Outgoing Penn State AD opens up about firing Paterno, hiring O’Brien

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Earlier this week it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner will resign from his position. Joyner had never been much of a fan favorite, and the tales of his interactions with coaches and football players had been documented, including in the John Bacon book “Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football.” Joyner realizes why his image is tarnished to a certain extent, but he appears to not want to shoulder the responsibility for some of his actions as a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees and athletics director.

“I just think people have so many emotions tied up in how they feel about what went on that it interferes perhaps with some rational thought process,” Joyner said in a one-on-one interview with David Jones of The Patriot News. “And I don’t slight them for that; that’s not a criticism.”

What did Joyner mean by “what went on?” The firing of former head coach Joe Paterno, as the Jerry Sandusky scandal was ripping apart the program and university before a blitzkrieg of national media flocking in State College in November 2011.

“What happened with Joe and the Board and all the issues surrounding that,” Joyner explained. “You know, if you have a burr under your saddle, every time you move, it hurts, no matter what it is.”

Joyner’s critics ranged across the state of Pennsylvania. Penn State fans had been split as a result of the Sandusky crimes and to this day the healing as a community continues. Anger and outrage was directed at the leadership of the school, and that meant Joyner was a bit of a target as well after coming form the board. Joyner says he received plenty of criticisms for his actions from those who felt the entire Paterno portion of the fallout was mishandled, but he tried to suggest Paterno was never fired. Jones was not buying that.

From The Patriot News;

Joyner: “The folks that may have come up to me and said that they were upset that I was part of Joe’s – well, let’s clarify something, too: He wasn’t fired. He was not permitted to coach the last three games.

P-N: Oh, come on. And [former men’s basketball coach] Jerry Dunn wasn’t fired either. Please. Stop it.

Joyner: “I understand. Having said that, people have come up to me and said some things. It’s happened in the grocery store. Not very often anymore. But when it would happen, I would just say, ‘I respect your right to that opinion.'”

Joyner was also charged with the task of hiring a new head coach. That job search led to the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien coached two seasons at Penn State, which were slammed with NCAA sanctions nobody quite expected later in the summer just before O’Brien got his head coaching gears in motion. O’Brien left to take a job as the head coach of the Houston Texans this offseason. Some felt O’Brien had issues with Penn State leadership, but Joyner suggests Penn State tried to give O’Brien everything the coach wanted.

“I’m not sure what he wanted that he didn’t get, to be honest with you,” Joyner said. “We tried every way we could to do everything we can. Not saying we can do everything. But we would talk very frequently about, hey, what do you need?”

Joyner will retire effect August 1 but has informed Penn State he will help with the transition as a new AD is brought in.

You can read the full interview with Joyner via The Patriot News.

Jim McElwain reportedly signs deal to join Michigan coaching staff

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The Jim McElwain watch in Ann Arbor is essentially done. ESPN reports the former head coach of the Florida Gators has signed a deal to join Jim Harbaugh as a new member of the Michigan coaching staff. Michigan has not formally announced the new addition yet, but McElwain told ESPN he is getting to work right away as a wide receivers coach.

I’m excited to get back into it and am looking forward to going there and learning and helping Michigan get better,” McElwain said to ESPN‘s Chris Low, who reported the latest update in the ongoing McElwain-To-Michigan story. It has been quite a year for McElwain, who has now gone from wanting to “beat the heck out of Michigan” to joining Harbaugh as an offensive assistant (Harbaugh was 2-0 against McElwain in head-to-head meetings between Michigan and Florida).

McElwain was fired by Florida last October in the midst of a disappointing season after discrepancies in McElwain’s claims about receiving death threats could not be backed up by the coach. Florida bought out McElwain’s contract at a reported $7.5 million.

Michigan had been looking to fill the role of receivers coach following the abrupt departure of Dan Enos to Alabama. Enos joined the Michigan coaching staff for a cup of coffee, getting hired in January after the Arkansas coaching staff was given an overhaul with the firing of Bret Bielema only to leave for a job with Nick Saban. McElwain, of course, is one of many coaches to jump into head coaching off the Saban coaching tree in recent years, first with Colorado State and most recently with Florida.

Previous reports have floated the idea McElwain will call plays for the Wolverines, but that remains unconfirmed.

Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.