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.

La. governor threatens LSU football in stumping for tax increase

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers look on during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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In life, there are some things you just don’t threaten, like a man’s mother or wife or kids.  In the South, you never, ever threaten a man’s — or woman’s or mom’s — college football, even if it’s nothing more than what most are calling your typical political bluster.

Yet that’s exactly where Louisiana’s governor went Thursday, with John Bel Edwards “threatening” the very existence of the sport in the state — including flagship program LSU — if a tax increase for which he’s pushing isn’t implemented.  The state is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit, and funding for higher education, among other things, could be cut, the governor said, if “the largest tax increase in state history” is not put in place by June.

“If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate, and student-athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester,” Edwards said. “That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.”

“These are not scare tactics,” Edwards, wearing a Grim Reaper costume, added.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The governor went so far as to say that LSU football was also in jeopardy, due to a threatened suspension of spring classes that would jeopardize college athletes’ eligibility next year. He said the state would no longer be able to afford one of its most popular programs with middle class residents — the TOPS college scholarship — without tax hikes.

… “I don’t say this to scare you. But I am going to be honest with you.”

The governor didn’t just threaten LSU football if his tax increase wasn’t implemented, with the Times-Picayune writing that, during the state-wide television address, “Edwards told viewers that the state would be forced to take extreme action — such as throwing people with off of kidney dialysis and shutting down hospice services — if new taxes didn’t go into place over the next few months.”

Here’s to guessing that a deal will be reached before June, before people are thrown off dialysis.  Or before people start throwing legislators off buildings and/or bridges for shutting down their beloved Bayou Bengals football.

Texas losing assistant Jay Norvell to Arizona State

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Back in December, Jay Norvell was rumored to be a candidate for Arizona State’s vacancy at offensive coordinator.  Two months later, it appears the Texas play-caller will be joining Todd Graham‘s coaching staff after all, albeit in a “lesser” capacity.

Shortly after Texas confirmed that Charlie Strong had lost one assistant due to “circumstances [that] have put us in a position that we are going to part ways,” reports began to surface that Norvell is leaving Texas to take a job at ASU. Specifically, Norvell is expected to become Graham’s wide receivers coach and hold the title of passing-game coordinator as well.

Norvell spent one season at Texas after being dismissed by Oklahoma following the 2014 season.  Originally hired as the Longhorns’ wide receivers coach, Norvell was promoted to play-caller early on in the 2015 season when Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline were demoted by Strong.

After the 2015 season, Norvell ceded his play-calling duties to Sterlin Gilbert, who was hired by Strong as offensive coordinator in December. Norvell won’t have play-calling duties at Arizona State, either, as Graham hired Chip Lindsey away from Southern Miss to coordinate the Sun Devils’ offense.

Norvell becomes the fifth Longhorn assistant to leave the program since the end of the season, joining Watson (not retained), Wickline (moved on to West Virginia), Tommie Robinson (left for USC) and Chris Vaughn (Ole Miss muck). The last two offseasons, a total of eight assistants have left the program in some form or fashion.

As it stands now, Strong has three vacancies to fill on his current staff.

UPDATED 10:29 a.m. ET: While neither program has confirmed it, Norvell took to his personal Twitter account to apparently say goodbye to his home of the last year.

Report: USC AD Pat Haden undergoes unspecified medical 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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Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, the Los Angeles Times reported overnight that outgoing USC athletic director Pat Haden underwent what’s only being described as “an unspecified medical procedure” at some point Thursday.

Early Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Haden nearly collapsed outside of Heritage Hall and was treated by paramedics called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, per reports, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.  A statement from the school confirmed Haden had felt lightheaded before being treated by medical personnel and ultimately transported to his doctor off campus.

The 63-year-old Haden, who has a pacemaker, was taken to one hospital later that day and discharged.  According to the Times, however, Haden was taken to another hospital at some point after the first visit and was held overnight prior to the procedure being performed Thursday.

It’s expected that Haden will remain hospitalized for another day or two, the paper reports.

A similar episode prior to the Notre Dame game last season prompted Haden to give up his duties as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Lingering health issues played a role in his decision earlier this month to step down as USC’s athletic director later this year.

Utah State continues filling holes on Matt Wells’ Aggies staff

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Departures had left Matt Wells with myriad openings on his Utah State coaching staff.  Earlier this week, Wells filled one hole on the offensive side of the ball; a day later, he turned to the defensive side.

The university confirmed Wednesday that Julius Brown has been added by Wells as cornerbacks coach.  Brown had spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Mountain West rival Boise State.

Brown, who played his college football with the Broncos, and his alma mater reportedly parted ways earlier this year.  The Idaho Statesman reported at the time that “[i]t was unclear if Brown’s departure would be termed a resignation or a firing.”

Prior to his first tenure at BSU, Brown was a secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas State (2013) and cornerbacks coach at Troy (2012).

“We are excited to add Julius to the Aggie football family,” said Wells. “He brings a lot of experience to our staff and team as both a secondary coach and former defensive back, and also has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter. He possesses key knowledge of the Mountain West that will aid us moving forward in our quest to win a conference championship.”

With the hiring of Brown, Wells still has a need for running backs and tight ends coaches as well as special teams coordinator.