Penn State ramps up defense of medical care

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Word broke last night that Sports Illustrated would be publishing a piece that was highly critical the lingering sports culture at Penn State in general and the medical care given to student-athletes specifically.

The university responded swiftly, releasing a statement that called the SI report “erroneous” and is essentially an attempt to “sensationalize” a non-issue.  Wednesday afternoon, PSU’s defense of its medical procedures ramped up another notch or two.

Appearing on ESPN‘s “College Football Live” program, head coach Bill O’Brien lashed out at the report, which is not available in full online but a summary can be viewed by clicking HERE.  O’Brien stated that he’s heard from a handful of current and former Nittany Lion football players who would like to know what they can do “to get in front of this” apparently scathing six-page report.

“We here at Penn State would never jeopardize the health and safety of our players. We don’t have any horse in that race,” O’Brien said in quotes provided by PennLive.com. “It’s very upsetting to me that the word out there is that we don’t have proper care for our student-athletes.”

O’Brien added that “the only thing that matters to me” is the safety of his players.

The SI report was particularly critical of the fact that O’Brien made suggestions regarding the medical care of his players, including parting ways with long-time team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli.  O’Brien stated that he merely made the recommendation; it was up to his superiors to make the final call on a change in medical personnel.

“At the end of the year, I met with [athletic director Dave] Joyner and Rod Erickson about a lot of improvements that needed to be made,” O’Brien said. “My recommendation was to move in another direction with the doctors on this team. I don’t do the hiring and firing. That’s for the people above me.”

In addition to O’Brien’s television appearance, Penn State also issued a series of new statements questioning the credibility of the piece.  The one below comes from Dr. Harold Paz, senior vice president for Health Affairs, Chief Executive Officer, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and dean of the College of Medicine:

“The article suggests that the quality of care provided to Penn State student athletes has been jeopardized by a change in team physicians. It simply isn’t the case. Drs. Seidenberg and Lynch, the physicians now responsible for the day-to-day care of Penn State football players are both experienced clinicians, fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine and committed to providing expert medical care to our students athletes.

“Any suggestion that care is being compromised by the change in physician assignments is both unsubstantiated and incorrect.

“The article further suggests that Dr. Sebastianelli is no longer playing a role in supporting the University’s athletic teams. In fact, as Director of Athletic Medicine, Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University’s entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics.”

A general statement released by the university begins by claiming that “[t]he article fundamentally distorts the facts,” including the very premise of the article.

“There has been no change in the model of medical care for our student athletes. The allegations on why the change in team physician was made is ludicrous. Worst of all, the article ignores the fact that Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University’s entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics, including football. In addition, the university athletic trainer reported directly to Dr. Sebastianelli, who supervised the trainer’s work. A review shows Penn State’s medical coverage is on par with, or exceeds, peer institutions.”

To show just how their medical coverage compares to other institutions, Penn State sent out yet another press release titled “Football Physician In-Season Coverage” in which the medical coverage of other major FBS football programs is compared to the system in place at Penn State:

Penn State
– Primary care physician attends all practices and games. On Sunday, examines every player who played in the game previous day and any others in need of attention.
– Orthopedic physician attends at least one practice each week (Wed.) and all games. Available post-practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday if necessary. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Iowa
– Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
– Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

LSU
– Primary care physician available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
– Orthopedic physician available post-practice Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Michigan State
– Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
– Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Northwestern
– Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
– Orthopedic physician is available post-practice once or twice a week. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Nebraska
– Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
– Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Ohio State
– A primary care physician is available to see players early a.m. Monday-Friday and post-practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, the physician is available to examine all players. Attends all games.
– An Orthopedic physician is available to see players post-practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players. Attends all games.
– At least one of the three team physicians attends practice or a part of practice every day and sees players at the conclusion of each practice as needed for new injuries or follow-up care.

Jake Butt’s draft tumble will net him $543k insurance payout

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The decisions to sit out their team’s respective bowl games made by Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey had little impact on either’s draft stock as both were selected in the Top 10 Thursday night.  Jake Butt‘s decision ended to play up costly him dearly, although he will see a (wee) bit of a financial cushion softening the blow.

Butt suffered a torn ACL in Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss to Florida State late last year.  At the time, Butt was considered one of the top tight end prospects for the 2017 NFL draft, with most experts considering him, at worst, a second-round selection.  Most, though, had him ticketed as a first-round pick in a deep class at the position.

Unfortunately, Butt saw his draft stock plummet because of the injury, with the talented tight end falling all the way to the fifth round as he was selected with the No. 145 overall pick by the Denver Broncos Saturday afternoon.

The injury and subsequent fall cost Butt millions of dollars.  The sliver of a silver lining is that Butt had taken out an insurance policy that will pay him a tax-free sum of $543,000, Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reported.

That said, Butt saw what would’ve been a potential signing bonus in the neighborhood of $4 million drop to just shy of $400,000.  Even considering the insurance payout, the injury will have cost Butt, at bare minimum, $3 million.

It could also have significant ramifications for the sport moving forward as, with the recent examples of Butt, Fournette, McCaffrey and even Jaylon Smith (HERE) fresh in their memories, star players could, more than ever, give significant consideration to skipping out on their team’s bowl game — maybe even a playoff game.

Suspended Michigan State staffer receives another contract extension

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Michigan State has added another one-month extension to the contract of suspended football staffer Curtis Blackwell as the school continues to investigate several sexual assaults involving the Spartans.

A schools spokesman confirmed the extension to the Detroit Free Press on Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a previous one-month contract extension for Blackwell that came at the end of March. His official title is that of the team’s director of college advancement and performance and he was hired by head coach Mark Dantonio back in 2013 after running a number of major recruiting camps in the region.

Blackwell was originally suspended back in February as the school and police began multiple investigations related to sexual assaults. According to reports, one Michigan State staff member had an arrest warrant issued for obstructing an investigation but he was never publicly identified by the school.

Probes into the matter, including a Title IX investigation, remain ongoing in East Lansing. The football team recently wrapped up practice missing over a dozen players in the spring game so it appears this wide-ranging scandal that has embroiled the Spartans is not going to be over anytime soon.

Ex-USC coach finally lands court date with NCAA over Reggie Bush case

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After years and years of meandering through the court system, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair finally has his day in court with the NCAA.

ESPN is reporting that the two parties will meet in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 18, 2018. The trial will finally get underway next year after nearly a decade of appeals on both sides.

McNair was the Trojans’ running backs coach during the glory days under Pete Carroll and responsible for coaching or recruiting many of the team’s top players. He was one of the few links to the program that the NCAA cited when determining that former star Reggie Bush received extra benefits, later leading to brutal sanctions back in 2010. McNair was given a one-year show-cause as a result of the Committee on Infractions findings and never coached again after the school let his contract expire shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the end of the story however, as McNair later filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in which he accused the association of violating protocol and showing bias against himself and the program in order to level unprecedented sanctions. Documents in the case have continued to seep out that have given credence to McNair’s case and the NCAA’s lawyers have fought bitterly at every turn in order to prevent the trial from actually getting underway.

Those efforts were unsuccessful however and it appears an already nasty legal battle is still not over. It remains to be seen if the trial will even happen, as a settlement could eventually take place between now and next April. If it does indeed go in front of a jury though, it just might be one of the most fascinating insights into one of the biggest NCAA scandals of the past few decades.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jonathan Giles announces transfer from Texas Tech

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Thursday may have been a high point for the Texas Tech football program upon learning that former quarterback Patrick Mahomes was taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Friday afternoon though, the Red Raiders dipped right back down as star wide receiver Jonathan Giles took to Twitter to announce that he was leaving the program and transferring out of Lubbock.

Giles was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist a season ago after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in each category despite trailing off a bit down the stretch as Tech missed out on a bowl game.

Playing time could have been a big factor in the decision to leave the program as both Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee emerged as the top receiving targets and Giles was relegated to second-team status coming out of spring practice.

Tech’s Air Raid system and NFL quarterbacks had a lot to do with Giles’ big numbers but it’s fairly rare to see such highly touted and productive wideouts hit the transfer markets. While the decision probably isn’t what some Red Raiders fans wanted to hear on Friday, the receiver probably won’t be lacking for options when it comes to his next stop.