What the Paternos’ critique of the Freeh report didn’t do, and what it did

47 Comments

Like most of you, I’m sure, I already had an idea of what the Paterno family and its accompaniment of “independent analyses” would say in its critique of the Freeh report.

The family has, in unapologetic fashion, defended Joe Paterno‘s name and legacy over the past year after he was fired from Penn State following decades of success and crucified by the court of public opinion for his actions — or inactions — in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. While the core of the Sandusky story revolves around the utter disbelief that a serial pedophile could go years preying on young boys without ever being stopped, the decision on what to make of Paterno’s role in it all has manifested into one of the most — if not the most — polarizing angles.

So when the lengthy report was released Sunday morning, I wasn’t surprised to find phrases such as “rush to injustice”, while the Freeh report was deemed a solidification of the “false public narrative about Joe Paterno.”

But false, honest, or somewhere in between, the multiple narratives about Paterno in this entire mess are as permanent as the mark he left on his former program and university. It’s been over a year since the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke the Sandusky story wide open and people’s opinions one way or the other are pretty much set. In that regard, the Paterno family’s retort to the Freeh report accomplishes nothing.

The arguments range. From Paterno’s apparent inability to comprehend sodomy “as a 72-year-old football coach who was untrained in the complicated, counterintuitive dynamics of child sexual victimization and who came from a traditional background where even consensual sex was not discussed”, to being straight-up “fooled” by Sandusky, the critique implies that Paterno was prude enough to make Ned Flanders look like a proponent of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Yet, in his grand jury testimony, Paterno sounded up to speed on what happened between Sandusky and Victim 2 in 2001 when then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary walked in to the showers of the Lasch building on Penn State’s campus. McQueary then relayed what he saw to Paterno.

“He said he had something that he wanted to discuss. I said come on over to the house. He had seen a person, not an older but a mature person who was fondling or whatever you might call it.

“It was a sexual nature.”

The question is whether that understanding was the same in 2001 at the time of the conversation. The lack of documentation of any sort for that meeting has created one of the great mysteries of this story.

Even with documentation, the critique battles the theory that Paterno knew of Sandusky’s pedophilia and participated in a cover-up. One of the long-standing focal points of Paterno’s role in this story has been the email from Athletic Director Tim Curley to Vice President Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier dated Feb. 27, 2001:

“After giving it some more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday — I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”

At first glance, it would appear Paterno altered a course of action in dealing with Sandusky that originally included informing the Department of Public Welfare. The critique says that email was misrepresented, that a plan to inform proper authorities was still in place, just delayed.

Those are just two examples of many, but does that change your mind about Paterno for better or worse? It doesn’t for me. For example, the exact date and time Paterno met with Curley so as to not “ruin his weekend” to relay what he heard from McQueary doesn’t change the fact that, by the critique’s own admission on the second page, Paterno appeared to wash his hands of a situation he shouldn’t have.

(1) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001, (2) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident, and (3) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary.

Paterno’s involvement in any degree is a paradox. On one hand, he is not the center of the Sandusky story; rather, he is a link in a chain of key individuals who are accused of doing less than we as a society claim we would have done if placed in a similar situation. On the other hand, Paterno was not just a football coach. Few, if any, individuals in college athletics have become the face of an institution like Paterno was. To suggest that he did not have power or influence beyond the typical head coach is nothing short of naive. 

In addition to his spot atop Penn State’s chain of command, the other thing Paterno never lost was his mind. Though his body deteriorated with age, and his battle with cancer was eventually lost in early 2012, his grey matter was as sharp toward the end of his life as it was in his prime. This was universally known and witnessed.

With that power and brilliance comes accountability for what happens while you’re in charge, whether or not it’s in your area of expertise. It’s admittedly a unique situation. The Sandusky scandal is not about Paterno, yet it sort of is. The family’s response to the Freeh report mirrors that assessment even though it dismisses any sort of accountability Paterno should have had.

While the critique doesn’t do anything to persuasively change the public’s opinion about Paterno — it’s certainly not for a lack of effort — it does reasonably poke holes in the Freeh report’s strategy in coming up with its findings. Of the hundreds of people interviewed for the report, neither Curley nor Schultz, who are facing perjury charges and clearly among the most important people in this case, were. Paterno passed away early last year after a battle with lung cancer. His voice, the most important in this topic, is forever silenced.

The portion of the report written by Dick Thornburgh does a good job of dissecting the documentation used by the Freeh report to uncover holes in logic. The portion written by Jim Clemente offers compelling, psychology-based counterarguments to the perception that someone had to have known about Sandusky’s pedophilia.

The Freeh report was never entirely conclusive, and it certainly wasn’t intended to be used as a resource for the NCAA to levy punishment on Penn State’s football program, but in the end, the Paterno family’s response just doesn’t do much other than expose the Freeh’s blemishes while trying to hide Paterno’s.

The thing is, you can’t. Joe Paterno was a human being capable of doing great things for others, as well as doing wrong. He had a statue outside Beaver Stadium and a mural with, at one point, a halo painted over his head. But Paterno was not a god, nor was he a saint. The critique transparently attempts to restore Paterno’s image as such, and it’s bogus.

Paterno is just like you and me. To believe otherwise is only setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

Oregon State adds second Power Five transfer WR, this one from Florida State

Oregon State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A personnel loss for Florida State will apparently be a gain for the Oregon State football program.

Last month, Tre'Shaun Harrison placed his name into the NCAA transfer database. This past week, it was reported that Harrison has been added to the OSU student directory.

According to Oregon Live, “Harrison and his mom took a visit to Corvallis from January 3-5 and the trip left him encouraged about a future with the Beavers.”

As of yet, the Oregon State football program has not addressed any roster development involving Harrison. Barring the unexpected, the receiver will have to sit out the 2020 season. That would then leave him with two years of eligibility starting in 2021.

A four-star 2018 signee, Harrison was rated as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Washington. Harrison was originally committed to Oregon before flipping and following Willie Taggart to FSU.

In 2019, Harrison caught 27 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.  He was third on the Seminoles in both catches and yards.

Harrison is the second Power Five wide receiver transfer added by the Oregon State football program this month. After opting to leave Washington, Trey Lowe ultimately moved on and transferred to OSU. Like Harrison, Lowe will have to sit out the upcoming season.

After announcing move to Baylor, Temple transfer TE Kenny Yeboah flips to Ole Miss

Ole Miss football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ahead of National Signing Day for high schoolers, the Ole Miss football program is the beneficiary of a different type of flip.

In late December, Kenny Yeboah announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from Temple to Baylor. Three weeks after that, however, Matt Rhule took the head job with the Carolina Panthers, and was quickly replaced by LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda late last week.

Coincidentally or not, Yeboah utilized the same social media website a day after Aranda was confirmed as Rhule’s replacement to announce that he has decommitted from Baylor and instead plans to sign with the Ole Miss football team. The tight end would be coming to the Rebels as a graduate transfer.

“With ALOT… of thought and prayer.  And talking it over with my parents, thinking deeply about my decision,” Yeboah wrote in his post. “We have concluded that I should decommit from Baylor [U]niversity. …

“After much thought and prayer. I have decided to earn my [master’s] in Health Promotions at Ole Miss University to play for Coach Lane Kiffin and his great staff.  I know this is a great opportunity for me. …

“I can’t wait to begin my new journey and grind with my teammates.”

For what it’s worth, Ole Miss hasn’t yet officially announced Yeboah’s addition to the roster.

A two-star 2016 signee, the 6-5, 240-pound Yeboah took a redshirt as a true freshman with the Owls. His head coach that season? Matt Rhule.

The past three years, Yeboah caught 47 passes for 538 yards and six touchdowns. In 2019, he set career-highs in receptions (19), receiving yards (233) and receiving touchdowns (five).

With two in a mid-November win over Tulane, the Allentown, Penn., product became the first tight end in school history with a multi-touchdown game.

Alabama transfer Scott Lashley headed to Mississippi State

Alabama Crimson Tide football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you had the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in the “Next FBS School Featured in a Portal Post” lottery, collect your winnings. And if you had him staying in the SEC West as well?  Play the lottery.

An Alabama Crimson Tide football official confirmed this weekend that Scott Lashley was officially listed in the NCAA transfer database. Subsequent to that, it was reported that Lashley had already decided to transfer to Mississippi State.

According to 247Sports.com, Lashley is expected to begin classes at MSU this coming week.

Lashley graduated from Alabama last month. That will give the 6-7, 307-pound offensive tackle immediate eligibility at Mississippi State.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

A four-star 2016 signee, Lashley was rated as the No. 20 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 8 player regardless of position in the state of Mississippi. The past three seasons, Lashley appeared in a total of 19 games.

Eight of those appearances for Lashley came at right tackle in 2019. Earlier this month, the Tide’s starting right tackle, Jedrick Wills Jr., announced he was leaving early for the NFL.  It had been expected that Lashley would compete for the starting job vacated by Wills.

Lashley is the second Tide player this month to enter the portal and then quickly move on to another school. Two weeks ago, Jerome Ford signaled his intention to leave Tuscaloosa by entering the database. Last week, the running back moved on to the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Virginia Tech joins Ball State in losing WR Damon Hazelton to transfer

Virginia Tech football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When it comes to Damon Hazelton, the Virginia Tech football team has some transfer company.

Back in May of 2017, the Virginia Tech football team announced that Ball State transfer wide receiver Damon Hazelton had been officially added to the roster. Three years and two on-field seasons later, however, Hazelton took to Twitter to announce that he will be transferring from the Hokies as well.

“Want to say thank you to Virginia Tech, coaches and community for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this University athletically and earn my degree,” the receiver wrote. “It has been an unbelievable time here. To all my brothers and teammates, I love each and every one of you and know this year will be nothing short of amazing.”

As he indicated in his post, Hazelton will be leaving as a graduate transfer.

After sitting out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Hazelton led the Hokies in catches (51), yards (802) and touchdowns (eight) in 2018. This past season, he again led the Hokies in receiving touchdowns (eight), while he was second in yards (527) and tied for second in receptions (31).

Including his time at Ball State, Hazelton has totaled 1,834 yards and 20 touchdowns on 133 catches. The 2020 season will be his final year of eligibility.