Paterno family files appeal against NCAA for PSU sanctions

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What would anything related to Penn State be without something from the Paterno family?

Eleven days after NCAA president Mark Emmert took unprecedented steps by levying sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Freeh report, the family of longtime coach Joe Paterno is taking a unique initiative of its own by filing an appeal against NCAA over the sanctions.

The punishments included a $60 million fine, scholarship loss, bowl ban and probation.

More on what this means later, but here is the entire notice, courtesy of Onward State.

To Whom It May Concern:

On behalf of my clients, the Paterno family, who are the living representatives of Joseph V. Paterno and his estate, we file this notice of intent to appeal the NCAA’s consent decree entered against The Pennsylvania State University. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 32.10.1, the Paterno Family notes that the consent decree was publicly released on July 23, 2012. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 32.1.5 and 32.10.1.2, Mr. Paterno qualifies as an involved individual because he is named in the NCAA’s consent decree as well as the Freeh report, which provided the alleged factual basis for the consent decree. Finally, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 32.10.1, the Paterno family requests the opportunity to submit its appeal in writing, and it requests an in-person oral argument before the Infractions Appeals Committee.

The estate undertakes this appeal to redress the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former, current and future student and student athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA.

As will become evident in a thorough and impartial review, the NCAA acted hastily and without any regard for due process. Furthermore, the NCAA and Penn State’s Board Chair and President entirely ignored the fact that the Freeh Report, on which these extraordinary penalties are based, is deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided. The NCAA and Penn State’s leadership, by accepting and adopting the conclusions of the Freeh report, have maligned all of the above without soliciting contrary opinions or challenging a single finding of the Freeh report. Given the extraordinary penalty handed out, prudence and justice require that scrupulous adherence to due process be observed and not completely ignored.

Both the University leadership and the NCAA have said that they had to take extreme and immediate measures to demonstrate respect for the victims and minimize the chance of any similar misconduct from occurring again. These goals are the right ones, and they embody objectives we fully endorse. But those objectives cannot be achieved by a truncated process that wrongly assigns blame by substituting opinion for fact.

If there is culpability in this case, a hearing will help expose it. Due process will not hide the truth and will only illuminate the facts and allow for thoughtful, substantiated conclusions, not extreme and unfounded opinions, such as those offered in the Freeh Report and relied upon by the NCAA.

This matter may be the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA, and it has been handled in a fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner. To severely punish a University and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines.

Accordingly, we submit this appeal in pursuit, finally, of due process. A fair hearing on the merits is in the interests of justice and fairness for all involved.

We look forward to your acknowledgement of receipt of this timely appeal. In your acknowledgement, we would appreciate confirmation of the exact date triggering the 30-day period for us to submit a written response in support of our appeal.

Respectfully, 

J. Sedwick Sollers III

Let’s get two things out of the way: 1) just about everything the Paterno family says in a statement is ridiculous and self-serving; 2) so be willing to look past all the lawyer rhetoric and hyperbole.

I know, it’s difficult. If the Paterno family was doing this just to be insufferable, I would personally debate even giving them the satisfaction of your attention. But, the notice does have a couple of points that could make for a compelling case, albeit  one that won’t pass.

For one, the release states the “NCAA acted hastily and without any regard for due process.” Technically, that’s not off-base. Some might use the word “unprecedented” instead, but the fact is the NCAA bypassed normal investigative steps to punish Penn State based on another entity’s work. If you read this site often, you know there are others who agree with the Paterno family in that regard.

By refusing to conduct its own investigation, the NCAA is putting all its faith into the conclusions of the Freeh report. Granted, the report is well-documented with appendices and fact-findings — it’s no middle school book report on “The Catcher in the Rye” — but it is one side of the story. The letter from today also states “this matter may be the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA.” I think it’s safe to say the notice doesn’t need the word “may”; it is the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA. And to not have a separate investigation and conclusion?

Baloney.

If the Association is going to take the initiative to punish Penn State for alleged criminal acts, then go through the entire process.

All that being said, the Paterno family doesn’t have a case here. The NCAA and Penn State agreed to the punishment, and the articles and bylaws of the NCAA rule book on ethics are so vague it’s impossible to argue against them.

Also, the NCAA sanctions aren’t subject to appeal. So, there’s that.

Purdue QB David Blough cleared for spring practice

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In a stark change from most offseason news in the sport, Purdue has something positive personnel-wise to hang its hat on moving forward.

By way of the Indianapolis Star, head coach Jeff Brohm revealed Friday that David Blough is “way ahead of schedule” and has been cleared to participate in spring practice, which kicks off this coming Monday, for the Boilermakers.  Just how much of a participant the quarterback will be remains to be seen, though.

“He’s doing a great job and he will be out there at spring practice and will be participating,” Brohm said according to the Star. ‘Whether it will be fully that remains to be seen. He will be out there Day 1 and doing some portions of practice.

“We’ve got to make sure we protect him, especially in 11-on-11 settings. We’ll see how the first week goes if we can progress on that.”

Blough suffered a dislocated ankle in a November win over Illinois and missed the remainder of the 2017 season.  At the time of the injury, it was thought that it and the subsequent recovery process would keep the junior out of spring practice.

Blough had started the two games leading up to his season-ending injury, with Brohm confirming that the rising senior will be the starter as this offseason kicks off in earnest.  Elijah Sindelar, who reclaimed the starting job after Blough’s injury, will miss spring practice as he continues to recover from a torn ACL on which he played for the last month of the regular season plus the Boilermakers’ bowl game.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.