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.

Memphis loses OC to Auburn, DC to FCS head coaching job

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Thanks to the events of the last 24 hours or so, Mike Norvell will have a significantly reshaped Memphis coaching staff when the 2019 season kicks off.

First, Auburn announced Sunday night that it has hired Kenny Dillingham as Gus Malzahn‘s offensive coordinator.  The 28-year-old Dillingham, who will also coach quarterbacks, replaces Chip Lindsey, who left for the coordinator job under Les Miles at Kansas.

Dillingham spent the 2018 season as the coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Memphis.

“Kenny is one of the rising stars in our profession, coaching two top 10 nationally ranked offenses the last two years,” Malzahn said. “Because of Kenny’s energy, intelligence and genuine care for his players, he’s been highly successful coaching quarterbacks and is an outstanding recruiter, while working closely with Mike Norvell in developing one of the nation’s top offenses.”

The football program also confirmed that Malzahn will resume calling plays for the Tigers’ offense next season, just as he did from 2013-15.  In 2016, those duties fell to Rhett Lashlee; the past two seasons, Lindsey called the plays.

Dillingham wasn’t responsible for calling plays with the AAC Tigers as those duties fell to Norvell on gameday.

In addition to losing Dillingham, Memphis has also seen Chris Ball leave as the defensive coordinator was named Monday as the new head coach at FCS Northern Arizona.  Ball had spent the past three seasons as Norvell’s coordinator.

Ball, who was an assistant at Arizona State from 2012-15, will be introduced as the program’s 30th head football coach at a Wednesday press conference.

K-State announces North Dakota State’s Chris Klieman as Bill Snyder’s replacement

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One of the most successful coaches at the FCS level is making the move up to replace one of the most beloved figures at the FBS level — albeit not immediately as he has some unfinished postseason business at his current school to take care of.

Monday night, Kansas State announced that Chris Klieman has been hired as the Wildcats’ as the football program’s 35th head coach.  Klieman replaces the legendary Bill Snyder, who retired earlier this month after two separate stints at the school for a total of nearly three decades.

“I’m very excited to have Chris Klieman lead our program,” athletic director Gene Taylor said in a statement. “He is a perfect fit for us, both from a personal standpoint and as a head coach. He’s a tremendous teacher who I had the pleasure to hire at NDSU and watched him turn into a very successful coach. He will bring a ton of energy and excitement. His teams play extremely hard, disciplined football. He’s a winner. That’s all he does is win, and we’re excited to have Chris, Rhonda and the entire Klieman family join our K-State family. They will be a great fit not only for Kansas State Football and Kansas State Athletics, but also the entire community of Manhattan.”

Klieman is in his fifth season as the head coach at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.  In the first four seasons, the Bison claimed three national championships (2014, 2015, 2017) and advanced to the semifinals the other year (2016).

In 2018, North Dakota State is a perfect 13-0 and will face South Dakota State in one of the two semifinal matchups Friday night.  Klieman will remain with the Bison through this year’s playoff run.

All told, the 51-year-old Klieman is 67-6 at North Dakota State.

“This is an absolute dream job,” a statement from Klieman began. “I’m so happy and thrilled to follow a legend in Coach Snyder. I’ve followed him from afar, went to his camps while playing in Waterloo, Iowa, and played against his Kansas State team when I was at Northern Iowa. The opportunity to follow in an icon’s footsteps is something I don’t take for granted and don’t take lightly. I know I have huge shoes to fill, and I’m excited to carry on his legacy. I have prepared my entire life for this opportunity and had great experiences at many institutions, most notably North Dakota State where we’ve had unmatched success over the last eight years. I can’t express how pleased I am and thank President Myers, Gene Taylor and the search committee for trusting in me and handing over the keys to this great program.”

Per the school, Klieman has signed a six-year contract that will pay him $2.3 million in 2019.  He will receive raises of $200,000 annually over the remaining five years of the deal.

Only Kansas’ David Beaty ($1.7 million), dismissed at the end of the regular season, made less than that figure in 2018 amongst Big 12 coaches.  Snyder, at $3.5 million, was the next lowest.

Former Texas State, Rice head coach David Bailiff lands at Texas A&M-Commerce

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One of the best pound-for-pound hires of the 2018-19 coaching cycle will be made at the Division II level. That’s where former Texas State and Rice head coach David Bailiff is headed after he was hired by Texas A&M-Commerce.

“During our comprehensive search process, David Bailiff emerged as an exceptional leader of men who exemplifies our Best in Class mission,” AD Tim McMurray said in a statement. “We had seven key pillars during our search – integrity and commitment to compliance, initiatives for student-athlete success, strategic recruiting based within the Texas footprint, a championship vision, an inclusive leadership style, excellent collaboration with campus partners, and demonstrated ability to engage our alumni and community.   With Coach Bailiff’s energy, passion, and ability to connect with student-athletes, we checked all our boxes.”

Aside from a 5-year stint as New Mexico’s defensive line coach, Bailiff is a Lone Star State lifer who played at Texas State back when the school was known as Southwest Texas State and participated in the Lone Star Conference — where A&M-Commerce lives now — and later became the head coach at his alma mater when it was an FCS school. He went 21-15 in three seasons with a Southland Conference title and a trip to the FCS (then Division I-AA) semifinals in 2005.

That success led him to Rice, where he remained head coach for 11 seasons with a 10-win campaign in 2008 and a Conference USA championship in 2013.

He was replaced by Mike Bloomgren after the 2017 season and spent this fall out of football.

“I am so thrilled to be the 20th head coach in the history of the school. I’m an old Lone Star Conference guy, and that’s where my roots are in college football,” Bailiff said. “It’s great and exciting what coach Carthel built here, and it’s the first job I’ve had where you’ve got to look at the blueprint and continue building the momentum on something great he’s already got started.”

Bailiff takes over for Colby Carthel, who left to become the head coach at FCS Stephen F. Austin. Carthel led the Lions to their first Division II national championship in 2017.

Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley declares for NFL draft

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He didn’t win enough games at his alma mater, but Kliff Kingsbury did succeed at placing his skill players on NFL rosters. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP front-runner with three weeks left to play, and there are more Red Raider wide receivers in the League than any other college program.

And now we can go ahead and add one more.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley declared for the NFL draft on Monday. He made the announcement through a Twitter post and a highlight video that paired with the post.

A Las Vegas native by way of Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area, Wesley exploded on the scene as a junior. After catching 10 passes total in his first two seasons, Wesley recorded 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He ranked ninth nationally in catches and seconds in yards and yards per game.

A rangy target at 6-foot-5, Wesley hauled in 13 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-49 win over Houston on Sept. 15, and in back-to-back November games against Oklahoma and Texas he combined to catch 20 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wesley was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer this fall.