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.

USC AD Pat Haden released from hospital following undisclosed procedure

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: 
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden speaks at a press conference introducing Steve Sarkisian as the new USC  head football coach at the John McKay Center at the University of Southern California on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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USC athletics director Pat Haden was released from a Los Angeles hospital Saturday following an undisclosed procedure.

Haden shared the news on his Twitter account.

Haden was hospitalized Wednesday after falling while walking back to Heritage Hall after an on-campus meeting. He was taken away from the first hospital to a second on Wednesday evening, where he underwent an undisclosed procedure according to the Los Angeles Times.

Haden took over as USC’s athletics director in 2010 and has remained in the news for the wrong reasons since, from the airport firing of Lane Kiffin to the Steve Sarkisian saga, including confronting an official during a game against Stanford in 2014, for which he was fined by the Pac-12. He had another episode requiring medical attention on the sideline at Notre Dame this October, and resigned from the College Football Playoff selection committee two weeks later.

The former Trojan quarterback announced last week he will step down as USC’s athletics director this summer.

Emails detail Cincinnati’s effort to join Big 12

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 12:  A cheerleader of the Cincinnati Bearcats waves a flag during the game against the Toledo Rockets at Paul Brown Stadium on September 12, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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It’s no secret that if there was an obvious choice for expansion, the Big 12 would have expanded by now. But, in spite of that, Cincinnati is working to convince the 10 member schools — or, perhaps, the remaining five or six it needs to win over — that it is the obvious candidate.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday published emails detailing Cincinnati’s ground-roots, back-room campaign to join the Big 12, far led  by UC president Santa Ono with some strategic help along the way. The emails show Ono and UC have an ally in Oklahoma president David Boren, who wrote after meeting Ono at a Washington, D.C., function nearly a year ago today, “You are truly an outstanding leader and knowing that you are at the helm in Cincinnati makes me even more inclined to support your cause.” Boren is joined by West Virginia president Gordon Gee, a known hawk on expansion, and Baylor president Ken Starr on the Big 12’s expansion committee.

Ono also met privately with former Kansas State president Jon Wefald, who provided the UC president with bad information. “The only way I see to get Cincinnati into the Big 12 is this: that UC and the 2nd school would have to volunteer to take the financial haircut yourselves. Why? Because the three major networks will never add enough monies to allow the next two schools to have the same revenues as the 10 to (sic) now,” he wrote. “The emphasis of UC right now should be this: Get into the Big 12 and worry about equal revenues later. So get in now and tell the other 10 universities that you and the second school will take the haircut.”

This is incorrect, which turns out to be a bullet point in Cincinnati’s favor.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed last summer the league’s contracts with ESPN and FOX would expand with the conference’s membership.

Jason Kirk of SB Nation did a back-of-the-envelope estimation that concluded adding two schools would cost the remaining 10 schools between $1.5 and $2 million annually in College Football Playoff, NCAA and bowl payouts, but that’s before adding in the likelihoods of additional bowl and NCAA payouts that come with an expanded roster, plus the fact that the Big 12 would now have a conference championship game to sell to TV networks. In short, Cincinnati and another school likely wouldn’t cost the Big 12 much of a “haircut” at all.

In addition to his trip to Manhattan, Ono also visited with then-Texas president Bill Powers in Austin on company dime, but minutes from a UC Foundation board meeting indicate Ono “personally visited every Big 12 president regarding the merits of the University of Cincinnati and its academic and athletic programs,” indicating Bearcats boosters may have funded much of Ono’s campaign.

Cincinnati also enlisted help of executives with UC ties from Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s while also soliciting Pacey Economics to compare the Bearcats with current Big 12 schools:

In a splashy brochure dated November 2014, UC shows how it compares to the Big 12 schools in 10 categories – including annual giving, National Merit Scholars, total research expenditures, enrollment and endowment assets. Cincinnati would rank in the conference’s top 5 in each category listed, except the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which would put UC seventh.

Pacey’s research, completed in late 2014, looked at athletic budgets, football and basketball success, academics and TV market size. UC’s annual athletics budget ($27.7 million in 2015) would be the lowest in the Big 12, but Pacey pointed out that would be expected to increase in a conference where the athletic department could make more money.

The Big 12 won’t meet to discuss expansion again until May, but Ono told the Enquirer he believes his jet-setting and hand-shaking will pay off. “I am indeed optimistic that through these efforts the University of Cincinnati is positioned exceptionally well to continue to compete at the highest level,” Ono told the paper in a statement.

In January, the Big 12 won the right through an NCAA vote to hold a title game without expanding, but expansion remains a target for some in the league because it would help the conference’s cause to launch a coveted TV network. Big 12 presidents and athletics directors met at league offices in Las Colinas, Texas, in February to discuss the matters without voting on issues at hand, though Bowlsby indicated afterward the schools continue to inch ever-closer to a resolution, calling the talks “high-level discussions.”

Baylor to add counselors following criticism of handling sex assault cases

WACO, TX - AUGUST 31:  A general view of play between the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Baylor announced late Friday plans to add counselors and add additional training for faculty and staff in an effort to improve the school’s response to sexual assault incidents.

The school has come under criticism of late after reports from the Texas Monthly and ESPN’s Outside the Lines detailed Baylor’s response to sexual assaults committed by Bears football players Sam Ukwuachu and Tevin Elliott, respectively. Ukwuachu was sentenced in August to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation for raping a Baylor women’s soccer in 2013, while Elliott is currently serving a 20 year prison sentence after a conviction on two counts of sexual assault. ESPN’s report alleged that Baylor failed to act to three students’ complaints of assault by Elliott, while Texas Monthly wrote that the unnamed women’s soccer player eventually transferred after having her scholarship reduced.

“We know we can and must do a better job to confront interpersonal violence in our campus community,” Baylor president Ken Starr said in the statement.

The devil, as always, is in the details in these cases, and the statement did not specify how many counselors it would add or what type of and how much training its employees would receive.

Still, one of the leaders behind an online pledge that acquired more than 1,700 signatures approved the move.

“I think it showed that the Baylor leadership heard the concerns of the Baylor family, and that they recognized the need for immediate change,” said Colby College assistant professor and Baylor alum Laura Seay, via the Dallas Morning News. “They need to ensure follow-through that these things do happen and they happen as quickly as possible.”

Texas brings back former ‘Horn to coach running backs

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 14:  D'Onta Foreman #33 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Jarrod Harper #22 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half during the game on November 14, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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From 2001-05, Anthony Johnson played running back at Texas. And by that, we mean he mostly stood and watched as Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles played running back for the Longhorns.

Now his job is to recruit and develop the next Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles.

Johnson was announced as Texas’ new running backs coach on Saturday, making this his third stint with the burnt orange and white following a run a quality control assistant from 2007-09. Johnson replaces Tommie Robinson, who returned to a role with USC last month.

“Our entire staff thought that Anthony was a perfect fit to coach our running backs,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous young coach with great energy and enthusiasm. Anthony played high school ball in Texas, played and coached at Texas and really knows the pride and tradition of our place and our state well. He’s a guy that has played running back at a high level, who also has gained a great deal of experience coaching the position and just has so much passion for the game and drive as a coach. You could really see that during our visits, and I know Sterlin (Gilbert) and the offensive staff really hit it off with him, too. He’ll be a super addition to our staff, and we’re looking forward to getting him here.”

Johnson arrives from Toledo, where he was recently promoted to co-offensive coordinator. He served as the Rockets’ running backs coach for the previous two seasons, seasons in which the northeastern UT led the MAC in rushing. Kareem Hunt was the league’s leading per-game rusher in both seasons, averaging 163.1 yards in 2015 and 108.1 in ’14.

Prior to Toledo, Johnson spent four seasons as Sam Houston State’s running backs coach. His star pupil in Huntsville was running back Timothy Flanders, who earned three nods as an FCS All-American, was named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (FCS’s answer to the Heisman), and twice won the Southland Conference Player of the Year honor.

“I’ve obviously been watching the program from afar for years, and I have great admiration for Coach Strong,” Johnson said. “After spending some time in Austin with him and his staff recently, you can really feel the energy of what’s going on at Texas. Coach Strong is a great football coach and a man of integrity who has so much passion for the kids and the program. There’s just a special feeling around him and the program right now. I know there are big things in the future for Texas football, and I can’t wait to get down there and be a part of it.

“I spent a lot of time with Sterlin (Gilbert), Matt (Mattox) and Jeff (Traylor), and I feel like I really connected with them. They’re all tremendous football coaches with a great vision for what they want to accomplish. I love what they’re bringing offensively, and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach in a very similar style of offense for years. I’m really looking forward to getting in that room with all of the talented running backs at Texas and playing my role to help get the offense going.”

Texas ranked 17th nationally in rushing last season despite limping to a 5-7 record. The ‘Horns return leading rusher D'Onta Foreman (681 yards on 7.17 yards per carry, five touchdowns), a junior, sophomore Chris Warren (470 yards on 6.62 yards per carry, four touchdowns), sophomore Kirk Johnson (eight carries for 44 yards) and incoming freshman Kyle Porter.