for instant gratification. Someone needed to get clobbered at Penn State; it didn’t matter who.

The report, a multi-million dollar project spanning eight months investigating Penn State’s (in)action into the Jerry Sandusky allegations, was designed to unearth exactly when and where university officials went wrong, as well as act as a recommendation for new university policy to prevent further malfeasance.

Instead, it became the basis for Emmert’s unprecedented ultimatum to interim PSU president Rodney Erickson: accept a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, scholarship reduction and five-year probation — not to mention vacated 111 vacated wins — or get the Death penalty. The whole process bypassed traditional NCAA investigative protocol so fast, it had SEC speed.

In this case, that was too fast. And that’s not just, like, my opinion, man. A member of the Freeh Group told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Emmert misused the Freeh report as a substitute for normal NCAA investigative steps. Below are just some of the quotes to the Chronicle:

  • “That document was not meant to be used as the sole piece, or the large piece, of the NCAA’s decision-making… It was meant to be a mechanism to help Penn State move forward. To be used otherwise creates an obstacle to the institution changing.”
  • The Freeh team reviewed how Penn State operated, not how they worked within the NCAA’s system… The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”
  • “The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration.” 

Evidence of the NCAA’s rush to judgement is already tangible. While some coaches are claiming to take the high road of not actively recruiting Penn State players now free to transfer wherever they choose, others are much more open about it. Tennessee, USC, Illinois, Arizona and Kansas are among them.

That’s not a slight against any program pursuing a transfer — they’re doing exactly what they’re allowed to do — but in punishing Penn State officials’ criminal acts with athletic sanctions, the NCAA didn’t reprimanded the “football-first” culture in Happy Valley.

It pushed it elsewhere.

Would that have been avoided if the NCAA had gone through its traditional routine with a Notice of Inquiry, Notice of Allegations and Committee on Infractions hearing? Maybe not. The NCAA can only punish a program in so many ways because it lacks subpoena power. But at least there would have been another review, one the NCAA can directly point to as its own work rather than rely on another’s.

I’ve never been a fan of NCAA involvement with Penn State in this context, but I also realize it’s the governing body of over 300 Division 1 athletic departments. Something was inevitably going to be done.

Besides, the Sandusky story is one filled with missed opportunities and baffling dead ends to investigations that should have gone further. In an ironic twist, though, the NCAA dealt with a program that improperly shifted power to one individual by inflicting punishment in a similar fashion.

Now, anything’s possible with the NCAA outside its normal authority.

Believe it.

Chip Kelly says he never met to discuss USC vacancy

Chip Kelly

Whether you chose to believe him or not, at least Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is officially on the record. During his regularly scheduled Monday press conference in Philadelphia, Kelly said he never met with anybody to discuss the previously vacant head coaching position at USC.

Alright then. So at least that’s that. (But what about his agent?)

USC filled the head coaching position this morning by officially announcing Clay Helton will remain the head coach after serving as the interim head coach following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian earlier this season. Kelly, the former head coach at Oregon, has had his name attached to multiple coaching rumors at the college level since he left for the NFL, including Texas and Florida before this position at USC opened. Kelly has stood firm on his public statements about not having any interest in a college job, but that never seems to silence the fun hypothetical discussions about his probable eventual return to college football.

Houston and Tom Herman have agreement in principle on new contract

UH Coach Tom Herman
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As the coaching carousel continues to spin, it seems Tom Herman will rest comfortably in Houston for at least one more season. Herman reportedly has an agreement in principle on a new contract to remain the head coach of the Houston Cougars.

We’ve agreed in principle is the best way to put it,” Herman said Monday during a press conference. “We’re working out the details.”

It was previously reported Houston had approved a significant pay raise for the first-year head coach, going up to $3 million with the reworked contract and making it a financial incentive to stay put as job offers flowed in. The push to make Herman the highest-paid coach in the Group of Five, passing Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville ($2.2 million). With a solid foundation for future success, at least in the American Athletic Conference and Group of Five picture, Houston’s financial commitment to Herman is a sign the program is ready and able to work as close to a power conference program as possible.

Herman’s name will continue to be one to watch in future coaching rumors, and in this world we should never say never to the possibility of Herman still being in play for a job elsewhere in this cycle of coaching changes. If Herman and Houston continue to win games, there is no question his stock will remain a valued commodity for power conference programs in the years to come.

Herman and Houston will host Temple this Saturday afternoon in the first American Athletic Conference championship game. The winner will be a lock for receiving the New Years Six bowl spot reserved for the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Houston vs. Ohio State (Herman vs. Urban Meyer) is a real possibility in one of the New Years Six bowl games.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.