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.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.

College football world will watch as SEC reviews graduate transfer rules at spring meetings

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Among a handful of items on the agenda for this week’s SEC spring meetings will be a review and discussion about the league’s graduate transfer rules. Specifically, the SEC is expected to address the current restrictions on accepting players as graduate transfers if a previous graduate transfer fails to meet that school’s academic requirements.

“This will be the first meaningful conversation that we’ve had since the proliferation of graduate transfers has happened nationally,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to the Associated Press. ”I expect our membership to have a pretty meaningful conversation about the right perspective on graduate transfers entering the SEC from outside and then the topic of inter-conference transfers.”

Sankey has promised the topic of graduate transfer rules will be reviewed at the SEC spring meetings, and it will be a bit overdue. Better later than never, right?

Like the early signing period, this is a topic the SEC has found themselves standing in the minority crowd. The SEC has had a complicated relationship to graduate transfers since the NCAA opened the door for graduate transfers in 2006. The conference banned all graduate transfers in 2011 after Ole Miss had added former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli as a graduate transfer. The Masoli transfer was one scrutinized by the NCAA and critics before officially being cleared following an appeal. In 2014, the ban was lifted, but with provisions in place to ensure SEC schools were not adding graduate transfers with no intention of pursuing a graduate degree.

One person who may be watching this development this week with great interest is likely former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire. Zaire is suspected to be down to deciding whether to transfer to Florida or Texas, and he has already pushed back his decision seemingly to wait and see if the Gators will be an actual option. For that to happen, the SEC will have to amend its graduate transfer policy or allow Florida an exemption.

Florida is unable to add a graduate transfer like Zaire because two previous graduate transfers (former Georgia Tech linebacker Anthony Harrell and former Fordham offensive lineman Mason Halter) failed to meet the academic requirements after transferring to Florida. That put Florida on a three-year ban from adding any graduate transfers through 2018.

But if the SEC is the one lagging behind the competition when it comes to its graduate transfer policies, why would the college football world be watching? That’s easy. If the sEC amends its graduate transfer policies, then makes the conference that already typically dominates in talent acquisition through recruiting has a chance to become even stronger and more desirable. Graduate transfers who may be blocked from enrolling at an SEC school and have been forced to evaluate other options in the Big 12 or Big Ten and so on, could have a chance to transfer to the SEC. For example, Florida could add Zaire to their roster, which leaves Texas hoping Tom Herman really works his QB magic in Austin.

There is a ripple effect that could potentially play out, even in a conference that is in need of catching up in this particular issue. That’s how important the decisions made in the SEC could be for the entire sport.

Brandon Jacobs says he will ‘expose’ Jim Harbaugh, get him fired

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We’re knee-deep — or higher — into the college football offseason, so of course we have a Twitter beef to bide our time until real football begins again.

Brandon Jacobs was a running back who played his college football at FCS Southern Illinois and went on to spend nine mostly productive years at the NFL level, including one season with the San Francisco 49ers.  That one season in the Bay Area wasn’t remembered fondly by Jacobs, though, who used a radio interview this past week to (again) absolutely rip into his head football coach at the time — current Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I had a lot of respect for Jim when I was there, before I got to know him,” a transcription from mlive.com began.

“Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. … That guy knew nothing, man.”

Not being one to shy away from such a damning public evisceration, Harbaugh got Twitter Biblical in addressing his former player’s public admonition…

… with his former player responding by threatening to expose Harbaugh in such a manner that it will end in his dismissal…

The fact that Jacobs isn’t exactly a fan of Harbaugh doesn’t come as a huge surprise, with the player referring to his former coach as a “bitch” multiple times, as well as a loser, during a radio interview more than three years ago.

He is a bitch, and that’s why he’s never won anything,” Jacobs said. “It is what it is. I’ve got two rings. Harbaugh, though, he’s a bitch. So it doesn’t matter.”

In exactly 97 days, Michigan will open the 2017 college football season against Florida. Whether the Wolverines open the season with Harbaugh at the helm will apparently depend on how much exposing from five years ago Jacobs plans on doing.  Or Jacobs’ lingering and ongoing bitterness won’t make a spit bit of difference.  One of the two.

Report: Big 12 still raking in SEC-level cash

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It’s a bad time for the Big 12. The conference isn’t signing blue chip prospects at the rate of its peers, isn’t producing draft picks at the rate of its peers and isn’t reaching and winning big games at the rate of its peers.

But the Big 12 is still getting paid at the rate of its peers.

The league’s contracts with ESPN and FOX combined with its 10-team set up have allowed the Big 12 to keep pace with the SEC and Big Ten and remain ahead of the ACC and Pac-12 in financial distribution. The Dallas Morning News‘s Big 12 writer Chuck Carlton tweeted on Friday the league’s per-school distribution will again grow 10 percent to more than $33 million in 2017-18.

The SEC distributed just north of $40 million in 2016-17, while the Big Ten was at $33 million by 2014-15.

However, since the Big 12 does not have its own television network, its conference distributions do not include third-tier rights, which its schools keep and sell on their own — like the Longhorn Network. So schools like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas are likely getting paid equal or above their SEC and Big Ten peers.

Now if only they could start recruiting and winning like them, too.