Update: Paterno family responds to Penn State’s ‘failure of leadership’ report

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UPDATED 3:33 p.m. ET: The family of Joe Paterno has released a statement in response to Penn State’s Board of Trustees issuing a report this morning on the firing of Paterno.

Here it is, in its entirety:

“The Paterno family is surprised and saddened that the Board of Trustees believes it is necessary and appropriate to explain — for the fourth or fifth time — why they fired Joe Paterno so suddenly and unjustifiably on Nov 9, 2011.

“The latest statement is yet another attempt by the Board to deflect criticism of their leadership by trying to focus the blame on Joe Paterno. This is not fair to Joe’s legacy; it is not consistent with the facts; and it does not serve the best interests of the university. The board’s latest statement reaffirms that they did not conduct a thorough investigation of their own and engaged in a rush to judgment.

“At various times, university officials have said that they fired Joe Paterno. At other times they have said they didn’t fire him. They have simultaneously accused him of moral and leadership failures, and praised him for the high standards he set for the university.

“The tough questions that have yet to be addressed relate not to Joe Paterno, but to the board. Two months ago, as Joe Paterno was dying, the board conducted a series of media interviews condemning him for ‘moral’ failures. Now they are trying a different tack and accusing him of ‘leadership’ failures. The question we would ask is simply this, when will the board step up and acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for this crisis is theirs? Everyone who cares about Penn State is longing for strong, courageous, honest leadership. Today’s statement is anything but that.”

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Nearly four months after firing Joe Paterno, and two months after his death, Penn State has released a report on the events and reasons surrounding the coaching legend’s dismissal.

According to the report issued by the school’s board of trustees, Paterno was fired Nov. 9 for what the school deemed “a failure of leadership“.  The report alleges Paterno failed to followup on allegations a decade ago that one of his former assistants, alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky, had sexually assaulted a boy in a locker room shower in the Lasch football building.

The report stated that “[w]hile Coach Paterno did his legal duty by reporting that information the next day… We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.”

Sandusky, who “retired” in 1999 but maintained an office in the football building, was indicted Nov. 5 on dozens related to the sexual abuse of young boys, many of whom were allegedly assaulted on the Penn State campus.  Sandusky is scheduled to go to trial on the charges May 14.

“[E]very adult has a responsibility for every child in our community, “the release quotes board member Ken Frazier as saying. “And… we have a responsibility not to do the minimum, the legal requirement. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can make every effort that’s within our power not only to prevent further harm to that one child, but to every child.”

The board also addressed the manner in which Paterno was fired, which caused an uproar among former players, current students and alumni alike.

We are sorry for the unfortunate way we had to deliver the news on the telephone about an hour later to Coach Paterno. However, we saw no better alternative. Because Coach Paterno’s home was surrounded by media representatives, photographers and others, we did not believe there was a dignified, private and secure way to send Board representatives to meet with him there. Nor did we believe it would be wise to wait until the next morning, since we believed it was probable that Coach Paterno would hear the news beforehand from other sources, which would be inappropriate.

Thus, we sent a representative of the Athletic Department to ask Coach Paterno to call us. When the coach called, the Board member who received the call planned to tell him that (1) the Board had decided unanimously to remove him as coach; (2) the Board regretted having to deliver the message over the telephone; and (3) his employment contract would continue, including all financial benefits and his continued status as a tenured faculty member. However, after this Board member communicated the first message, Coach Paterno ended the call, so the second and third messages could not be delivered.

Graham Spanier was fired as president the same day Paterno was relieved of his coaching duties, with the board’s report stating that Spanier was “removed because he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities to the Board… insufficiently informing the Board about his knowledge of the 2002 incident. … made or was involved in press announcements between Nov. 5-9 that were without authorization of the Board or contrary to its instructions.”

Athletic director Tim Curley was charged with two counts related to his grand jury testimony in the Sandusky case and is currently on a leave of absence.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.