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

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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.

Marshall football player arrested for domestic battery

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Marshall safety Braydon Drayton was arrested Wednesday and charged for his alleged actions in a domestic assault incident.

According to a report from WSAZ, Drayton was place din custody at a regional jail with a bond set at $55,000. Drayton was charged for suspected strangulation and domestic battery of a woman. A formal complaint submitted earlier in the day claimed the alleged victim had red marks around her neck and chest following the alleged assault by Drayton. The victim claims to have been grabbed by Drayton around her neck as tempers flared.

Drayton has been suspended by the Marshall football program on an indefinite basis, allowing the legal process to play out before any further decisions on his status with the program may be made.

Mississippi State players say Joe Moorhead isn’t leaving SEC for another job

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With Rutgers searching for a new head coach and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead reportedly being among the top candidates to fill the vacancy, the rumor-denial season is in full swing in Starkville. Days after Moorhead deflected the idea of him leaving Mississippi State to take the Rutgers job, some of Moorhead’s players are coming to his aide to shut down the idea the coach would return to his home state.

“It’s funnier to him than anything,” Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader said, according to a Mississippi Clarion Ledger report on Tuesday. “He’s not leaving an SEC West program. He’s told me that multiple times.”

“He’s our coach. He’s been the same guy,” Shrader said. “He’s passionate about this team. He’s very vocal about that. He’s not going anywhere.”

Joining Shrader in attempting to shut down the Moorhead-to-Rutgers rumor mill was running back Kylin Hill, who summed up the discussion as nothing more than the typical banter that seemingly happens during the silly season that is the coaching carousel.

“There’s always going to be outside noise,” Hill said. “That’s the world we live in today. I’m not too focused on it. Nobody’s focused on it. Everybody loves the man.”

Moorhead and Mississippi State will have their attention set on this week’s game. The Bulldogs hit the road for a game at Texas A&M on Saturday. Mississippi State is looking to even its record at 4-4.

Georgia may be next in line for ‘Fair Pay to Play’ legislation

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The trend sweeping the nation in collegiate athletics appears to be heading to Georgia next. The “Fair Pay to Play” movement will be coming to Georgia, following the lead of California and following similar pushes by other states around the country.

Georgia state representative Billy Mitchell will reportedly be submitting formal legislation that would seek to allow college athletes to be eligible to receive compensation for the use of their image, likeness, and name. This is the same basic principle behind the new law in the state of California which was recently signed and will go into effect beginning in 2023.

If the legislation were to pass within the state of Georgia, it would impact every college football team in the state including FBS programs at Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. Other states in the southeast to begin getting the wheels in motion for a Fair Pay to Play movement include Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida. Other states have gotten in on the fun too, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, Illinois and Nevada.

New York’s proposal went a step farther than the most common proposed legislation in the Fair Pay to Play movement by proposing universities directly share a percentage of an athletic program’s overall revenue with every student-athlete on campus.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addresses concerns over officiating

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In this day and age, officials are being scrutinized to degrees once never dreamed of. With multiple angles for instant replays on television and on the big stadium scoreboards, every little mistake by an official in a football game will come under fire from fans, coaches and players.  Following a tough loss to Florida, South Carolina fans and their head coach, Will Muschamp, were not particularly pleased with some officiating decisions or lack of decisions made in the setback at home against the Gators. South Carolina’s issues were just the latest in a string of concerns folks around the SEC have had about the integrity of the officials calling their games, a story every fanbase in every conference can relate to in some way.

On Wednesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the general concerns fans about the officials working game sin his conference. In short, Sankey says nobody is perfect.

“The Southeastern Conference is entrusted with supporting an officiating program that is responsible for calling the games of our member schools. We take this duty most seriously,” Sankey wrote on the SEC’s official website. “We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises. And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”

Sankey continued to enforce the idea the SEC is constantly monitoring the performance of their officials and explained the assignments for officials may also be adjusted according to their ongoing in-season performance reviews. While the SEC does not make these assignment changes transparent once changes are made, the idea is to have the best officials working the best games without any potential issues becoming growing concerns in key moments.

Sankey also issued a reminder that coaches and administrators throughout the conference are not allowed to publicly rip the officials, a standard operating procedure in every conference (just ask Lane Kiffin about that).

The SEC has taken some strides in an effort to be more transparent about the officiating process with the launch of a new Twitter account (just don’t check the mentions on game days) and programming on the SEC Network to detail how the rules are governed and upheld during games.