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.

Alabama joins Miami in some very exclusive NFL draft company

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It took a little while longer than what some of the early mock drafts had projected, but Alabama has finally joined some rarefied Player Selection Meeting air.

With the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NFL, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back/Swiss army knife Minkah Fitzpatrick. With that selection, the Crimson Tide has now seen a player taken in the first round of the draft each of the last 10 years, joining the Miami Hurricanes as the only program that can make that claim.

The All-American Fitzpatrick was the second player from the SEC taken thus far, joining Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, who was taken eighth overall by the Chicago Bears.  And,  just as we were getting ready to post this, one of Fitzpatrick’s teammates, Da’Ron Payne, was taken by the Washington Redskins with the 13th-overall pick.

Baker Mayfield becomes first former walk-on to be selected No. 1 overall in NFL draft

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You can add yet another notch to Baker Mayfield‘s burgeoning list of accomplishments.

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, most mock drafts had either USC quarterback Sam Darnold or Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen going No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns. In the last 24 hours, however, there was a growing buzz surrounding the Oklahoma signal-caller for that top spot.

Thursday night, at a little after 8 p.m. ET at AT&T Stadium, that buzz turned into a reality as the Browns made Mayfield the first pick of this year’s draft. And, not only did he become the fourth-ever Sooner to be taken No. 1 overall, he becomes the only player who began his collegiate career as a walk-on to be selected first in the draft.

Famously, Mayfield walked not once but twice in his collegiate playing career — first at Texas Tech and then again at Oklahoma after he decided to transfer from the Red Raiders. Mayfield, a three-star 2013 recruit who was rated as the No. 42 pro-style quarterback in the country, actually held offers from pre-Lane Kiffin Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and Rice before opting to become a walk-on in Lubbock.

While with the Red Raiders, Mayfield became, it’s believed, the first-ever to start a season opener as a true freshman walk-on.

After transferring to the Sooners and sitting out the 2014 season, the Austin, Tex., native became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football history. He helped lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs two of the last three seasons and put together back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017 that were the best, passer rating-wise, in the history of the game. He capped off that prodigious statistical run by winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy in one of the biggest landslides in the award’s history.

Report: QB Shea Patterson will be eligible for Michigan this fall

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The Michigan Wolverines may have their new starting quarterback. Shea Patterson, after a drawn-out battle for eligibility this season, will be eligible to play for the Wolverines this fall. According to a report from The Detroit News, Patterson has been granted a transfer waiver from the NCAA after the NCAA, Michigan and Ole Miss came to terms on an agreement to allow for Patterson to become eligible.

From The Detroit News report;

An agreement has been reached among the NCAA, Michigan and Ole Miss, according to the source, and with the completion of some paperwork, Patterson will be eligible to play this fall.

The source requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made, but that announcement is expected soon.

A Michigan official said Thursday night the athletic department has “no new information on a final decision from the NCAA.”

Ole Miss had been holding up the transfer process for Patterson because the school did not accept Patterson’s reason for wanting to transfer from the Rebels to Michigan. Frustrated with the process, Patterson ripped Ole Miss and former head coach Hugh Freeze. With Ole Miss blocking the transfer for Patterson, the former Ole Miss quarterback had been hanging in limbo with Michigan with no idea if he would be cleared to play this fall for the Wolverines or if he would have to sit out a season due to typical NCAA transfer rules.

Because Ole Miss was placed on probation amid scandal, Patterson sought a transfer after feeling he had been misled and lied to by Freeze and Ole Miss. Now at Michigan, Patterson can immediately begin focusing on competing for the starting job at quarterback for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Given how much Michigan could stand to improve at the position, Patterson could give the Wolverines a much-needed boost this fall.

A formal announcement on Patterson’s status at Michigan is expected to be made once the legal paperwork is completed between the NCAA, Michigan, and Ole Miss.

LB Jon Reschke may be allowed back at Michigan State, if Spartan players allow it

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A year ago, Michigan State linebacker Jon Reschke was on the move out of East Lansing. However, perhaps time has healed enough wounds to see Reschke return to the Spartans. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is leaving the door open for that possibility, but Reschke’s fate with the program may be left in the hands of his former teammates.

Reschke never found another program to transfer to for the 2017 season and has since undergone ACL surgery. He would need to get a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA to continue playing college football, but if he does, then Dantonio says he may welcome Reschke back if his current players decide to welcome him back.

“I’ve talked to our football team about it,” Dantonio said, according to MLive.com. “That’s our football team’s decision on that one. I think there’s certain things that you go through relative to your football team so that decision will get made as we go forward. I think it’s more important to talk to our players about that, if and when that happens.”

Football coaches allowing team members to determine the fate of a player that has fallen out of the good graces of the program is nothing new, and considering the circumstances surrounding Reschke’s departure from the program, this seems like a logical decision. Dantonio is allowing the players to determine whether or not they want to give someone who lost control a second chance rather than bring a guy who was perceived to be a bad egg back into the program without testing the waters within the locker room.