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.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.