Mark Emmert

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Mark Emmert thought “Penn State’s season was spectacular”

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There was a certain irony in seeing Penn State win and celebrate a Big Ten championship in Indianapolis on Saturday night. Penn State, five years after the horrifying revelations of the Jerry Sandusky scandal ripped through the program, university, and community, was slammed hard by the NCAA, whose offices are located in Indianapolis with sanction terms that were thought to be crippling for the program at the time in the summer of 2012.

So, with Penn State clinching the Big Ten title in the home city of the NCAA headquarters, what did NCAA President Mark Emmert have to say about it?

I thought Penn State’s season was spectacular,” Emmert said while taking questions at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York on Wednesday: “What coach [James] Franklin has done there, I think, is very, very impressive.”

Emmert has been criticized by many who have taken issue with the NCAA getting involved with any decisions regarding Penn State’s football program in the aftermath of the Sandusky fallout following the release of the Freeh Report, which the NCAA used in place of its own in-depth investigation.

“It’s great to see it bounce back and do well,” Emmert said of Penn State’s 11-2 season. “While people will occasionally say those sanctions were meant to cripple the university, that’s not true at all. I’ve always said and always believed Penn state is a wonderful university, because it is, and secondly it’s got great sports traditions.”

Emmert may say the sanctions dropped on Penn State were never meant to cripple the university, but that is exactly what a four-year postseason ban and a massive reduction of available scholarships (reduced to 15 per year as opposed to the typical 25) is intended to do. Regardless, Emmert had nothing but praise for Penn State’s 2016 season.

“How can you not be pleased that they’re playing good football again? That’s very good stuff.”

Jim Harbaugh laughs at SEC and ACC spring break practice complaints

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh finds humor in the SEC and ACC voicing concerns over Michigan’s plans to head to Florida for spring practices. With SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and ACC commissioner John Swofford going on record saying practicing over spring break is detrimental to the student-athlete and NCAA president Mark Emmert suggesting he is no fan of the concept, Harbaugh had no other way of responding but to suggest it was comical.

“I guess (Sankey) is stating a case, but it doesn’t hold water to me,” Harbaugh said Friday to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s not an addition of time, it’s the same amount of time. It’s 20 hours. We’ll be on the same rules and guidelines every other team will be under on spring practice. I think there’s been some humor about it. I think it’s comical that he’s taken exception to it.”

Earlier today Michigan announced plans to hold its annual spring game on the evening of April 1. Tucked away at the bottom of that press release was a confirmation Michigan will be heading to Bradenton, Florida for the opening of spring football practices, as originally planned and confirmed by Harbaugh.

Emmert says the NCAA will review the policies regarding practice time over spring break, seemingly listening to the request filed by the SEC recently. The SEC asked the NCAA to come to a resolution that would fall in line with SEC spring break rules, and asked that that ruling be made as quickly as possible. It may be too late for anything to be done this season, but if Emmert’s voice is any indication, this could be the first and last time Michigan takes its football practices out of state.Or will it?

Or will it?

UPDATE (7:10 P.M.) – Harbaugh has taken to Twitter…

Mark Emmert voices concern over Michigan’s spring break football practices

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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had his say. Then ACC commissioner John Swofford had his. Now NCAA president Mark Emmert is getting in line to have his concern over the idea of Michigan taking spring football practices on the road over spring break.

The NCAA will reportedly discuss during an April meeting to address possible cutting back on time spent on athletics, which would potentially lead to the thought of meaning student-athletes get spring break off. This, of course, has been the subject of concern for the SEC’s request to the NCAA following the news Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh planned to take his program to Florida for spring football practices over Michigan’s spring break.

Under the current NCAA rules, taking a football program to another state for spring practices, as Michigan intended, is allowed. Harbaugh was not flirting with any NCAA violations under the current structure and the way the rules are interpreted or enforced. With a rising concern over the management of student-athletes and how much time is spent out of classes focusing on athletics, it was always a possibility this plan may have to be altered if the NCAA got involved. Of course, this is not to suggest anything will change once the NCAA has that meeting in April.

Three years after the NCAA hammer, Penn State still alive and well

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Three summers ago Penn State’s football program was thought to be wiped as much from existence as a program can get this side of the SMU death penalty. The NCAA dropped a three-ton anvil on the program following the release of the Freeh Report related to the university’s handling of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and his sickening crimes against children both on and off campus; a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, 112 victories vacated, a loss of scholarships ultimately limiting the program to 65 available scholarships instead of the NCAA limit of 85, five years of probation and the possibility of further NCAA investigations following criminal proceedings related to Penn State officials. A lot has changed since that July morning in 2012. Through it all, Penn State has managed to not only survive but also find a path moving forward with great promise.

NCAA president Mark Emmert suggested Penn State had a culture problem on its hands, where the football way of life trumped all other facets of the university. Some applauded Emmert and the NCAA for going all in on Penn State. Others believed the NCAA should have gone further. Others felt it was too harsh a punishment or the NCAA had no jurisdiction on the Penn State shortcomings. Everyone had a side on this subject, and many have stuck to those opinions over the years. Whatever your opinion was at the time, things looked bleak for the future of Penn State football.

The NCAA assigned former Senator George Mitchell to monitor and keep tabs on Penn State by way of an annual progress report. Through Mitchell’s reports, the NCAA saw fit to cut back on some of the sanctions dropped on the program. First the NCAA handed back a handful of scholarships. It later lifted all scholarship restrictions as well as the final two years of the postseason ban. Finally, the program was relieved of all NCAA sanction terms earlier this year with all vacated wins going back on the books, although Penn State remained committed to fulfilling its intent to pay off the $60 million fine, with that money being put to good use to promote the awareness of child and sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.

New head coach Bill O’Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, served admirably in his role as head coach and should someday be recognized for the job he did in his two years in State College. O’Brien took over a program some deemed toxic and was soon hampered even more with the sanctions. O’Brien could have whined about the situation left and right, but instead he kept the program moving forward with whatever players chose to stay with him. Yes, some players took advantage fo a free transfer opportunity from the sanctions (most notably running back Silas Redd to USC), and some recruits opted to go elsewhere. O’Brien worked with what he had, and decided to fight for the players who remained committed. Names were placed on the jerseys to recognize those who stayed. Some schools say those who stay will be champions. Penn State’s 2012 squad may not have won a championship, but it was honored on the inside of Beaver Stadium alongside past memorable teams like the Big Ten champions of 2005 and 2008, the undefeated 1994 team and the national championship squads of the 1980s. Penn State’s 2012 team had a championship mentality and personality.

O’Brien left after two years at Penn State to become the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans. O’Brien always seemed like a coach looking for an NFL opportunity, and few begrudge him for leaving the program when he did. This is because he made sure the program would be as ready to take the next steps forward as possible under grave circumstances. Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who is now in the midst of doing just that with a full allotment of scholarships and no sanctions to work around. Depth is rebuilding, and the pride in the program remains. It may even be stronger than ever before, as the football program has ironically played a role in bringing the community together in a new way. This season Penn State will strip the names off the jerseys in another show of moving forward while embracing the tradition of the program.

Penn State’s football program may very well have been the product of a football culture gone overboard to some degree, but it also plays a role in the rebuilding the faith of a fractured community. There is still work to be done in State College, Pennsylvania and the pains suffered by the victims of Sandusky may never heal, but the football program can serve as an outlet to promote awareness of child and sexual abuse in the community. Lessons can be learned from the Penn State saga, and ultimately that is more valuable than any win experienced on the field.

NCAA once again defends itself in handling of Penn State sanctions

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The NCAA may have rescinded the sanctions levied on Penn State three summers ago, but it continues to defend the way it responded to the Jerry Sandusky scandal in State College. In court documents filed Wednesday in the Paterno family lawsuit, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the NCAA says the Sandusky scandal “fell squarely within” its authority and stated the crimes involved showed “a profound lack of institutional integrity and institutional control.”

The NCAA is standing by the findings of the Louis Freeh Report, which was adopted by the NCAA in place of its own investigation of Penn State. The NCAA has claimed time and time again the findings in the Freeh Report were more thorough and concise than any investigation the NCAA would have been capable of putting together, although the integrity of Freeh himself has come under scrutiny on multiple occasions as well.

In April NCAA President Mark Emmert admitted he could have handled the Penn State situation a little differently, but he has also defending the NCAA’s involvement and need to respond to everything that occurred on Penn State’s campus and around the football program.

The NCAA slammed Penn State with a four-year postseason ban, a significant reduction in scholarships, a hefty $60 million fine and vacated 112 wins of which 11 were credited to the late Joe Paterno. Those sanctions were handed down in the summer of 2012, following the publication and release of the Louis Freeh Report. Since issuing the sanctions, the NCAA partially restored scholarships following positive annual reviews from George Mitchell. Last September the NCAA lifted the final two years of the postseason ban, allowing Penn State the opportunity to play in the Pinstripe Bowl last December. In January the NCAA lifted the remainder of the sanction terms and restored all vacated victories, although an agreement was made for Penn State to continue paying off the $60 million to go toward child abuse awareness.

Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts related to child sexual abuse and is serving 30-60 years in prison.