Report: Paterno family set to counter Freeh report

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Ahead of the airing of Sue Paterno‘s interview with Katie Couric Monday, the family of Joe Paterno will issue a response to a Penn State-commissioned report that ultimately resulted in historic sanctions being slapped on the football program.

Citing a source close to the case, the Centre Daily Times writes that “[t]he family of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno will release a report countering the Freeh Report, which claimed Paterno covered up allegations of child sex abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.”  The family’s report, which is expected to be upwards of 180 pages — the Freeh report was in the neighborhood of 150 pages — will be released and discussed on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program at 9 ET Sunday morning.

Announced in July of last year, the family’s report was compiled by a “prominent national team of experts,” the paper notes.

While the details of what will actually be contained in what’s being called an “extremely comprehensive” report are not known, it’s expected to center on the tactics utilized by the Freeh group, which “conducted over 430 interviews and reviewed over 3.5 million documents” during a probe that began in November of 2011.  Coach Paterno was not one of those interviewed.  Neither was Mike McQueary, the then-grad assistant who witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a shower located in the football program’s on-campus building in 2001.  How school officials, including Paterno, handled that incident was a central theme in the Freeh report.

The independent investigation into the Sandusky child-sex scandal, headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, has come under tremendous fire since its release in July of 2012, six months following Paterno’s death and eight months after Sandusky’s indictment on dozens of charges that led to the legendary coach’s dismissal.  The most damning accusation in the Freeh report alleged that Paterno, along with other top-level university officials, “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the university community and authorities.”

The Paterno family has long maintained their patriarch’s innocence, even as Paterno acknowledged publicly that the Sandusky scandal was “one of the great sorrows of my life… I wish I had done more.”

On the basis of the Freeh report, the NCAA levied significant sanctions against the university last year, including a $60 million fine, stripping dozens of scholarship from the football program as well as a four-year bowl ban.  A federal antitrust lawsuit, headed by governor Tom Corbett, has been filed seeking to have the sanctions reversed, while the NCAA is looking to have the case dismissed.

UPDATED 1:51 p.m. ET: Sue Paterno has penned a letter and sent it to the Penn State lettermen who played under her husband, which can be read in its entirety HERE.  A very big thanks to former Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson (@RealMikeRob) for giving us a heads up to the letter.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.