The tainting of JoePa’s legacy

83 Comments

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.

UCF close to selling out season tickets for 2019 season

Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
5 Comments

The last couple of seasons have been great for UCF. With back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, a New Years Six bowl victory over Auburn and a claimed national title, the Knights are rolling right now as a program and hoping for another big year in Orlando this fall. And the excitement seems to have been catching on with the season ticket sales as the school is claiming there are fewer than 200 season tickets remaining for the 2019 season.

On behalf of our coaches, staff and student-athletes, thank you for your support of UCF Athletics. Season ticket members are an integral part of a championship winning program.

As of today, fewer than 200 season tickets remain,” an email from the UCF ticket office claimed on Wednesday. “In other words, it will be more challenging than ever to assist you with access to single-game tickets during the 2019 season (and possibly in future seasons).”

Spectrum Stadium, the home of the UCF Knights, has a seating capacity of 44,206 (according to Wikipedia), and the Knights have averaged 44,019 fans per game last season. The Knights saw the second-largest attendance growth from the 2017 season, with an increase of 7,173 fans per game from 2017 to 2018, according to the NCAA’s attendance records. Only Northwestern had a higher average attendance boost in 2018 (home games against Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame certainly helped boost attendance for the Wildcats last season en route to a Big Ten West Division crown).

UCF’s home schedule has some good games on the agenda with visits by Stanford from the Pac-12, Dana Holgorsen and Houston, and rival USF. Of course, the end of the Civil ConFLiCT could be in the mix too with UConn making a visit south at the end of September.

For a school that went 0-12 just four years ago, being this close to selling out season tickets is quite a feat for the program.

Helmet sticker to the college football community on Reddit.

Randy Edsall releases statement as UConn trustees approve move back to Big East

Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images
3 Comments

The future of the UConn football program is as foggy to predict as it may have ever been. On Wednesday, the UConn Board of Trustees formally voted to approve the school’s move back to the Big East for non-football sports, with basketball at the forefront of the call to change conference affiliation. The move will make sense for UConn basketball programs but leaves the future of the football program heading into unchartered waters with not a ton of options to work with.

Now that UConn’s leaders have voted to move forward with a reunion with the Big East, the school must now determine what happens to the football Huskies. UConn currently is set to play the upcoming 2019 season in the American Athletic Conference. While it is not quite officially a parting of the ways for the AAC and UConn on the football field, the general assumption is the Huskies will play one final season in the conference before beginning to play as an independent football program once again, just as it did when the school moved up from the FCS to the FBS prior to joining the Big East. The AAC is expected to remain at 11 members, but this type of story leads to plenty of rumors that carry various amounts of weight at any given moment. This time as an independent will be different than the last time, as it was part of the plan for the Huskies to join the Big East in football after moving up from the FCS to essentially replace Temple, which was ousted by the Big East. Now, there is no clear future vision for the program other than to move forward.

Now the Big East is set to hold a grand press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York on Thursday to officially welcome UConn back to the conference. The event will include appearances by UConn leaders, including athletic director David Benedict and men’s and women’s basketball coaches Dan Hurley and Geno Auriemma. Basketball first. Basketball second. Football…?

That puts head football coach Randy Edsall in one of the toughest positions as a head coach of a college football program. How do you sell your program when there are so many questions about its future?

As far as Edsall is concerned, you focus just on the things you can control.

“As I told my TEAM on Sunday afternoon, we have a schedule for 2019 and that is what we have been preparing for since January and they have been doing a great job of staying focused and not allowing any distractions to get in the way of our preparation and training,” Edsall said in a released statement to the media earlier today.

“All my focus and work has been on getting this program and facilities back to where we all want it regardless of WHERE WE PLAY OR WHO WE PLAY [Note: emphasis kept as written in Edsall’s statement], so I’m leaving the decision up to the Board of Trustees, University Leadership and Athletic Director to find the best situation for our Football Program.,” Edsall continued in his statement. “Myself, my staff and my players will not address this situation in the future as our focus is all on the 2019 season which is right around the corner.”

Oh, how naive of Edsall to think this subject won’t be brought up again. Don’t forget that conference media days are coming up quickly. How this subject is discussed at AAC media days will be something to watch form a variety of angles.

But in all honesty, what more is Edsall supposed to do at this point? As much power and responsibility, we think head football coaches have, they are still at the will of the leaders above them. This isn’t a football power we are discussing either, as anyone who has been watching UConn can say. This is a rare situation in which basketball comes first, and UConn clearly sees that as the priority, which is OK. For UConn, at least.

Edsall may not be particularly happy about what is going on that is out of his control, but there’s nothing he can really do about it. The decisions have been made and the wheels are in motion for UConn’s transition as an athletics program. How long Edsall stands by to lead the Huskies into the great unknown remains to be seen.

Troy adding emoji swords to new football field

Photo by Scott Donaldson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the summer heat spreading, now is the time to perform some top-notch grounds-crew maintenance on football fields for the upcoming fall. Or, in the case of schools with artificial turf, now is the time to tear up the old rug and install the new one. That is what Troy is doing now inside their football stadium.

Troy showed off a look at the brand new artificial turf being installed in The Vet to be ready for the beginning of the 2019 season. The previous turf had been used since 2012, and as artificial turfs go, it has seen its fair share of wear and tear for the Trojans.

“This is an important project on numerous levels,” Director of Athletics Brent Jones said in a released statement. “First and most importantly the new turf is a commitment to the safety of our student-athletes, and the dynamic design of the turf will enhance our already strong brand recognition with every one of our home games broadcast live via an ESPN medium. The design also returns some traditional elements which our fans will enjoy while watching games in The Vet.”

As the diagram shown off shows, the Troy logo will be found at midfield and the shades of green will alternate every five yards. The Sun Belt Conference logo will be shown at the 25-yard lines, one toward each sideline. “TROY” will be painted in one end zone, and “TROJANS” will be found in the opposite endzone, both in accompanying Troy school colors. But if you look closely, you will see what appears to be the dueling swords emoji (⚔️) found at the 35-yard lines. That is intentional, as the university uses the emoji on social media platforms.

The turf is manufactured by Hellas Construction in Texas. The same company has provided turf surfaces to the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, and Oakland Raiders for either stadium surfaces or practice fields.

UConn adds three transfers, including former FIU kicker

Getty Images
Leave a comment

While there is tumult surrounding its conference affiliation moving forward, the UConn football program continues to go about the business of player procurement.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, the Huskies officially confirmed the addition of three players to the roster — safety Diamond Harrell, offensive lineman Andrew Torres-Silva and kicker Sean Young.  Harrell and Torres-Silva join the team from the junior-college ranks, while Young heads north from Florida International.

All three additions will be eligible to play immediately for the Huskies in 2019.

After spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons at a junior college, Young served as a kickoff specialist for the Panthers this past season.  His Panthers bio states that Young “[h]elped FIU rank second overall in C-USA for kickoff yards (5,075), kickoff average (64.2), touchbacks (54), and net average (41.8).” His touchback percentage of 81.4 was eighth at the FBS level as well.