Catching up on the mail ...
Alex from Denver writes: I hear Stephen A. Smith discuss the necessity of giving Penn State the death penalty. Who does that truly punish? If you ask me it punishes the fans, players (both football and other sports who rely on football revenue), students and current coaching staff. None of who had anything to do with the cover up. No good comes of that. My suggestion would be to allow the season to be played, but all football revenue must be donated to charity, or perhaps all revenue generated from the football team goes to charity. Let the football program and university make the millions that they will, but punish the terrible actions by helping people who need help.
Adam Rittenberg: Alex, you make some good points. Suspending Penn State's football program also would be a major economic blow to the region, which profits greatly from the interest in the Lions program. There's a reason why I don't stay in State College for game weekends -- $600 hotel rooms. On a smaller scale, all the vendors and others who rely on Penn State football would be out of luck, which would be a shame as they had nothing to do with the scandal. The reason to punish, in the eyes of many, is to show that a big-time football program isn't above accountability and can face severe penalties. But you bring up a good case why Penn State should be spared, and how it can help by donating a large portion of its revenue to charities or organization that help abused children.
Eric from Lansing, Mich., writes: For the sake of curiosity, if Penn State gets... lets say a 5 year "Death Penalty," how do you see that affecting the rest of the Big Ten? How would scheduling be worked out? Would the divisions be realigned? And would the Big Ten consider giving Penn State the boot and try to fill the void with a new school? Or would we just be subjected to 1 more terrible, non-conference "filler" game for the next 5 years?
Adam Rittenberg: Eric, I don't think a five-year ban is at all realistic, but even a one-year ban would significantly impact Big Ten scheduling. There would have to be some rules in place for the Leaders Division with only five teams -- if the league stuck with division play at all. We could also see some serious scrambling to fill Penn State's spot on the schedule. It'll be chaotic, to say the least. Unless the Big Ten were to dismiss Penn State from the league, I don't foresee the divisions being realigned. And while the Big Ten could impose its own penalties, I don't sense much momentum for such a dramatic step as to remove Penn State from the conference. There's a lot of disappointment among the Big Ten's brass, especially toward a guy like Graham Spanier, who they respected and trusted and has betrayed them with his actions. But giving Penn State the boot? I really don't see it happening.
TN Spartan writes: I was a BIG-PAC12 proponent for scheduling, but understand they could not work it out for 2017-going forward. Do you think they would ever consider just working out a 2-yr deal in the future, where perhaps schedules could be worked out to accommodate another quality opponent? They could then step back and analyze how well it worked, TV revenue vs. 9th conference game, etc.? I think this would be a good step to take, rather than abandon altogether.
Adam Rittenberg: TN, while anything is possible, the two leagues tried to work out several alternatives to keep the alliance intact. The one that made the most sense to me called for six interleague games every season, so each team would only have to participate every other year. But even this didn't sit well with at least four Pac-12 schools that didn't want to be told how to schedule. I can tell you the Big Ten will not entertain future partnerships unless everyone is on board. It didn't want to pit all 12 of its teams against only seven or eight willing Pac-12 foes. So while a shorter agreement in terms of timespan could help, the Big Ten will be careful to go down this road again as this turned out to be rather embarrassing for both leagues.
Dan from St. Louis writes: Adam, I was not happy to see Michigan Stadium at number 6 in your B10 stadium rankings before I took the time to deduce which ones were ahead of it. But Kinnick Stadium at number 5 just adds insult to injury. I was at the Michigan/ND game under the lights last year and I was also at the Michigan/Iowa game in Iowa City, and are you kidding me? Both were good games and I'll admit that the night game at the Big House was by far the best atmosphere I've ever seen there, but you sound like a real estate agent trying to sell a tiny house that has some deferred maintenance when you say that the intimacy its best quality.
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, you bring up some good points here, but again, this is a subjective stadium ranking. I've never hidden the fact I prefer stadiums like Kinnick and Camp Randall over some of the Big Ten's larger facilities. The Michigan-Notre Dame night game in Ann Arbor was electric, and I look forward to more like it at the Big House, which is a better place to see a game now than before the renovation. I still think Michigan Stadium is overrated because of its size, and I think there are better venues to see a game in the Big Ten. Does that mean I hate Michigan or Michigan Stadium? Hardly. I never pass up a chance to cover a game there or visit Ann Arbor, which is second to Madison among my favorite college towns in the league. Again, these rankings are our personal preferences. I don't expect you to agree with them or like them. But it's one element in a blog that has a ton of other content. If you don't like the rankings, there's still plenty to read.
Les from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., writes: Re: "Penn State Begins Healing Process;" Adam, this is the kind of piece that focuses attention on the wrong thing, and ignores what's really important. Who really needs healing? The Penn State students and alums? Gee, how about the boys who were victimized? "Hitler dead, war over, citizens living near Dachau begin healing process." Totally inappropriate to focus on those who ignored wrongdoing, and on those who bought into the idol worship, instead of the real healing that's needed.
Adam Rittenberg: Les, who exactly in that piece ignored the wrongdoing? The Penn State players I talked to, or the fans/alums? Are you suggesting they covered up Jerry Sandusky's crimes, too? You completely missed the point of the story. It showed that Penn State isn't just a place where a terrible thing happened, but a place where many good things happen and there are many good people. They're incredibly damaged by what has happened there, and there are many Penn State alums like Amy Kappeler, who expressed her extreme disappointment in the school for the cover-up but still has love for her university. It's not as if everyone affiliated with Penn State hasn't taken stock in what has happened.
It's OK to be outraged, and there are more than enough stories being written at ESPN and other places that express the outrage. My assignment was to survey the scene in State College, the different emotions and images taking place there. I came away thinking Penn State remains a good place with a lot of good people, but it's also a place where a terrible, unforgivable thing took place.
Steve from Madison, Wis., writes: Adam, hypothetically if Russell Wilson were back in a Badger uniform this year, would you put money on the Badgers at least getting to (if not winning) the national title game??
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, I'd put money on Wisconsin repeating as Big Ten champions, but it's tough to say Wilson would automatically put the Badgers in the national title game. The defense still has some issues -- weak pass rush, secondary depth -- and the offensive line once again has to replace some studs (Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler). Wilson certainly would make Wisconsin more of a complete team and add the passing element to an offense that we know will run the ball effectively. That said, Wisconsin still faces several road tests, visiting Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue, as well as a potentially tricky Week 2 trip to Oregon State. While I'm still dumbfounded how Wisconsin managed to lose three games last season, I don't know if I see the Badgers running the table, either, which is what it would take for them to reach the national title game this season.
Alex G. from Fairfield, Iowa, writes: Am I missing something? What is all the hype about Michigan State this year? I've been on BHGP (fantastic Iowa blog) and everybody seems to be more worried about Michigan State than anybody else this year! They lost their starting quarterback, their top 3 receivers, and some key rushers who accounted for almost half their yards! Why is everyone worried about them?
Adam Rittenberg: Defense, defense, defense. That's the reason, Alex. While you're right about all the holes Michigan State must fill on offense, it has a defense that can carry the team a very long way this fall. The Spartans were a top 10 unit last season that has a chance to be as good or even better this season. They return quite possibly the Big Ten's best secondary, led by cornerback Johnny Adams, a standout linebacker tandem in Max Bulllough and Denicos Allen, and a talented front four led by end William Gholston. They also retained coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who recently talked to me about the benefits of sticking to a scheme over the years. Michigan State also should be a much stronger running team this fall as feature back Le'Veon Bell returns along with most of the offenisve line. Will Michigan State need to win some games 17-13? No doubt. But they have the type of defense to go a very long way.
Kelley from Los Angeles writes: I, along with many other Penn Staters, have stood by my school and my coach since all of this came to a head in November. And while the Freeh report undoubtedly shows some severe failings on the part of JoePa and some of the administration, it doesn't change how I feel about my school, and it doesn't change the vast amount of good that JoePa did for Penn State. Living in Los Angeles I have seen the commentary in the LA Times and other local news outlets, as well as here on the blog and other national sites when I take my study breaks, and frankly, all of these people calling for the tearing down of Joe's statue make me angry. I'm not denying he screwed up big time, even he admitted it, but what is so wrong, is these people who don't know Penn State, who haven't been there, and whose only knowledge about the school has come in the past few months, all of them telling me what OUR school should do, when none of them have any idea about what their "suggestions" would actually mean to the school. If you want to get JoePa off campus to punish him, it will take more than taking down his statue by the stadium. It would mean taking his name of the library he donated millions to and raised millions more for, and likewise with the spiritual center. It would mean taking away funding that he helped to raise not just from the athletic department, but from every college and major that the school offers. It would mean trying to erase the memories of hundreds of thousands of students and alumni because in some way, shape, or form, we were all touched and aided by JoePa. Taking down Joe's statue doesn't fix anything. The NCAA imposing the "death penalty" doesn't fix anything. You know what it does? It hurts a community that is already suffering more than anyone not in it could understand. It tells us that our pain isn't enough. It tells us that we aren't doing enough to try to fix the problem and make amends even as every person connected is fired and we are raising money and donating time and effort to children's abuse causes. It tells us that human goodness isn't to be relied upon when all anyone seems to want to do is punish a plethora of individuals who had no idea, and could have no idea, that any of this had ever happened, just because a small group of people made some epic mistakes.Our community is strong, and so is our University, and we will come through this, but everyone needs to let the courts handle our punishment, and stop trying us in the courts of public opinion. We will be paying for the sins of these individuals for decades to come, but stop trying to make us take down the one symbol we have left to remind us of how great we once were, and what we can strive to be again.
Adam Rittenberg: Kelley, thanks for sharing your perspective. Always enjoy your thoughts on Penn State. I think you're right about this being an intensely Penn State issue. I encountered that last week when I talked to people in State College about the scandal, the statue, Paterno, etc. People who attended Penn State or grew up in the region have a different perspective because it hits so close to home. The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' David Jones wrote a good column about this today, in which he stated, "A lot of people are yelling a lot of declarations about the statue who have no emotional investment in the school; they just want to be noticed. I think the opinions of all interested Penn State alums and students should be the driving force in what happens to the statue, not national windbags trying to get ratings and Twitter followers." While I realize some of the windbags Jones refers to might be ESPN colleagues of mine, I understand his point. The only issue I'd debate with you is your line about the "one symbol we have left to remind us of how great we once were." Really? The Paterno statue is all you've got at Penn State? It's a great school, and there are other things that should remind you of the good things that happen there. Seems like you're selling your school a bit short there.
Scott from Traverse City, Mich., writes: Adam,I have always been impressed with your ability to answer questions during the chats. Do you have all of the necessary information at your fingertips or do you have a special set-up (i.e., multiple laptops set to the most informative webpages for the the most difficult questions or quick stat checks)? Do you have to spend time memorizing the names of various starters throughout the league or does the information just come over time?Just wondering as an increasingly passionate sports nerd.
Adam Rittenberg: Scott, when you cover Big Ten football year-round like we do, you commit most of this stuff to memory. If I received a chat question about a random walk-on or a third-stringer, I probably would need to look him up. But I don't get asked about those guys much. The biggest benefit of this job is you truly become an expert on the subject matter because we write about it constantly and in such quantity. I've always said that individual fan bases are the true experts and usually know their teams better than we do. What Brian and I provide, as year-round Big Ten bloggers, is a knowledge of the entire league that few have. It's just the nature of what we do.