Even Freeh Group member realizes NCAA wrongly punished Penn St.

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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.

Tennessee hanging around with Alabama — and trailing by three TDs

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It feels like Tennessee is hanging decently well with Alabama, and yet the score is 21-0 Tide at the break in Tuscaloosa. Such is life in the Third Saturday in October rivalry.

Bo Scarborough lodged Alabama’s first two scores on identical plays, diving over a pile of humanity for 1-yard scores. The first came to end Alabama’s first drive of the day and the second came at the 4:48 mark of the second quarter. Damien Harris added the third on an 11-yard carry at the 1:18 mark.

Jalen Hurts has completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards, but the numbers look better than his performance has. The sophomore has been late and/or off-target with a handful of throws thus far.

It hasn’t mattered, though, as Alabama has racked up 108 yards on the ground and benefitted from a pair of drive-extending penalties by Tennessee.

Tennessee’s offense has avoided a critical mistake but hasn’t seriously threatened the Alabama defense. John Kelly has carried four times for 21 yards, and Jarrett Guarantano completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards while rushing eight times for 13 yards. As a team, Tennessee amassed 75 yards of offense and five first downs in the half.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

Jimbo Fisher allows he ‘shouldn’t have said something’ to heckling fan

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Florida State’s off to a rough start on the field, which means have gotten a little bit tougher — and louder — off of it.

FSU lost to Louisville 31-28 Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee to tumble to 2-4, its worst start to a season since Bobby Bowden‘s final year in 2009.  After the game, as Jimbo Fisher was headed into the postgame locker room, he was greeted by a fan who shouted down from the stands “get new coaches.”

The head coach’s response? “Walk your ass down here and say it.”

After the game, Fisher was, of course, asked about the exchange. While he allowed that he “shouldn’t have said something” to the heckling fan, he passionately defended his struggling football program, from the football players on the roster to his coaching staff.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

It’s not frustration, just, ‘Hey, listen, be supportive,’” Fisher said of the interaction after the game. “There’s no reason to be nasty. I shouldn’t have said something.

“But at the same time, [I’m] defending players and people you’re with. I’m in charge of them, and I love them like a father. If they say something about your family, you take up for it. …

“Are you going to be a real fan or not?” Fisher said of general fan reaction following the poor start to this season. “Just keep fighting with us. We ain’t quitting on you. Please don’t quit on us. We’re going to keep fighting, scratching, coaching and playing, and you see the heart and desire of those kids.

“I understand you’re going to get on us [coaches]. That’s part of the business. That’s part of life. I understand that. … There ain’t no quit in us either. We’re right there. We just have to find a way to get it.

With this latest loss, FSU now needs to win four of its last five contests to qualify for one. One win is practically guaranteed as they face FCS Delaware State Nov. 18. Beyond that, their work is cut out for them as they have road trips to surging Boston College, Clemson and Florida, as well as a home game against a much-improved Syracuse squad that upset Clemson earlier this month.

Army officially accepts Armed Forces Bowl invitation

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The calendar may say October, but we’re already talking bowl bids.

Specifically, it was announced Saturday afternoon that Army has officially accepted a bid to play in the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  The service academy’s sixth win of the season came courtesy of a 31-28 overtime win over Temple.

“We are absolutely delighted that Army West Point has accepted an invitation to play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl,” bowl executive director Brant Ringler said in a statement. “Coach Jeff Monken has been outstanding since his arrival at West Point, and again reaching the post-season is a tremendous accomplishment. We are thrilled to be able to host the Army West Point football team and the cadets in Fort Worth.”

“To return to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is very special for our football program and the U.S. Military Academy,” Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said in his. “The bowl did an exceptional job in 2010 in our win over SMU and we are looking forward to another great experience for our players, coaches and staff in Fort Worth in December.

The bid acceptance is contingent, though, on Army not being selected for the Group of Five’s slot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.  The Black Knights are currently 6-2 on the season; as of this posting, there are two G5 unbeatens (USF, UCF) and four with one loss (Memphis, Navy, Marshall, Toledo).

As we noted this week, Army will be making its first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1984-84 seasons.

Rutgers wins back-to-back B1G games for first time since joining the conference in 2014

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I don’t know which one specifically, but this has to be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Entering Week 8, Rutgers was 5-23 in conference play — 2-18 the last two-plus years — since joining the Big Ten for the 2014 season.  Exiting Week 8, that mark has been bumped up to 6-23 as RU held off Purdue 14-12 in Piscataway.  The Boilermakers had a chance to tie the score with 25 seconds remaining after a David Blough touchdown pass, but the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

Making this win even more impressive is the fact that the Knights were outgained 474-217 in total yards by the Boilermakers — and 279 of those yards for the visitors came on the ground.  The bend-but-don’t-break defense, though, forced six punts, two turnovers and three turnovers on downs in holding a Purdue offense that came in averaging 26.9 points per game to a pair of field goals and one touchdown.

Combine this victory with the Week 7 road win over Illinois, and this marks the first time RU has won back-to-back Big Ten games becoming a B1G member three years and three-plus seasons ago.  Not only that, but it’s also the first time they’ve won back-to-back conference games in any league since 2012, when they were a member of the defunct Big East.

This mini-streak will seemingly face a stiff test to extend as they travel to Ann Arbor next weekend to face No. 19 Michigan in the Big House.