The tainting of JoePa’s legacy

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How do you define a man who for 60-plus years has been an institution bigger in some respects than the institution of higher learning that employs him?  Prior to last Friday, summing up what Joe Paterno meant to the isolated, idyllic Penn State campus would’ve been easy: everything.

Now, the answer is much more muddled, much more tainted.

JoePa, as he’s affectionately known, is the first man most people think of when they hear Penn State, a reaction that will likely continue long after the shock of his retirement Wednesday subsides.  As football programs around the country faced off-field scandal after scandal spanning multiple decades, Paterno was the moral compass Nittany Lion Nation — hell, college football as a whole — knew they could count on to never lead them astray even as the sport was seemingly hurtling toward some sort of gridiron Sodom and Gomorrah.  When it came to that program, you knew what you were going to get: players clad in beautifully-bland uniforms being led by a man girded with impeccable character and straight-out-of-the-fifties glasses.  And a moral fiber that was above reproach.

It wasn’t just Penn State football that has been Joe Paterno since Lyndon Johnson was sitting in the Oval Office.  Penn State, the university, has been Joe Paterno.

After what’s transpired the past five days, the facade of integrity that took more than a half-century to build has been shattered and perhaps irreparably damaged by the child-sex abuse scandal that’s saddened and sickened even the most hardened of observers.  The memories of a program that did things the right way led by a man who ensured things were done the right way?  Replaced to a large degree by the horrifying images contained in the grand jury’s 40-count indictment of Jerry Sandusky, the former Paterno assistant who was once among the coach’s most trusted lieutenants.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “legacy” as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”  On paper, what he’s leaving behind is undeniable and untouchable: 409 wins, the most in Div. 1 history, as well as two national championships and multiple coach-of-the-year awards.  One of just a handful of BcS conference schools — Stanford, Northwestern and Boston College being the others — to never have been found guilty of a major violation in football.  Consistently graduating a higher percentage of his football players than the vast majority of football programs around the country.

That’s a black-and-white football legacy likely never to be equaled.  The gray area outside of anything that can be measured statistically, the DNA that makes up one’s moral fiber?  That gray area as it pertains to Paterno is a moving target, hard to grasp in the immediacy of a moment with still many more questions than answers.

The gruesome details have been repeated ad nauseam since their release late last week, but the singular question remains: why didn’t Coach Paterno go to the authorities when it became clear the administration was going to sweep under the rug the allegations of on-campus sodomizing witnessed by one his grad assistants and perpetrated by his former heir apparent?  And this isn’t about using the power Paterno had built over the decades to run roughshod over the legal system and play judge, jury and executioner.  This is about the moral responsibility of a human being, about a man — one who dedicated his life to raising up and protecting kids entrusted to him — failing miserably when the opportunity to protect even younger, more defenseless kids arose by doing nothing more than the bare minimum required under the law.

With authority comes responsibility.  With responsibility comes accountability.  Of all the times Paterno failed to win on a football field, his failure to live up to everything he preached for over the years– holding himself, his players and his program to a higher standard — is his biggest loss, his biggest failing.  The accountability that was a bedrock of the man was lost, as was the innocence of any subsequent victims.  He failed everything he stood for when he sat down and did nothing more than what was sufficient in the eyes of the law.

With the 20/20 hindsight available even at his advanced age, Paterno can see how miserably he, and undoubtedly many others, failed those children.

“It is one of the great sorrows of my life… I wish I had done more,” a portion of Paterno’s retirement announcement read.

The failure is not Paterno’s alone, certainly.  The laundry list of Penn State officials and those associated with Sandusky’s children’s charity who could’ve done something, anything to prevent further victims from the tentacles of an alleged pedophile is sickening in its length, and those people should be relieved of their duties as well.  That doesn’t, however, absolve Paterno of the culpability for his inaction.  It’s an embarrassing stain on an otherwise impeccable record both on and off the field that won’t, and shouldn’t, be forgotten.

Certainly all the good he’s done for the players he calls “his kids” cannot be erased, nor can all he’s done for the community or the sport be minimized or tossed to the side.  And certainly there’s far, far more good deeds in the numerical sense than bad, even as the bad as we currently know it reaped unimaginable consequences for numerous innocent children and outweighs in the minds of some any good for which he’s directly responsible.

Joe Paterno, the football coach, and Joe Paterno, the man, have always been intertwined, walking in lockstep as the model of what amateur athletics on and off the field should be.  Right or wrong, the scandal that ultimately forced the ouster of a coaching legend is part of his legacy forevermore; how big a part of his legacy is up to the writer or reader of the whole of the narrative.

For me, it’s merely a reminder that human beings, great and small, are fallible.  Even, and especially, those that cast as large of a shadow as Coach Paterno.

Unfortunately for JoePa, and much more so for the victim at the time and those that came after, the fallibility that surfaced in 2002 had unintended but nonetheless tragic consequences.  That’s something Coach Paterno will have to live with for however many more years God grants him on this earth.

And that is a hell of a lot more damaging and painful to a man with not many breaths left than any rewrite of his legacy could ever be.

Lane Kiffin confirmed ex-Florida State QB Deondre Francois won’t be transferring to FAU

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As expected, Deondre Francois’ winding college football journey won’t be leading him to one Conference USA school as his next stop.

In late May, it was reported that Francois would be walking on at Florida Atlantic and playing for Lane Kiffin‘s Owls; a month later, it was reported that Francois likely wouldn’t be joining the Owls as a walk-on, scholarship player or otherwise.  In officially putting this particular subject to bed, Kiffin confirmed late last week that the quarterback will not be transferring into his FAU program.

Instead, it’s still expected that Francois will continue his playing career at the FCS level, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Earlier this offseason, Florida State announced that Francois had been dismissed from the football program after a social media post brought to light an alleged domestic incident between the quarterback and his ex-girlfriend. A day later, the alleged victim in that incident posted an apology on her Instagram account, stating that the release “of the video was to scare him” and that she was seeking “closure and attention from him after we broke up but I couldn’t get it from him. The only way to get his attention was through Instagram and spiteful actions.”

Not long after that apology was released, however, the alleged victim’s Instagram account was deleted. Shortly after that, the woman’s sister took to the same social media site and claimed that her sibling’s Instagram account had been hacked, intimating that the apology that was posted was fake.

The Tallahassee Police Department subsequently determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue domestic-violence charges against Francois.  The one-time starting quarterback for the Seminoles went on to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database not long after his dismissal was confirmed.

After winning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2016, Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury against Alabama the following year.  Francois was the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  In his 11 starts as a redshirt junior, he completed just over 57 percent of his passes for 2,2731 yards, 15 touchdowns and a dozen interceptions.
After considering leaving FSU for the draft in December — but only if the NFL evaluations weren’t favorable — it was confirmed the following month that Francois would remain at the collegiate level.

Mike Gundy delivered all-time line to son about how he’ll be coached at Oklahoma State

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Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy can drop some good zingers at any given moment. But his son, Gunnar Gundy, was on the receiving end of one of the all-time lines that is incredibly difficult to respond to.

When asked about the possibility of coaching his son at Oklahoma State, the head coach of the Cowboys stressed he would coach Gunnar just as he would any other player in the program. That means no preferential treatment even though there is a family bond in place. That is when Riley took the idea to another level.

As transcribed by The Oklahoman;

“When asked how he would coach his son, Gunnar, if the situation arose: “I told him, if you come to Oklahoma State, I’ll coach you like I do everybody else… If you’re the best player, you’ll play. If not, you won’t play — even though I’m sleeping with your mom.”

That is quite the classic recruiting sales pitch from the head coach of the Pokes. It’s certainly not a recruiting pitch that would work any other recruit. Or is it? We’ll stray from traveling down that path for now.

Gunnar Gundy is entering his senior year of high school football. As you would probably suspect, Oklahoma State is considered to be one of the favorites to land the quarterback. Gunnar could potentially follow in his father’s footsteps in Stillwater, as the current head coach is also a former quarterback for Oklahoma State.

Helmet sticker to Pistols Firing.

Matt Rhule doesn’t let stolen truck stop him from sticking to his schedule

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Baylor head coach Matt Rhule had a rough weekend. The head coach of the Bears had his truck stolen from the parking lot of a hotel. But rest assured, Rhule made it known that would not prevent him from getting to where he needed to be.

Rhule took to Twitter with a message to the party responsible for his stolen truck, confirming he would still find a way to attend an event organized by the Texas High School Coaches Association at Rice University.

As promised by Rhule, he made it to the event in Houston.

But it wasn’t just a truck that was stolen from Rhule either. Inside the truck was a set of golf clubs that didn’t belong to him, as noted by Baylor assistant coach Joey McGuire.

There is no indication at this time if the truck has or will be recovered. The same goes for the golf clubs. In the meantime, Rhule will have to keep on going about his business as he prepares for a new college football season with Baylor.

DJ Durkin resurfaces at Atlanta Falcons training camp

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DJ Durkin has rarely been seen, at least in the football sense, since Halloween, when he was fired by Maryland’s board one day after being reinstated. He briefly appeared as a consultant at Alabama, a move Nick Saban was forced to immediately defend, and not a peep has been heard from Durkin sense.

Until Monday.

The Atlanta Falcons have brought the disgraced coach aboard as a guest coach for training camp, the team has announced.

Durkin and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn worked together at Florida, where the latter was Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator and Durkin the special teams coordinator. Quinn coached with Durkin in 2011-12 before leaving for the same job with the Seattle Seahawks; Durkin was promoted to serve as Quinn’s replacement.

Asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution if he had any reservations about brining in Durkin, Quinn said, “I didn’t probably because I know who the person is having coached with him before. So, I knew his background as a defensive coach and special teams. By doing our due diligence from there. … An unfortunate situation, of course, but as far as eyes to look at the defense to help us, I definitely knew the advantage of that.”

The team said Durkin will watch practice for 10 days and consult with the Falcons’ coaching staff; he will not have any direct interaction with players.

“I know DJ first hand,” Quinn said. “I know what he is as a coach. I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence, calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow up.”