Joe Paterno

What the Paternos’ critique of the Freeh report didn’t do, and what it did

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Like most of you, I’m sure, I already had an idea of what the Paterno family and its accompaniment of “independent analyses” would say in its critique of the Freeh report.

The family has, in unapologetic fashion, defended Joe Paterno‘s name and legacy over the past year after he was fired from Penn State following decades of success and crucified by the court of public opinion for his actions — or inactions — in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. While the core of the Sandusky story revolves around the utter disbelief that a serial pedophile could go years preying on young boys without ever being stopped, the decision on what to make of Paterno’s role in it all has manifested into one of the most — if not the most — polarizing angles.

So when the lengthy report was released Sunday morning, I wasn’t surprised to find phrases such as “rush to injustice”, while the Freeh report was deemed a solidification of the “false public narrative about Joe Paterno.”

But false, honest, or somewhere in between, the multiple narratives about Paterno in this entire mess are as permanent as the mark he left on his former program and university. It’s been over a year since the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke the Sandusky story wide open and people’s opinions one way or the other are pretty much set. In that regard, the Paterno family’s retort to the Freeh report accomplishes nothing.

The arguments range. From Paterno’s apparent inability to comprehend sodomy “as a 72-year-old football coach who was untrained in the complicated, counterintuitive dynamics of child sexual victimization and who came from a traditional background where even consensual sex was not discussed”, to being straight-up “fooled” by Sandusky, the critique implies that Paterno was prude enough to make Ned Flanders look like a proponent of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Yet, in his grand jury testimony, Paterno sounded up to speed on what happened between Sandusky and Victim 2 in 2001 when then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary walked in to the showers of the Lasch building on Penn State’s campus. McQueary then relayed what he saw to Paterno.

“He said he had something that he wanted to discuss. I said come on over to the house. He had seen a person, not an older but a mature person who was fondling or whatever you might call it.

“It was a sexual nature.”

The question is whether that understanding was the same in 2001 at the time of the conversation. The lack of documentation of any sort for that meeting has created one of the great mysteries of this story.

Even with documentation, the critique battles the theory that Paterno knew of Sandusky’s pedophilia and participated in a cover-up. One of the long-standing focal points of Paterno’s role in this story has been the email from Athletic Director Tim Curley to Vice President Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier dated Feb. 27, 2001:

“After giving it some more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday — I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”

At first glance, it would appear Paterno altered a course of action in dealing with Sandusky that originally included informing the Department of Public Welfare. The critique says that email was misrepresented, that a plan to inform proper authorities was still in place, just delayed.

Those are just two examples of many, but does that change your mind about Paterno for better or worse? It doesn’t for me. For example, the exact date and time Paterno met with Curley so as to not “ruin his weekend” to relay what he heard from McQueary doesn’t change the fact that, by the critique’s own admission on the second page, Paterno appeared to wash his hands of a situation he shouldn’t have.

(1) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001, (2) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident, and (3) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary.

Paterno’s involvement in any degree is a paradox. On one hand, he is not the center of the Sandusky story; rather, he is a link in a chain of key individuals who are accused of doing less than we as a society claim we would have done if placed in a similar situation. On the other hand, Paterno was not just a football coach. Few, if any, individuals in college athletics have become the face of an institution like Paterno was. To suggest that he did not have power or influence beyond the typical head coach is nothing short of naive. 

In addition to his spot atop Penn State’s chain of command, the other thing Paterno never lost was his mind. Though his body deteriorated with age, and his battle with cancer was eventually lost in early 2012, his grey matter was as sharp toward the end of his life as it was in his prime. This was universally known and witnessed.

With that power and brilliance comes accountability for what happens while you’re in charge, whether or not it’s in your area of expertise. It’s admittedly a unique situation. The Sandusky scandal is not about Paterno, yet it sort of is. The family’s response to the Freeh report mirrors that assessment even though it dismisses any sort of accountability Paterno should have had.

While the critique doesn’t do anything to persuasively change the public’s opinion about Paterno — it’s certainly not for a lack of effort — it does reasonably poke holes in the Freeh report’s strategy in coming up with its findings. Of the hundreds of people interviewed for the report, neither Curley nor Schultz, who are facing perjury charges and clearly among the most important people in this case, were. Paterno passed away early last year after a battle with lung cancer. His voice, the most important in this topic, is forever silenced.

The portion of the report written by Dick Thornburgh does a good job of dissecting the documentation used by the Freeh report to uncover holes in logic. The portion written by Jim Clemente offers compelling, psychology-based counterarguments to the perception that someone had to have known about Sandusky’s pedophilia.

The Freeh report was never entirely conclusive, and it certainly wasn’t intended to be used as a resource for the NCAA to levy punishment on Penn State’s football program, but in the end, the Paterno family’s response just doesn’t do much other than expose the Freeh’s blemishes while trying to hide Paterno’s.

The thing is, you can’t. Joe Paterno was a human being capable of doing great things for others, as well as doing wrong. He had a statue outside Beaver Stadium and a mural with, at one point, a halo painted over his head. But Paterno was not a god, nor was he a saint. The critique transparently attempts to restore Paterno’s image as such, and it’s bogus.

Paterno is just like you and me. To believe otherwise is only setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

Derek Jeter leaves message in every Michigan player’s locker

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh (R) of the Michigan Wolverines  presents baseball great Derek Jeter (L) of the New York Yankees with a jersey prior to the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Michigan Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Ahead of a huge Top 10 matchup, the Michigan football team has received a bit of inspiration from a pinstriped legend.

Derek Jeter, a Michigan high school graduate who signed with UM coming out of high school before embarking on what will end up being a Hall of Fame baseball career, has been somewhat of a fixture in and around the football program since the Wolverines became a part of Brand Jordan, a brand that Jeter also represents. Along with the brand’s namesake, His Airness Michael Jordan, Jeter was a part of the opener early this year at the Big House.  He was at a star-studded National Signing Day event this year as well.

With No. 8 Wisconsin on tap, Jeter decided to leave a gift and, more importantly, a message in the locker of every single player on the fourth-ranked team in the country.

“It is my personal challenge to you all to remain humble, yet hungry, every day along this journey to achieving greatness,” a portion of Jeter’s note read.

Suspension will sideline CB Justin Martin for Vols-UGA game

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Martin #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers tackles Lamical Perine #22 of the Florida Gators in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Justin Martin won’t get the opportunity to atone for a rough Week 4 performance against Florida after all.

Both 247Sports.com and the Knoxville News Sentinel have reported that Martin has been suspended for No. 11 Tennessee’s game this afternoon against No. 25 Georgia.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

Martin had started against the Gators, but head coach Butch Jones had already announced that freshman Baylen Buchanan would get the start at cornerback against the Bulldogs.  247Sports.com writes that, in the win over UF in Week 4, Martin “twice was beaten on deep throws and committed a costly penalty on the game’s opening kickoff.”

The Vols will also be without a pair of starters, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and defensive back Cameron Sutton, because of injuries.  It’s also highly doubtful that All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin plays because of a lingering shoulder injury.

The Bulldogs won’t be coming into the key SEC East clash unscathed, though, as leading rusher Nick Chubb is not expected to play because of an ankle injury.

Oklahoma State blocks three Texas PATs in defense-optional first half

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 15:  An Oklahoma State cheerleader flies the Cowboys' flag after a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns on October 15, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Oklahoma State beat Texas 38-26.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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The early slate of games has been highlighted by blocked extra-point attempts. Three of them have come in Stillwater, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State doing the job against Texas. One of those blocked attempts was returned by Oklahoma State for two points. Oklahoma State holds the halftime edge with a 37-25 lead following a back-and-forth second quarter that saw four lead changes in the second quarter. Yep. That’s the halftime score.

Oklahoma State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Longhorns, with Justice Hill running for a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game and Mason Rudolph connecting for a 54-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Texas would settle down though and come back in the first quarter with two straight possessions with touchdowns. Tyrone Swoopes capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with a short touchdown run. One play earlier, Shane Buechele completed a 49-yard pass to Dorian Leonard.

It looked as though Texas was about to tie things up on their next possession (after an Oklahoma State three-and-out) when D'Onta Foreman ran 22 yards for a score, but special teams would help Oklahoma State keep the lead. Tre Flowers wound up returning a blocked PAT attempt to the house off a lateral for two additional points for the Cowboys.

The Longhorns did take a lead in the second quarter with a Swoopes touchdown run inside the red zone, and the lead exchanged hands twice more before the end of the first half. Rudolph capped an 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, 23-19, but Buchele launched a 42-yard pass to Beck for a 42-yard score on the ensuing possession. Four plays later on the ensuing possession, Oklahoma State was back on top with a Rudolph touchdown pass to Jalen McCleskey from 36 yards.

We could have a wild one in Stillwater in the second half.

J.T. Barrett becomes Ohio State’s all-time passing TD leader in first half vs. Rutgers

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Tulsa Hurricane at Ohio Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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It’s teacher vs. student this afternoon in Columbus, Ohio with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer going head-to-head against Rutgers and head coach Chris Ash. Ash was Meyer’s c0-defensive coordinator last season. Through one half of play, the teacher holds the edge on the student, by a score of 30-0. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown his way into school history with a four-touchdown first half.

Ohio State’s first offensive possession looked promising after starting at their nine-yard line, but J.T. Barrett was picked off by Anthony Cioffi at the Rutgers 36-yard line to kill the drive. The Rutgers offense was unable to capitalize on the ensuing possession and punted after five plays. Ohio State’s offense would respond with a six-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Barrett made up for his prior interception by connecting with Dontre Wilson inside the red zone for an 18-yard score.

Ohio State would push their lead to 16-0 in the second quarter when Barrett completed a red zone touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin, McLaurin’s first career touchdown reception. The Buckeyes continued to tack on with Barrett’s third touchdown pass of the half. For Barrett, that was his 58th all-time touchdown pass, moving into sole possession of first-place in Ohio State program history.

Rutgers has tried a couple things to keep Ohio state on their toes, but nothing has proved successful thus far.