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Ex-Penn State LB sues insurance company over disability policy

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Former Penn State linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White is going to court with an insurance company in a case that is sure to draw interest from those around college athletics.

White took out a disability policy after the 2015 season when he opted not to declare for the NFL Draft the following spring. He returned to State College but was injured early on in the 2016 campaign during a non-conference game against Temple and tore his ACL, knocking him out for the rest of the season. That is apparently where the issues arise as he tried to collect after going undrafted last month in the 2017 NFL Draft.

PennLive.com reports that Wartman-White subsequently filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. Middle District Court against International Specialty Insurance Co., which holds the policy. The linebacker is seeking as much as $1.5 million in “actual, compensatory and punitive damages that amount to at least the benefits of the policy.”

The purchase of disability policies is nothing new in college football as high-profile sophomores, juniors and seniors often take out insurance in case they suffer a career-ending (or threatening) injury during the course of a season. Michigan tight end Jake Butt recently collected a reported $543,000 insurance payout after dropping in the draft following his ACL tear in the Orange Bowl, for example.

It seems as though Wartman-White is looking for a similar payment but, in light of this week’s lawsuit, he may have to go to court in order to collect on his policy.

Penn State AD had no problem with Ohio State being in CFB Playoff

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Penn State may have defeated Ohio State in a head-to-head matchup during the 2016 season, but Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour says she was not bitter seeing the Buckeyes selected to play in the College Football Playoff instead of the Big Ten champion Nittany Lions. But that doesn’t mean she was satisfied having to settle for playing in the Rose Bowl (which, in fairness, isn’t a bad consolation prize).

“I think Ohio State should’ve gone. I have no problem with the fact Ohio State went,” Barbour said while attending Big Ten spring meetings in Illinois, according to Land of 10. “In fact, you know, we were arguably the best league in the country and we didn’t go. So let’s try to figure out why and what is there. [Whether] it’s we, Penn State, or we, as a conference … how do we address that in the future?”

The debate over whether or not Penn State should have been included in last season’s College Football Playoff boiled down to two teams; Ohio State and Pac-12 champion Washington. Penn State owned a head-to-head victory over the Buckeyes and went on to win the Big Ten championship, but Ohio State won a road game against eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma and topped a Michigan team that blasted Penn State earlier in the season to end the regular season with a better regular season record than Penn State. Washington also finished the season with just one loss to Penn State’s two, and wrapped up the Pac-12 championship to boot (both Washington and Penn State ended up losing to USC last season). With those facts alone, it made some sense why Penn State would have been omitted from the playoff (and hindsight being 20/20 as Penn State lost to USC in the Rose Bowl is arguably fair to rely on as well; Ohio State getting blanked by Clemson doesn’t help the PSU argument either).

But there were some numbers that favored Penn State over Washington, most notable being strength of schedule slanting significantly in favor of Penn State. With everything in the past though, the focus shifts to the future and what happens the next time the scenario of a Big Ten (or another power conference) champion could be left out in favor of another team from the conference pops up. As things stand now, there are no mandates requiring playoff teams to be conference champions, which is fair because there is always the possibility a team like Alabama could be a clear top four team, run the table in the regular season and the be upset in a close conference championship game. Every season will include different variables, so coming up with one concrete way to settle on the top four teams will never truly be accomplished unless the College Football Playoff decides playoff participants must be conference champions. But again, that leaves the door open to the possibility of a dominant team being left out anyway. Which brings us back to the main question the selection committee is forced to answer: do you choose the four best teams or the four most deserving teams? To many, those are two different qualifiers, and to others, they are the same.

You could argue Penn State was a better team at the end of the regular season and conference championship games than Ohio State or Washington was, but the Nittany Lions lost twice while the others lost just once. With just four spots available, the debates will continue. With an eight-team playoff, the controversy could easily go away by allocating one spot for each power conference champion, one spot for the top Group of Five conference champion and two additional wild card spots.

Penn State AD on College Football Playoff: “I think Ohio State should’ve gone”

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Perhaps the most heated debate in 2016 — well, at least on the gridiron — was whether Ohio State or Penn State should have been in the College Football Playoff. Countless hours were devoted to discussing the finer points of the Nittany Lions’ head-to-head victory between the two, the amount of talent on both sides or the Buckeyes’ impressive strength of schedule.

In the end, the CFP Selection Committee slotted OSU in the No. 3 spot to play eventual national champion Clemson but debate continues to rage in several hamlets from State College to Columbus over whether that was the right choice. According to Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour though, the seeding was fine by here even if it cost her team a trip to the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.

“We’re the [Big Ten] champions and didn’t go,” Barbour told reporters at Big Ten spring meetings, according to Landof10.com. “I think Ohio State should’ve gone. I have no problem with the fact Ohio State went.

“In fact, you know, we were arguably the best league in the country and we didn’t go. So let’s try to figure out why and what is there. [Whether] it’s we, Penn State, or we, as a conference … how do we address that in the future?”

Such comments probably won’t endear Barbour to the most ardent of PSU supporters who believed they should have gotten the spot occupied by Ohio State. Perhaps more interestingly is her hinting that the Big Ten may be open to doing something about addressing the situation. The topic of requiring only conference champions in the mix for the final four spots was a big topic of conversation when the playoff was created and it seems like it will be in the coming seasons even if changes are not made to the criteria the committee must consider.

Both the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions lost their bowl games so there are plenty of what-ifs to debate had they switched places. Outside of perhaps making the Fiesta Bowl a little more interesting though, it appears the brass at Penn State are fine with how things played out in the end even if they didn’t get a chance at adding another national title to the trophy case.

Pitt, Penn State won’t resume rivalry until 2026 at the earliest

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There are a lot of terrible outcomes from the mass realignment of the earliest part of this decade, but this is by far the worst: the breakup of longtime rivalries.

Pitt and Penn State — or is it Penn State and Pitt? — are in the midst of a 4-year reunion, and it’s been great so far. The Panthers’ 42-39 win over the Nittany Lions in Pittsburgh last season was not only a thrilling game, but it kept Penn State out of the College Football Playoff. This is what college football rivalries are all about, no? Who wouldn’t want to make this an annual thing again?

Penn State, that’s who.

Speaking at a coaches’ caravan event last week, Penn State AD Sandy Barbour told Nittany Lions fans that the earliest their team would start playing their rivals to the west again after the current agreement expires in 2019 would be 2026.

“That’s our Power 5 slot,” Barbour said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are scheduled out in that Power 5 slot through 2025, so it certainly isn’t going to be before then.”

The Nittany Lions are slated to play home-and-homes with Virginia Tech (2020, ’25), Auburn (2021-22) and West Virginia (2023-24) in the intervening years. Those are no slouches, to be fair to Barbour. Virginia Tech and West Virginia are regional rivals, and Auburn presents an interesting intersectional matchup. But it’s too bad Penn State can’t play Pitt and Virginia Tech/Auburn/West Virginia — an unrealistic option given the 9-game schedules deemed necessary by the Big Ten’s bloat to 14 teams. (Thanks again, realignment!)

For their part, Pitt has Notre Dame lined up in 2020, a home-and-home with Tennessee in 2021-22 and a 4-game series with West Virginia from 2022-25 (along with another game against the Irish in ’25). Not bad, either.

But the end result is a rivalry between the two major programs in Pennsylvania that was played on a near annual basis throughout the 20th century will be played only four times during the first quarter of the 21st century.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany set to cash in with over $20 million in bonuses

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It’s good to be a college commissioner nowadays but it seems it’s an even better time to be the one leading the Big Ten.

USA Today reports that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is set to cash in big time with some $20 million in future bonus payments on the books from the conference. The league’s most recent tax returns shed light on the paychecks, which will come in addition to the over $2 million he already receives each year.

“Commissioner Delany has provided invaluable leadership for Big Ten member institutions while delivering first-in-class performance during a time of great transformation in college athletics,” University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said in a statement provided by the conference. “He has not only successfully balanced the missions of academic achievement, student-athlete development and athletic success, he has successfully developed the resources necessary to strategically position the conference for success well into the future. His compensation is market-competitive, based on an independent third-party analysis, and reflects the value and impact of his leadership.”

Delany has served as commissioner of the Big Ten since 1989 and has been one of the most powerful leaders in college athletics ever since. He was the driving force behind numerous expansions by the conference over the years and the cash-cow that the Big Ten Network has turned into.

While Delany has drawn his fair share of criticism from fans and media members alike over the years, it’s hard to argue with what he’s done for the league’s burgeoning balance sheets. He is already one of the most handsomely compensated commissioners out there but something says the presence of this pay package will cause a few raised eyebrows around college athletics while also quieting talk that he may be set to retire in the very near future.