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.

After $1 million donation, UCF is adding a lazy river to new athletes village that will be open for tailgating

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College football traditionalists will have none of this, but Wet ‘n Wild may soon be a term you hear to describe future UCF football games.

Thanks to a $1 million donation this week from a pair of alumni, the school announced that they are finalizing plans for ‘Recovery Cove’ as part of a new $30 million UCF Athletics Village. As the name implies, the area will be for athletes of all sports to come to relax and recover and now will feature a pool, a lazy river and various other amenities.

“Florida weather is one of our greatest competitive advantages,” athletics director Danny White said. “UCF student-athletes have very demanding schedules. Having a recovery and leisure space so close to the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership and the Garvy Center for Student-Athlete Nutrition will significantly enhance the UCF student-athlete experience. Recovery Cove will also deliver one of college football’s most unique game-day premium experiences for UCF fans.”

Yes, it that last little bit wasn’t clear, Recovery Cove will be opened up before football games for tailgating. The school eventually expects to even make quite a bit of money off the project as fans and others pay to get in and use the facilities before and after the Knights take the field at nearby Spectrum Stadium.

A timeline for the project was not released but any construction will naturally begin in the offseason. While we’ve seen pools at stadiums in the state before (such as Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field), Recovery Cove certainly is stepping things up in a new and unexpected way in Central Florida.

Houston QB D’Eriq King done for the season after torn meniscus

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While everybody and their mother seemed focus on the brouhaha between Houston star Ed Oliver and head coach Major Applewhite during Thursday night’s win against Tulane, another pretty significant thing happened that was overlooked by many: starting quarterback D’Eriq King was taken off on a stretcher in the first half.

Now we know the extent of the damage and it’s just as bad as many feared. Per the Houston Chronicle, King suffered a torn meniscus and will miss the rest of the 2018 season as a result.

“He simply handed the ball off and went to carry out his fate,” Applewhite said. “It all kind of stunned us, quite honestly, when he said he could not straighten his leg out.”

King has been stellar in taking over as the Cougars starter this season, coming into the weekend responsible for the most points in all of FBS. Sadly he’ll wrap up the year with an even 50 touchdowns, including 36 scores through the air to go with 2,982 yards passing and six interceptions. The elusive dual-threat also rushed for 674 yards.

True freshman Clayton Tune took over for King in the 48-17 win over Tulane and appears to be the starter the rest of the way for Houston, which has a good shot at making it to the AAC title game in a few weeks. Tennessee graduate transfer Quinten Dormady is also on the depth chart as a backup but has appeared in only one game this year for the program.

Report: Les Miles finalizing a deal to become next Kansas head coach

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Mad Hatter meet Rock Chalk.

According to a report from Sports Illustrated, former Oklahoma State and LSU head coach Les Miles is finalizing a long-rumored deal to take the vacancy at Kansas — with an announcement coming as soon as this weekend.

The move from the pristine grass of Baton Rouge to the wheat fields of Kansas has been one that was identified early on by several people in college football almost as soon as Jayhawks athletic director Jeff Long made the decision to fire David Beaty in early November. Both men spent several years together while at Michigan in the 1980’s and Long reportedly once tried to hire Miles when he was in charge at Arkansas back in 2012.

Speculation that the Jayhawks settled on Miles as their next head coach has been the prevailing wisdom for the past several weeks but really kicked into high gear on Thursday afternoon when LSU announced they had reached a settlement with their ex-head coach on his hefty buyout. Instead of the school paying the $6.5 million still owed over the next several years, the Tigers instead cut a $1.5 million check to wrap up their financial obligations — freeing up Miles to take another job without any strings attached.

Needless to say, people don’t cut bait on $5 million like it’s nothing so KU’s financial package for the new head coach will likely be significant.

Miles is no stranger to the Big 12 Conference, though it has been 14 years since he was getting Oklahoma State turned around as a program. The 65-year-old most notably spent a dozen years leading LSU to a 114-34 overall record that included one national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships during his time in Baton Rouge. After he was fired in 2016, Miles has been mentioned for several other jobs around the country but has spent part of his time as a broadcaster and aspiring actor.

It appears those days of non-coaching work are over however as the affectionately-named Mad Hatter will embark on one of the biggest tasks in college football: turning around a Jayhawks program that has gone 22-88 in the past decade.

The Big Game between Cal and Stanford has been moved to Dec. 1 due to Bay Area wildfires

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It’s been a trying time in California the past few weeks as several terrifying wildfires have continued to burn in multiple parts of the state. Air quality in several regions has been a huge issue as a result — particularly so in the Bay Area, where the haze from the nearby Camp Fire has caused several health warnings to be issued.

Taking all that under advisement, the Pac-12 has made the correct decision to postpone this weekend’s annual rivalry between Cal and Stanford from Saturday to December 1st at noon PT. The 121st Big Game between the Cardinal and Bears, still set to be played in Berkeley, will therefore serve as the regular season finale for the conference as it comes one day after the Pac-12 title game down in nearby Santa Clara.

“We have been carefully tracking air quality in Berkeley and the Bay Area over the past week, relying on the best data and guidance available to us from medical and environmental experts,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “The forecasts we have received show a minimal chance of the improvement necessary to hold the game on Saturday. While we would have preferred to play the Big Game on its scheduled date, once we realized that air quality would likely not return to acceptable levels, we made the decision to postpone for the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, gameday staff, students, band and spirit groups, alumni and fans.”

“The entire Stanford Athletics community recognizes this has been an extremely challenging time for so many people who have been affected by the wildfires, both in the Bay Area and throughout the state,” Stanford AD Bernard Muir added. “Our thoughts are with them, first and foremost. We are thankful to the University of California for collaborating with us on the logistical challenges of rescheduling the Big Game, and are looking forward to playing the game on Dec. 1.”

Tickets will continue be honored despite the date change and the game will still be televised on Pac-12 Networks in the middle of championship Saturday in college football. There will be several rescheduled games already on the docket for Dec. 1, including several on the other side of the country that were moved as a result of hurricanes earlier in the season.

Neither Cal or Stanford are in the running for the Pac-12 title game so the decision to push their game back comes as no surprise. Both teams will have this weekend off before the Bears face off against Colorado (in Berkeley) next Saturday, while the Cardinal will play their other in-state rival UCLA down at the Rose Bowl.

You can follow NBC News for additional reporting on the non-sports aspects of the deadly wildfires throughout the state of California.