The ‘Penn State Way’ at the core of the Sandusky cover-up

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The Freeh report investigating Penn State’s actions related to former defensive coordinator and child molester Jerry Sandusky is 10 chapters and 162 pages long — not including numerous additional emails, notes, school policy documentation and general appendices. It took eight months to complete, 430 interviews were conducted and 3.5 million documents dating back over a decade were perused.

It took me hours to read through.

And, yes, it’s as damning and heartbreaking as speculated. Most notably, it corroborates that former head coach Joe Paterno, along with key members of Penn State’s athletic and university administration, were aware of a 1998 investigation targeting Sandusky for a shower incident with a young boy he met, like so many other victims, through his charity, the Second Mile. And that no one did anything about it because it was deemed by at least one person as “not criminal.”

“I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us [emphasis added],” former vice president Gary Schultz wrote in a 1998 email to athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier.

Paterno had previously denied knowing anything about the 1998 incident to the Washington Post.

But sifting through the pages of horrific accounts of inaction, something less blatant stood out on page 129.

“Certain aspects of the community culture are laudable, such as its collegiality, high standards of educational excellence and research, and respect for the environment. However, there is an over-emphasis on “The Penn State Way” as an approach to decision-making, a resistance to outside perspectives, and an excessive focus on athletics that can, if not recognized, negatively impact the University’s reputation as a progressive institution.” 

There are no exclamation points or large, flashing arrows screaming “Look at me! I’m important!” Yet a single phrase that, by itself rarely raises suspicion, can be associated with being the core reason behind why no one at Penn State said anything when Sandusky came under suspicion in ’98… why a 2001 incident involving Sandusky and Victim 2 was quashed… why the former defensive coordinator was free to use university athletic facilities to abuse even more young boys years later…

It was the Penn State Way.

For the longest time, the Penn State Way was defined as something different to people like you and me. It stood for winning with honor and integrity. It stood for graduating players and keeping your NCAA nose clean. Unfortunately, we now know it also stood for a culture of in-house dealings, exclusivity, and later, lies.

Former PSU vice president of student affairs Vicky Triponey knew about the real Penn State Way, even if it wasn’t in the same light as you and I see it today. Say what you will about Triponey and her hyperbolic “Timeline of Terror“, but she butted heads with Spanier over the culture of Penn State athletics, and now she doesn’t work there anymore.

It was a close fraternity, where things don’t change much. Paterno coached at Penn State for 45 years. Sandusky spent the better part of four decades in Happy Valley as a player and coach. Curley, a 1976 PSU graduate, and Spanier served as athletic director and president, respectively, for over 30 combined years before last November.

And, for that, I understand why there was a cover-up. There is no defense for it in this scandal, but the sentiment is more common than you might want to admit.

Especially when football rules a university and a community.

Consider if this had happened with someone you’d known closely for decades, or perhaps a well-respected boss of yours. The moral high ground in us tells us we would have done the right thing. We would have called authorities and taken the proper measures.

But is that really what each one of us would have done? Or, would you have tried to handle the matter yourself… or perhaps dismissed it altogether out of fear?

Sandusky was a legend at Penn State in his own right. A high-profile, active member of his community who, on the surface, dedicated his life to helping underprivileged young people. A noble cause — why would anyone think twice about his motives?

It was the Penn State Way.

But so was the hush-hush atmosphere within PSU’s athletic department in the late 1990’s. Sandusky wasn’t forced into retirement after the 1999 season because of his first investigation; rather, he was essentially given an ultimatum that resulted in his collaborating with Penn State and the Second Mile because the long-time defensive coordinator knew he would not be the next head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Despite the disturbing accusations against Sandusky, or how concerned university admins and Paterno might have been over the ’98 investigation, they continued to work with and protect the esteemed member of the PSU community.

It was the Penn State way.

The same goes for 2001, when former assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky in the Lasch building showers with Victim 2, and each subsequent year that Sandusky was allowed to prey on young boys while those with direct knowledge put in their earplugs, hoping naively that Sandusky had changed overnight.

Without a doubt, that kind of behavior merits the most severe punishment the law can dictate. If found guilty of criminal acts related to a cover-up, Curley, Schultz and Spanier can rot in isolated jail cells for the rest of their lives, thinking about how they chose the Penn State Way no one knew about rather than the Penn State Way that was preached to others.

Waiting for their day of reckoning will be frustrating and there’s already a desire for immediate retribution. And you know what? That feeling is completely merited. People want someone, anyone, to pay for these heinous crimes.

Tear down the Paterno statue! Burn Penn State to the ground! Shut it down! Administer the Death Penalty, NCAA!

Those are all easy ways to find immediate relief, but they don’t change what happened and have zero consequence on those directly involved in this scandal.

If Curley, Schultz and Spanier are thrown in jail — and I have little doubt they will be — what is there left to accomplish by, say, the NCAA?

The focus should be, and will be, on cleaning house and starting over. Maybe that means tearing down Paterno’s statue and removing him from the history books. Maybe it requires shutting down the football program for an unspecified period of time. That’s Penn State’s prerogative.

Just know that whatever is done now, or in the immediate future, will be overshadowed by the real solution: changing the definition of the Penn State Way. For good.

TCU QB Shawn Robinson to have season-ending shoulder surgery

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It has been a rough morning for TCU football news. On top of news of an arrest of wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (who has now been suspended by TCU) on Sunday comes injury news that will impact the quarterback position for the rest of the season.

Shawn Robinson, who had been TCU’s starting quarterback this season, will see his season come to a premature ending after head coach Gary Patterson announced he will be undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Michael Collins, a transfer from Penn who stepped in to provide a spark on offense on Saturday against the Sooners, will take over as the starting for the Horned Frogs moving forward.

Robinson, a sophomore, played in all seven games for TCU up to this point in the season, in which he passed for 1,334 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to being taken out of the Oklahoma game on Saturday, Robinson had completed just three of eight passes for 21 yards. Robinson started against Oklahoma, although Robinson appeared to have injured his shoulder in a previous game against Iowa State.

Collins came into the game in the second quarter and quickly led TCU to an offensive flurry before halftime, but the magic seemingly ran out in the second half as Oklahoma pulled away from the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 contest. Collins ended the day completing seven of 17 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

With Robinson unavailable and Collins taking over as the team’s starter, senior Grayson Muehlstein will be the new backup option for TCU. Muehlstein has appeared in two games this season, completing one of three pass attempts for 11 yards. He has appeared in just seven games for TCU during his college career.

TCU also has former four-star recruit Justin Rogers on the roster. The freshman has not seen any game action this season and the new redshirt rule could allow for the possibility of seeing what he can do in a total of four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility. But his status remains questionable according to recent updates offered by Patterson. Rogers was limited in training camp and has yet to be completely cleared by medical staff members as he is coming off a torn ACL from the season opener of his senior year of high school football last year.

Oklahoma State wearing Barry Sanders era uniforms vs. Texas

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Throwback uniforms have been all the rage lately, and Oklahoma State is getting in on the fun this weekend. With their big game coming up against the Texas Longhorns, the Cowboys will be suiting up in a look inspired by the 1988 Heisman Trophy season of legendary running back Barry Sanders.

Oklahoma State is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Oklahoma State team that went 10-2 and featured Sanders on his run to the Heisman Trophy. Sanders, who won the only Heisman Trophy in Oklahoma State history, rushed for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. He and members of the “War Pigs” offensive line are grand marshalls for Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade this coming weekend.

The uniform, as expected, is perfect and should absolutely be given more opportunities to be worn by Oklahoma State. The uniforms will also include a patch commemorating the anniversary of Sanders’ Heisman Trophy season.

At 1-3 in the Big 12, Oklahoma State needs to go on a big winning streak and hope for some help if the Cowboys are going to play for the Big 12 championship. The Longhorns are sitting on top of the Big 12 standings with a conference record of 4-0.

Super 16 Poll sees Buckeyes drop, Cougars and Aggies debut

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Just as they did in the AP and coaches polls this week, Ohio State fell down the ladder in this week’s Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. The Buckeyes tumbled from No. 2 down to No. 9 after their blowout loss at Purdue, while seven teams moved up one spot at their expense. When all was sorted, however, Alabama remained the dominant team in the poll just as they have all season long.

The Crimson Tide received 50 of 51 first-place votes this week to continue their dominance in the Super 16 Poll. Only LSU managed to secure a first-place vote from the firm grasp of Alabama, but the Tigers managed to move up to just fourth. Undefeated Clemson and Notre Dame stand in the way behind Alabama.

Two new additions were made to the Super 16 poll this week. No. 14 Washington State finally cracked the top 16 after popping up in the voting a few weeks ago and slowly waiting for their chance to make a move. Their win over Oregon did just that and also dropped Oregon from the top 16 in the voting. Texas A&M, at No. 16, also mad their first debut in the top 16 this season after floating around in the voting for over a month. They fill the second vacancy that was left by NC State, who fell to the bottom of the others receiving votes category this week.

Iowa and Penn State, who meet this weekend in Happy Valley, are the first two teams out of the Super 16, so the winner of that Big Ten crossover matchup may have a shot to jump into the poll next week.

Here is this week’s Super 16 Poll.

  1. Alabama (50)
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU (1)
  5. Michigan
  6. Texas
  7. Georgia
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Ohio State
  10. Florida
  11. UCF
  12. Kentucky
  13. West Virginia
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Texas A&M

As a disclaimer, three contributors to College Football Talk are voters in the Super 16 poll: Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, and myself (Kevin McGuire).

TCU WR/KR KaVontae Turpin suspended following arrest for alleged assault of family member

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UPDATE 12:28 p.m.: TCU head coach Gary Patterson announced Turpin has been suspended.

One of TCU’s most electric players is facing some legal trouble at the start of the week. KaVontae Turpin was arrested Sunday for alleged assault with bodily harm of a family member according to a report Monday morning from Star-Telegram. He has been released from jail.

The details of the incident have not yet been reported or shared at this time. TCU head coach Gary Patterson has yet to make any statement about the situation at this time. Before any decision on Turpin’ status with the team is made by Patterson, t is likely he and other athletics officials will want to gather as much information about the situation as possible before making any sort of announcement, whether it is handled in-house or not.

While Patterson has not officially been on the record about this news just yet, TCU has.

“Texas Christian University is aware that one of its students was recently arrested for a reported domestic situation,” a statement from TCU’s athletic department said Monday morning. “The university takes these types of reports very seriously and is continuing to gather information to determine next steps. TCU expects its students to behave in an ethical manner, abide by campus policies and adhere to state and federal law.

“The student also may face a charge of violating the University Code of Student Conduct, the results of which are independent and separate from any legal charges.”

Turpin is TCU’s second-leading receiver with 410 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Turpin’s work on special teams has also been a bright spot for TCU this season with one punt return touchdown and one kickoff return touchdown this season.