Outgoing Penn State AD opens up about firing Paterno, hiring O’Brien

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Earlier this week it was announced Penn State athletics director David Joyner will resign from his position. Joyner had never been much of a fan favorite, and the tales of his interactions with coaches and football players had been documented, including in the John Bacon book “Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football.” Joyner realizes why his image is tarnished to a certain extent, but he appears to not want to shoulder the responsibility for some of his actions as a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees and athletics director.

“I just think people have so many emotions tied up in how they feel about what went on that it interferes perhaps with some rational thought process,” Joyner said in a one-on-one interview with David Jones of The Patriot News. “And I don’t slight them for that; that’s not a criticism.”

What did Joyner mean by “what went on?” The firing of former head coach Joe Paterno, as the Jerry Sandusky scandal was ripping apart the program and university before a blitzkrieg of national media flocking in State College in November 2011.

“What happened with Joe and the Board and all the issues surrounding that,” Joyner explained. “You know, if you have a burr under your saddle, every time you move, it hurts, no matter what it is.”

Joyner’s critics ranged across the state of Pennsylvania. Penn State fans had been split as a result of the Sandusky crimes and to this day the healing as a community continues. Anger and outrage was directed at the leadership of the school, and that meant Joyner was a bit of a target as well after coming form the board. Joyner says he received plenty of criticisms for his actions from those who felt the entire Paterno portion of the fallout was mishandled, but he tried to suggest Paterno was never fired. Jones was not buying that.

From The Patriot News;

Joyner: “The folks that may have come up to me and said that they were upset that I was part of Joe’s – well, let’s clarify something, too: He wasn’t fired. He was not permitted to coach the last three games.

P-N: Oh, come on. And [former men’s basketball coach] Jerry Dunn wasn’t fired either. Please. Stop it.

Joyner: “I understand. Having said that, people have come up to me and said some things. It’s happened in the grocery store. Not very often anymore. But when it would happen, I would just say, ‘I respect your right to that opinion.'”

Joyner was also charged with the task of hiring a new head coach. That job search led to the hiring of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. O’Brien coached two seasons at Penn State, which were slammed with NCAA sanctions nobody quite expected later in the summer just before O’Brien got his head coaching gears in motion. O’Brien left to take a job as the head coach of the Houston Texans this offseason. Some felt O’Brien had issues with Penn State leadership, but Joyner suggests Penn State tried to give O’Brien everything the coach wanted.

“I’m not sure what he wanted that he didn’t get, to be honest with you,” Joyner said. “We tried every way we could to do everything we can. Not saying we can do everything. But we would talk very frequently about, hey, what do you need?”

Joyner will retire effect August 1 but has informed Penn State he will help with the transition as a new AD is brought in.

You can read the full interview with Joyner via The Patriot News.

Alabama announces future Bryant-Denny Stadium renovation, Nick Saban donates $1 million to the effort

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The old adage bigger is always better no longer seems true in college athletics and that includes the best around apparently.

Alabama on Thursday afternoon announced a sweeping set of capital improvements to their sports facilities as part of a new 10-year, $600 million athletics fundraising push. Chief among the changes will be a renovation of Bryant Denny Stadium that includes a slight reduction in capacity.

The move will see a complete reworking of the south end zone area and will include a huge new video board, an increased number of luxury box suites, a relocated press box and additional renovations throughout the rest of the stadium. Naturally, a fancy new locker room for the Crimson Tide will also be on tap.

via Alabama Athletics

Perhaps the most notable aspect of all the changes? Alabama will actually be reducing capacity at Bryant Denny and likely will dip below the 100,000 mark as a result of the changes. This kind of downsizing has been a growing trend in college football but comes just eight years after the school expanded their stadium to top six-figures.

Should the entire project be approved by the university board, construction is expected to begin after the 2019 season concludes in Tuscaloosa.

According to AL.com, a total of $143 million is already committed to the project and it received a further boost thanks to none other than Nick and Terry Saban, who pledged $1 million for the renovations.

Given that the school is paying Saban over $10 million on a regular basis each season, both he and the program can certainly afford things even with that big price tag. Perhaps the better question is if Saban himself will be coaching the team when the new venue opens.

LOOK: Oregon unveils new uniforms for 2018 and they’re limiting the options for once

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It truly is a new era at Oregon under Mario Cristobal and the biggest representation of that just might be in the Ducks’ uniforms. Well, perhaps that’s the lack of uniforms more to the point.

On Wednesday, the school unveiled their set of uniform combinations for the 2018 season and while there are certainly some colorful designs, the most notable aspect of the launch was the fact that there were only four –yep, count ’em four — different designs the program will use this year.

“These designs are a representation of Coach Cristobal’s direction for the football program: no-nonsense, discipline, strength and speed,” said Todd Van Horne, Nike’s creative director for football, in a statement. “This uniform reflects those values.”

The school added in their release: “The Ducks continue to zig while others zag; on the field, Cristobal wants to pair Oregon’s speed and explosiveness with punishing, physical play from a mammoth offensive line. Nike looked to amplify that philosophy with uniforms that exude strength and dominance through clean, bold reliance on solid colors.”

So gone are the days where there was a new uniform combination for every single game in Eugene, a “tradition” (if you call it that) that really came into vogue at the program under Chip Kelly. Though the options are more limited in 2018, we certainly can’t say that Oregon went conservative at all with their new look given the big, bold numbering and highlighter colors used.

Still, compared to the past, the program is going down right super conservative under Cristobal based on this.

Sun Belt confirms Commissioner Karl Benson is stepping down in 2019

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There will be a strange sight in college athletics come 2019: Karl Benson will no longer be a commissioner of a conference.

The Sun Belt confirmed on Thursday that Benson, a longtime figure in college sports, will be stepping down when his contract ends on June 30, 2019 after six years on the job.

“I have labored over this decision for several months, but I know that now is the right time to step aside from the Sun Belt and conclude my career as a commissioner and in intercollegiate athletics,” Benson said in a statement. “I am very proud of what the Sun Belt has been able to accomplish since starting here in 2012.  I greatly appreciate the leadership that the Presidents, Chancellors and Athletics Directors have provided both myself and the Sun Belt staff. They give us the needed support to drive the Conference’s existing members and new members to the next level.”

Benson joined the league back in 2012 after the dissolution of the old WAC, where he served as commissioner dating all the way back to 1994. Prior to his stint out West, he also experienced the joys of #MACtion as the commissioner of the MAC for four years and also a staff member at the NCAA national office as well.

A former Boise State baseball player, Benson is listed as the only individual to have ever served as the Commissioner of three FBS/Division I-A conferences. The Sun Belt release stated that the 66-year-old, will eventually move back to Denver once his duties with the league are over next year.

Congrats to Karl on one heck of a run as a commissioner.

LSU AD confirms discussions for series with Florida State: “Real possibility that could happen”

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With one ACC powerhouse already signed, sealed and delivered for a future series, LSU apparently is looking to add the league’s other blue-blood to the future docket as well.

The Baton Rouge Advocate transcribed Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva’s interview with 104.5 FM WNXX and it appears as though Ed Orgeron’s boss is not done adding to the football team’s future schedule by confirming talks with Florida State and others about a potential meeting.

“Yes. We’re in discussions with them. Nothing’s been finalized yet,” said Alleva. “But I’m hopeful something like that will be worked out in the future. I think there’s a real possibility that that could happen.”

Reports of an FSU-LSU meeting on the gridiron surfaced last week but unlike their home-and-home set with Clemson that will take place at both Death Valleys, the series against Florida State would amount to a somewhat neutral site home-and-home. According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, the plan being discussed is to have the two programs open the 2022 season in New Orleans at the Superdome and do the same to kickoff the 2023 season in Orlando.

While that would certainly not be quite as fun as having the Seminoles in Baton Rouge or the Tigers in Tallahassee, something is better than nothing. The two programs do have a history against each other — nine games total — but the last meeting on the gridiron came back in 1991 and the majority of those meetings took place at Tiger Stadium.

Both schools have plenty of openings in both 2022 and 2023 to accommodate a series and based on Alleva’s comments, it sounds like something will certainly happen between the two programs eventually.