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.

Report: Georgia RG Ben Cleveland suffers fractured left fibula

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Georgia starting right guard Ben Cleveland suffered a fractured left fibula in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win at Missouri, according to Dawgs247.

According to the site, the injury will not require surgery or a cast, but Cleveland will miss “at least a month.” No. 2 Georgia hosts Tennessee on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) and Vanderbilt before a massive visit to No. 5 LSU on Oct. 13. They’ll take Oct. 20 before closing SEC play with Florida, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 10 Auburn.

The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone and, thus, a significantly less damage break than the tibia.

Cleveland is a redshirt sophomore from Toccoa, Ga. He has started Georgia’s last nine games at right guard.

The Cleveland injury is not the only ailment Georgia is dealing with at the moment. Dawgs247 noted starting left tackle Andrew Thomas, who missed the Middle Tennessee game with a left ankle injury and seemingly re-aggravated it in the first half, when a player rolled up on him. He did not return to the game afterward.

Fellow sophomore Justin Shaffer replaced Cleveland at right guard in the Missouri win.

Tennessee LB booted from Florida loss releases statement

Getty Images
4 Comments

On a night the Vols celebrated their 1998 national championship team, Tennessee played about as far away from national championship-caliber football as you’ll ever see a Tennessee team play. The Vols lost to Florida 47-21 in a game that was simultaneously better and worse than the final score. Tennessee was only out-gained 387-364 and won the first downs battle 18-14, but much of that was due all the short fields the Vols gave Florida after coughing up half a dozen turnovers. When fans started pouring out of Neyland Stadium early in the third quarter, the scoreboard read Florida 33, Tennessee 3.

And that’s not all.

Over the course of the game, head coach Jeremy Pruitt told linebacker Quart’e Sapp to leave the field after Sapp, Pruitt said, declined to enter the game.

“Since I’ve been here, Quarte has been a really good ambassador to our program, he’s done everything I’ve asked him,” Pruitt said. “He left the field because he wouldn’t go into the game when he was asked to go in. I don’t know how things were done before, but when you tell somebody to go in and they refuse to go in, we’re not going to do that around here. So I asked him to leave.”

On Sunday, Sapp released a statement on Twitter saying he did not refuse to go in the game. Sapp’s statement does not clarify exactly what happened, but he expressly denies he was asked to enter the game and refused.

“During the UT vs. UF game I was never asked nor did I refuse to go into the game. There was a sideline confrontation (I’m sure will be resolve internally that occurred and the other party had to be restrained.”

Sapp, a redshirt junior, was listed as Tennessee’s No. 2 weakside linebacker entering the Florida game. Given the praise Pruitt heaped upon Sapp above and the fact Tennessee can’t exactly turn away able bodies with Georgia, Auburn and Alabama coming up in its next three games, but bet here is this spat gets resolved internally and everyone moves on.

Minnesota DB Antoine Winfield, Jr. to miss remainder of season with foot injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second year in a row, Antoine Winfield, Jr.‘s season ends just four games after it started.

After appearing in 12 games and starting nine as a true freshman in 2016, Winfield was lost for the year four games into his sophomore campaign of 2017. He obtained a hardship waiver to play this season as a redshirt sophomore, but now will miss the rest of the season to a foot injury suffered in a 42-13 loss to Maryland on Saturday.

He will undergo surgery on Monday.

In a statement announcing the injury, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck announced the Gophers will pursue another hardship waiver for Winfield, meaning he would be a fourth-year sophomore in 2019 if approved.

Winfield is the second Gopher to be lost for the season, following running back Rodney Smith.

“We are heartbroken for Antoine,” Fleck said. “Like Rodney Smith, I know he will keep his oar in the water, keep moving forward and will work tirelessly to return to the field next season. We believe Antoine meets the waiver requirement for a sixth year of eligibility and we will file that waiver with the NCAA at the conclusion of the season.”

Winfield led all Gophers defensive backs with 17 tackles on the year while tying for the team lead with one interception. He was also the team’s punt returner, notching a 76-yard score in a 48-10 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 1 and a 31-yard return in a 26-3 defeat of Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 15.

Minnesota (3-1) is off Saturday before visiting Iowa on Oct. 6

Wake Forest fires defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel

Getty Images
1 Comment

Wake Forest has relieved defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel of duties, head coach Dave Clawson announced Sunday.

After starting the season 2-0 with wins over Tulane and Towson, the Demon Deacons have allowed 97 points in consecutive losses to Boston College and No. 8 Notre Dame.

“This was a difficult decision and not a spur of the moment decision,” said Clawson.  “I want to thank Coach Sawvel for all his hard work with our football program over the last two years.  Coach Sawvel is a very good person and a good football coach.”

Wake Forest ranks 110th nationally in yards per play allowed (6.35) and 106th in scoring (33.5).

With Sawvel out, defensive analyst Tom Gilmore has been elevated to the full-time staff as outside linebackers coach. Coordinator duties will be split up amongst the remaining staff, and specific duties have yet to be assigned. Gilmore joined the Wake staff over the summer; he was formerly the head coach at Holy Cross.

Wake Forest (2-2) hosts Rice on Saturday.