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.

Florida State AD Stan Wilcox takes over Oliver’s Luck’s old NCAA job

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Boston College at Florida State
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As had been rumored, Florida State is in search of a new athletics boss.

The NCAA announced Monday that Stan Wilcox has accepted the position of executive vice president of regulatory affairs. Wilcox has been the athletic director at Florida State since August of 2013, and FSU will now be forced to launch a national search for a replacement.

Wilcox will replace Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia athletic director who left the NCAA in June of this year to take on the job of XFL commissioner.

“Stan is a highly-respected, visionary leader in intercollegiate athletics, and I’m excited to have him join our senior leadership team at the national office,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Stan’s nearly three decades of experience working in athletics administration at Notre Dame, Duke and Florida State, among others, have clearly demonstrated his commitment to providing student-athletes with the opportunity to excel in both academics and athletics while being successful in life.”

“I want to thank Stan for everything he has done at FSU. We’re excited for him, and we all wish him the best in his new position,” said FSU president John Thrasher in his statement. “Our success on the playing fields under his leadership has been exceptional, with national championships in football, soccer, and softball over that time. We finished ninth in the 2017-18 Learfield Director’s Cup last year, and our student-athletes reached a cumulative 3.0 GPA this past year.”

Below is Wilcox’s full statement on his departure from Tallahassee:

I am honored and humbled to join Mark Emmert’s leadership team at the NCAA.

I am so grateful for the opportunities and experiences that have led me to this point. The Big East Conference, Notre Dame University, Duke University and most recently Florida State University have provided a depth and breadth of experiences on which I will rely heavily moving forward.

I am excited to return to the NCAA, where my intercollegiate athletics career began.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to former Florida State University Presidents Eric Barron and Garnett Stokes, and current President John Thrasher. The success we have enjoyed in Tallahassee would not have been possible without their trust, guidance and support, and without the fine efforts of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics support staff.

My wife Ramona and I are excited to start this new chapter in my career and in our lives together.

Ohio State board likely to recommend suspension for Urban Meyer

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In the last few days, there’s been a growing sense that Urban Meyer could very well survive and keep his job at Ohio State.  One report Monday did nothing to extinguish the hopes of Buckeye Nation.

OSU announced earlier in the today that the university’s Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday morning to discuss “personnel matters related to the investigation involving Urban Meyer.” The two-week probe into the head coach’s handling of domestic abuse allegations leveled against a now-former assistant was completed Sunday.

The 19-member board will review the investigative committee’s final report on the results of their investigation, with OSU president Michael V. Drake determining Meyer’s fate after receiving a recommendation from the regents. And, according to a pair of Columbus Dispatch sources, “the likely recommendation [from the board] is a suspension for Meyer.” Just how long of a suspension potentially facing Meyer was not relayed by the newspaper.

Not only that, Meyer might also avoid any further punitive measures, period. “Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.” the Dispatch wrote.

While the board will meet Wednesday and present its recommendation to Drake the same day, it’s unclear at this point when the university’s president will make his announcement.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university announced the launching of an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

Zach Smithfired by Meyer as OSU wide receivers coach July 23 in the wake of allegations that he abused his ex-wifeCourtney Smith, during their marriage, met with the investigative team on Tuesday of last week.  Courtney Smith, along with her attorneys, met with investigators the day before her ex-husband.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

Meyer’s boss in Gainesville, former UF athletic director Jeremy Foleydeclined comment on that 2009 incident earlier this month.  Meyer’s current boss in Columbus, OSU athletic director Gene Smith, could also be in the university’s crosshairs as Zach Smith alleged that the AD contacted him about the allegations in October of 2015.

As the investigation reached its midway point, Gene Smith was on vacation but “available to speak with the investigative team.” It’s unclear if Smith spoke to the investigators; it’s also unclear if Smith, also on the selection committee for the College Football Playoff, will continue on as OSU’s athletic director moving forward.

As Meyer is barred from interacting with his players and coaches during his leave, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day has been handling OSU’s preparations for the Sept 1 opener against Oregon State after being named as the Buckeyes’ acting head coach. The university has also kept players or coaches from speaking to the media throughout Meyer’s leave.

Louisville places TE coach Klenakis on leave following DUI arrest

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Louisville tight ends coach Chris Klenakis was arrested early Sunday for driving under the influence, and now he has been placed on administrative leave by the Cardinals.

According to an Associated Press report, Klenakis was driving with a BAC of 0.165, which is more than twice the legal limit. From the report, it sounds as though Klenakis was lucky to have been caught with by police, because a police report says Klentakis walked into the road during a sobriety test and was nearly hit by a passing truck.

Police charged Klenakis with reckless driving, wanton endangerment and possession of open containers on top of the DUI charge.

How long Klenakis remains suspended by the university remains to be seen, as does his overall job status with the football program. Klenakis has been Louisville’s coaching staff since 2014 and has previously coached offensive line.

Louisville opens the 2018 season on September 1 against No. 1 Alabama in Orlando, Florida.

Mike Bobo remains hospitalized as Colorado State prepares for season opener vs. Hawaii

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Colorado State will begin a brand new college football season this weekend at home against Mountain West Conference opponent Hawaii, but it remains to be seen if head coach Mike Bobo will be on the sidelines to coach the Rams. Bobo remains in a hospital after checking in for medical evaluations last week.

An update from Colorado State Athletics Director Joe Parker on Monday confirmed Bobo has moved to a new hospital in Denver and continues to be evaluated to determine why he might have felt numbness in his feet recently. Parker said it is possible Bobo could be released from the hospital any day, but the Rams coaching staff will continue preparing the team for this weekend’s game as if Bobo will not be available just in case.

With that being the case, there is some uncertainty over how the staff would run the team with responsibilities like calling plays. That appears to be a detail the staff will worry about later in the week in the event it is determined such a need arises. In the meantime, Bobo has been able to stay in touch with the staff and review film to keep sticking to his job as head coach, but nobody at Colorado State is going to push Bobo to get back as soon as possible if there are concerns about his health still to deal with.

Colorado State faces Hawaii in the season opener on Saturday, August 25.