Big Ten: Rodney Erickson

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

May, 20, 2014
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Kurt from Shawano, Wis., writes: With the likelihood that the "buy games" for Big Ten Conference teams will cost around or over $1 million, will the conference rethink the "no FCS" game policy? A few points: 1. FCS are cheaper, helping athletic budgets 2. No other "major 5" conference has stated that they will also not play FCS games. 3. Many FCS teams in the Big Ten footprint are ACTUALLY BETTER than low- level FBS teams. North Dakota State and South Dakota State come to mind. 4. Using the threat of playing FCS teams would help to reduce the cost of those FBS buy games. Could this policy change?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Kurt, and I addressed this Tuesday in my B1G numbers piece about the high cost of home games. The short answer is no, I don't see the league reconsidering its policy. Commissioner Jim Delany has been firm on the fact that while some FCS teams are excellent, he doesn't like the idea of Big Ten teams with 85 scholarship players playing teams with only 62 or 63. Financially and logistically, the FCS games make sense. But for the most part, they do not make sense competitively.

The Big Ten must do all it can to help its members with non-league scheduling. If things reach a desperate point and we start seeing Big Ten teams scheduling each other in non-league games, perhaps then we could see the policy reconsidered.


Mike from State College, Pa., writes: Have you been following the NCAA/PSU hearing today? There's some good stuff in the information coming from the trial. Most importantly: NCAA admits to threatening the Death Penalty unless the Consent Decree was signed for the first time, which is in direct conflict with what Mark Emmert & Ed Ray said after the Consent Decree was signed. Someone lied. Good story, no?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting story, Mark, but it's not a new one. The conflicting statements from Emmert and Ray have been out there practically since the beginning. In fact, here's what Ray told me the day the sanctions were handed down:
President Erickson was quoted today as saying that Penn State accepted that deal because if not, you would have decided to suspend play. Can you confirm that?

Ray: I've known Rod for a long time. I didn't hear what he said. I was on a plane flying back to Oregon. But I can tell you categorically there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to.

And yet that's exactly what happened, which is not surprising at all. The NCAA had to at least broach the possibility of no games/no season to get Penn State to sign.


Rudytbone from Spring, Texas, writes: I'm surprised that neither you nor Brian has commented on the B1G's snub of Philly with the new league offices in New York. Philly is the obvious geographical location, about equidistant from Rutgers, Penn State, and Maryland. But, they chose NYC. Or is it not a snub, because the plan was to get to NYC any way they could? (Rutgers and the Twerps were just a convenient excuse.)

Adam Rittenberg: It's not a snub because New York is a much bigger business hub than Philadelphia. The Big Ten can access everyone it needs in New York to grow its brand on the East Coast, and it also has office space in Washington, D.C., for meetings. Rutgers, PSU and Maryland all can easily access the New York office, and more Big Ten officials go through NYC on a regular basis than Philadelphia. Putting full-time staff in NYC was a fairly easy decision for the B1G.


DJ from Minneapolis writes: It seems odd that a conference like the Big Ten that's trying to enhance its image and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs and a national championship game schedules the way it does. Why would a legitimate power like Wisconsin draw both Rutgers and Maryland for crossover games vs. either Ohio State or Michigan while an up-and-coming team like Minnesota gets both? Doesn't this damage Wisconsin's strength of schedule when it comes to the rankings and also potentially cost the B1G a bowl spot by putting a fringe bowl team like Minnesota in danger of not getting to the six-win mark?

Adam Rittenberg: DJ, that's one way of looking at it, and your point about Minnesota possibly having to scrape for bowl eligibility this season is understandable. But as I've told others, I wouldn't read too much into the crossover schedules for 2014 and 2015. When parity-based scheduling takes effect along with the nine-game league slate, Wisconsin won't have years where it misses all the big boys in the East Division.

Could strength of schedule hurt Wisconsin's playoff chances this year? Maybe, but Wisconsin opens with LSU. A win there puts Wisconsin in the playoff mix. Could the Badgers afford a loss in Big Ten play and remain alive for the playoff? That's tough to see, but few Big Ten teams are going to be able to afford a loss and make the top four this season.


Drew from Austin, Texas, writes: What is the new name of the collection of the best college football teams (Formerly Division 1-A, formerly FBS.)? Certainly it cannot still be referred to as Football Bowl Subdivision considering there is now a playoff?

Adam Rittenberg: No, the FBS/FCS designations are still around because those divisions are still in place. The term you'll hear more of in the coming years is the Group of Five, which signifies the five major conferences (B1G, SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12). Technically, all FBS teams are eligible for the upcoming playoff. But a lot of the upcoming NCAA governance changes based around autonomy are linked to the Group of Five.
There's never an ideal time to lose a football coach, especially a bright, successful one like Bill O'Brien. But the timing of O'Brien's reported departure to the NFL's Houston Texans appears to be especially unfortunate for Penn State.

It isn't necessarily related to recruiting, although Penn State's 2014 class certainly could be impacted significantly by O'Brien's exit, barely a month before national signing day. It isn't necessarily related to the current players, although key ones such as quarterback Christian Hackenberg certainly must reassess their future with the program.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsWhoever replaces Bill O'Brien at Penn State will go to a school that is losing both its athletic director and president shortly.
The bad timing has more to do with those overseeing the upcoming coach search and the willingness of coveted candidates to buy into Penn State. The problem is that Penn State's football program isn't the only entity at the school with instability at the top. There's the athletic department. And the entire university itself.

Athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson both were hastily appointed to their posts in 2011 after the child sex abuse scandal broke. Joyner is no longer Penn State's acting AD, but he's only expected to serve until Erickson steps down June 30 (or potentially earlier). Penn State's presidential search has been rocky and unsuccessful so far, as the school's reported choice, David Smith, ended up resigning his post at SUNY-Upstate Medical University in November after it was found that he had been accepting unapproved money from outside companies linked to the school.

So Penn State must now begin a coaching search with a lame-duck AD and a lame-duck president. It might not matter, as the school hired O'Brien at a shaky time. The program still continues to operate under heavy NCAA sanctions, including two more years of a postseason ban, but O'Brien's impressive performance elevated its profile for potential candidates. There's also a chance the sanctions are further reduced before the 2014 season.

Still, coaches like to know who their bosses will be. They know what happens when new athletic directors come in and things go south on the field. ADs want to hire their own coaches, and typically keep inherited coaches on shorter leashes than ones they select. Regardless of the sentiment about Joyner and Erickson -- and for many Penn Staters, it's not favorable -- the fact that they'll soon be gone can't be overlooked by potential candidates. There will be more than two people involved in identifying and hiring Penn State's next coach, but every coach wants and needs to have an AD and a president firmly in his corner for the long term.

O'Brien's frustration with Penn State's leadership and the need to be a figurehead for the school -- as told to David Jones in this illuminating piece -- also must be noted. Few coaches will be interested in a job that requires them to not only win football games but unify a community.

Penn State's administrative flux might not matter to the right coach. Maybe it's someone with stronger ties to the school, who isn't worried about winning over his future bosses.

But after all Penn State has been through, it would be better to begin another football transition without one still going on with the administration.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien was an understandably happy man Tuesday when he appeared on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.

O'Brien learned earlier Tuesday about the NCAA's decision to gradually reinstate scholarships that had been removed when the sanctions against the program came down in July 2012. He will meet with the team at 2:45 p.m. ET to discuss the big news. Penn State has an open week.

"Since I was hired here, we’re just trying to do what’s right for the student-athletes here," O'Brien said. "We've made mistakes. We've owned up to those. If we sent an improper text or made a [prohibited] phone call, we reported them right away. We're certainly not perfect. I think we have a good leader here in [university president] Rod Erickson.

"We're just trying to do the best job we can for Penn State every day."

That job gets easier for O'Brien and his staff, who can adjust their recruiting approach beginning next year. Penn State has 12 recruits verbally committed for the 2014 class.

O'Brien declined to discuss specific recruiting strategies but talked about the challenge that the initial sanctions posed. At times, Penn State has been able to offer only one scholarship per position.

"We always felt once we were able to get a young man and his parents here on campus, the place sold itself," O'Brien said. "It's a place where you can get a fantastic degree. It's a place where you can play in the Big Ten. … As far as recruiting the individual athlete, that was never difficult here. The numbers were the difficult part."

O'Brien is excited for his players and Penn State fans, especially the students, calling it "a good day for all of those people." He's appreciative of the support from other Big Ten coaches. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz called Penn State's initial penalties "a bad deal" and is glad steps are being taken to rectify things.

Although the scholarship change doesn't impact Penn State until next year, it gives O'Brien a chance to reiterate a message to his players about "sticking together and being committed."

Penn State could receive an additional reduction of penalties, including the postseason ban, which is set to run through the 2015 season. But O'Brien isn't thinking about that just yet.

"When the rules changed a little bit, we adapted to those rules," he said. "The rules now are we can sign a few more guys and can get back to 85 scholarships a little bit sooner. We can’t go to a bowl or compete for a championship, but we definitely can get more on an even playing field numbers-wise, and that's what we're concentrating on as a staff."
Penn State's bowl revenue share from 2012 is being put to good use.

The school's revenue share, valued at nearly $2.3 million, will be distributed to causes focused on child protection and advocacy. Penn State announced Friday that all 12 Big Ten schools, including itself, received $188,344 from the league to donate to a local organization of their choice.

The announcement comes exactly one year after the NCAA and Big Ten imposed heavy sanctions against Penn State's football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The Big Ten prohibited Penn State from receiving its bowl share for four years.

Penn State went 8-4 in 2012 under first-year coach Bill O'Brien.

Penn State said it will distribute its share to the Centre County United Way with instructions to split the money between the Stewards of Children program and the Children's Advocacy Center.

"As a community, we must continue to look deeper into the issue of child maltreatment and abuse," Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a prepared statement. "We must commit to continuing to raise awareness, as well as fight these insidious crimes in whatever way possible."

Although many Penn State fans remain upset with the NCAA and the Big Ten for imposing the sanctions, it's good to know Penn State's share isn't simply going into the athletic coffers of the other Big Ten institutions.

In other Penn State news, three newly elected trustees put their support behind the legal claims filed against the NCAA by five other trustees, including former Nittany Lions player Adam Taliaferro.

"Based on information we have reviewed, we agree the NCAA breached its contractual obligations to Penn State to treat the university and its student-athletes, coaches and administrators fairly and in accordance with the NCAA's own constitution and bylaws," trustees Ted Brown, Barbara Doran and William Oldsey said in their joint statement. "That did not happen. Rather, the University and the affected individuals were denied due process of law. We support a legal review of the sanctions imposed on Penn State, the basis for the sanctions and the process used to enact them."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien reiterated Friday that he understood why the NCAA imposed severe sanctions on the program almost exactly a year ago.

But O'Brien also believes Penn State's off-field progress in the past year and a half shouldn't go unnoticed. Perhaps it can sway the NCAA to reconsider the penalties against Nittany Lions football.

"I believe this football program is being run the right way," O'Brien said Friday during a conference call with reporters to discuss Penn State's 2014 opener against Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland. "I believe we have great kids here. We work very, very diligently to stay in compliance. We make our mistakes, but we admit them right away, whether it's a text message or something like that we shouldn't have said.

"Hopefully, at some point in time, the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, can look at that. And maybe they can meet us halfway."

NCAA president Mark Emmert has given no indication he'll consider reducing penalties for Penn State, which include a four-year postseason ban and major scholarship reductions. Penn State continues to receive good marks from former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the independent athletic integrity monitory appointed to track the school's progress in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Last Friday, O'Brien made a presentation to Penn State's board of trustees where he reportedly addressed a potential proposal to modify the NCAA sanctions and discouraged individual lawsuits against the NCAA, which could hurt the program's cause for a reprieve. O'Brien on Friday confirmed that he made the presentation but didn't discuss many specifics, referring questions to university president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner.

"What I believe is best for our football program and our kids, is for everybody to pull in the same direction," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, we can continue to do that."

Joyner added that the university has "done an outstanding job" in the year since the sanctions came down.

"The university is on very solid ground," Joyner said.

Big Ten mailblog

April, 9, 2013
Your questions, my answers ...

Mike from Denver writes: Because it's never too early to compare....You were in East Lansing and two days later in Ann Arbor. I understand it's just Spring and only a day on site so I'm not looking for a prediction. But how would you compare where each team is and how high their ceilings are? If you want to go ahead and predict a score, don't let me stop you ...

Adam Rittenberg: No score predictions just yet, Mike, although there's plenty of time for foolish/fearless predictions before the season kicks off. Both teams have a good chance to be better than they were in 2012. Michigan State's physical play on defense really stood out to me in practice. The Spartans boast tremendous speed and depth in the secondary, and they lay the wood on ball-carriers every chance they get. Michigan's speed also caught my eye -- it's an area the Wolverines have upgraded on both sides of the ball. I still get the sense Michigan is a year away, numbers-wise, from being back among the nation's elite. The Wolverines will have more elite players in position to contribute in 2014. Both teams have similar question marks -- running back, pass rush, wide receiver. I have little doubt Michigan State's defense will once again be among the nation's elite, but the Spartans need to threaten opponents more on offense. Michigan needs some star power to emerge on defense and a running back to complement quarterback Devin Gardner's passing skills.

Bob from Crown Point, Ind., writes: Adam...What differences do you see in how the new Purdue coaching staff is handling practice as opposed to the last four years?

Adam Rittenberg: For starters, most practices are now open to the media and public, so we can see a lot more of what's going on with the Boilers. Darrell Hazell doesn't waste time, and his practices are crisp and efficient. The team isn't out there long, but they seem to get a lot done. Overall, the atmosphere around the program is much more relaxed. Danny Hope is more high-strung/intense than Hazell, who brings a calming presence to the Mollenkopf Athletic Center. The practice itself featured a lot of special teams and ball security drills, two hallmarks of Hazell, a Jim Tressel disciple.

Brett from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, what do you think about the Badgers losing David Gilbert? Obviously, losing a veteran player with his athleticism is going to hurt, but how big of a loss do you think it is? Also, after watching the Badgers practice and talking to the coaching staff, who do you see as the guy who's going to replace him?

Adam Rittenberg: The impact of Gilbert's loss will be determined by the pass-rushers who remain, players like Brendan Kelly, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel. Kelly is the one to watch as he racked up eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss the past two seasons after battling several injuries early in his career. He could be a very good fit for Gary Andersen's defense. Dippel had five sacks last season, while Muldoon added 2.5. The bummer is that Gilbert likely would have thrived in the new scheme, which features players of his size in an outside linebacker/rush end role. Wisconsin lacks proven depth in the secondary, which could be a problem area if the pass rush isn't strong. The Badgers haven't had a difference-maker up front since J.J. Watt, so the defensive end spot will be very interesting to watch from now until Aug. 31.

Russ from Roanoke, Va., writes: How does Maryland's history and bowl records /wins compare with the other Big 10 schools? I know they were once coached by Bear Bryant, but where are they in terms of bowl game wins & national championships pecking order?

Adam Rittenberg: Maryland football will enter its 121st season this fall. The Terrapins boast nine ACC championships (seven outright, two shared, last title in 2001) and an 11-11-2 record in bowl games (last appearance: 2010 Military Bowl). Bryant coached the Terrapins for just one season, in 1945, going 6-2-1 before taking the Kentucky job. He clashed with Harry Byrd, the school's president and former football coach (Maryland's stadium is named after Byrd).

Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hey Adam,I know a lot of us PSU fans are asking about what penalties (if any) Auburn or Rutgers might have dropped on them. How about the reverse? What if Penn State never issued an internal investigation? Would the NCAA have even done something? Miami seems to be questioning, with good reason, everything the NCAA has brought against them. Is that just the difference between a school president that has years of experience, as opposed to someone just thrown into the fire? It's tough to feel as had we not launched our internal investigation, we would be sanction free (at least for now).

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, there's no doubt the NCAA would have conducted its own investigation into Penn State if the school didn't do its own probe. It's fair to wonder if the NCAA investigation would have run into the same problems as the Miami probe, but I have a hard time thinking no action would have been taken, judging by NCAA president Mark Emmert's response to the Freeh Report. I really think the only way Penn State would be sanction-free is if the NCAA investigation was sidetracked. A better question is whether Penn State would have received reduced sanctions if it went through the normal NCAA infractions process. Former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar criticized Penn State president Rodney Erickson for not pushing back more against the NCAA sanctions, writing in an email that the NCAA had no right to impose sanctions. Maybe he's right, but the impact of the Penn State scandal prompted the NCAA to act in some way. The impact also prompted the university to conduct its own investigation. After the P.R. hit Penn State took, the university was under a lot of pressure to do some type of internal probe.

FFXLion from Washington D.C. writes: I don't have a football question for you, but just a comment. I saw that you finished very well in our blog hoops pool. In fact, you finished tied with my 8th grade son for 14th place. Given his prowess at picking winners, I have to congratulate you on quite an accomplishment. PS: I didn't do as well.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm usually in your boat, FFX, when it comes to my bracket. Louisville winning it all definitely helped me, and I had a good first two days. But that Georgetown pick -- man, oh man. Maybe your son can pick the games for me in the fall. I'm looking forward to another dinner at St. Elmo's on Bennett's dime.
Shawn Eichorst isn't the highest-profile athletic director in the Big Ten. While Nebraska fans are a pretty sharp bunch, I bet some would have a hard time picking out Eichorst in a crowd. The fact Eichorst succeeded Nebraska legend Tom Osborne as AD also makes him fly under the radar.

But there's little doubt Nebraska considers Eichorst a rising star in the AD ranks. Either that, or Eichorst is a brilliant contract negotiator. Perhaps it's both.

When USA Today came out with its new survey of athletic director salaries, which not surprisingly are on the rise nationally, Eichorst's compensation at Nebraska certainly stands out. His base salary of $973,000 ranks highest in the Big Ten, and his total compensation of $1,123,000 ranks second in the league behind only Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000). Eichorst served as Alvarez's deputy AD from 2009-11 before taking the top job at Miami.

Here are 11 of the 12 Big Ten athletic director salaries (as a private school, Northwestern doesn't disclose AD Jim Phillips' salary), sorted from highest to lowest:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: $1,230,000 ($1,143,500 from university, $86,500 in outside pay)
  • Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska: $1,123,000
  • Gene Smith, Ohio State: $1,099,030
  • Dave Brandon, Michigan:$900,000
  • Mark Hollis, Michigan State: $700,000
  • Mike Thomas, Illinois: $589,250
  • Norwood Teague, Minnesota: $500,000
  • Gary Barta, Iowa: $490,842 ($487,842 from university, $3,000 in outside pay)
  • Morgan Burke, Purdue:$464,437
  • Fred Glass, Indiana: $430,746
  • Dave Joyner, Penn State: $396,000

Eichorst received a one-time payment of $150,000 for moving expenses from Miami. Alvarez received a one-time payment of $118,500 for coaching the football team in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. He would have received a $50,000 bonus if Wisconsin had won the game.

Ohio State's Smith has the highest maximum bonus in the league ($250,000), followed by Michigan's Brandon and Illinois' Thomas, both at $200,000.

Alvarez and Eichorst rank fourth and fifth nationally, respectively, in total compensation. They trail Vanderbilt vice chancellor/general counsel David Williams (who oversees athletics and seemingly everything else at the school), Louisville AD Tom Jurich and Florida AD Jeremy Foley. Smith ranks seventh nationally, and Brandon is tied for 12th with Iowa State's Jamie Pollard.

Michigan State's Hollis, named 2012 athletic director of the year at the Sports Business Awards, last summer received a significant raise -- the highest bump among any incumbent AD from a public school since October 2011. Purdue's Burke is the Big Ten's longest-serving AD (started Jan. 1, 1993) but ranks near the bottom in salary. Joyner began his term as Penn State's acting AD in November 2011 after Tim Curley took leave. He had the tag removed in January and will remain in the role through the term of university president Rodney Erickson.

Looking ahead to the future Big Ten, Maryland AD Kevin Anderson earns $499,490 (max bonus of $50,000), while Rutgers' AD Tim Pernetti earns $410,000 (max bonus of $50,000).
Back in September, Penn State president Rodney Erickson said acting athletic director Dave Joyner would remain in his post through the end of Erickson's term.

Penn State made it official Monday, announcing that Joyner's term will coincide with Erickson's, which lasts until June 2014. A national search for an athletic director will begin at that time. The only change Monday is that Joyner is no longer in an interim role.

"I have confidence in Dr. Joyner and want him to continue as part of my leadership team while I am president," Erickson said in a prepared statement.

Joyner stepped into the acting athletic director role in November 2011, shortly after longtime AD Tim Curley was charged with perjury and failure to report a crime in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Curley initially was placed on administrative leave, and his contract won't be renewed.

A former Penn State football player and wrestler, Joyner received both his Bachelor's degree and medical degree from the school. He had an extensive career in sports medicine before returning to his alma mater.

Video: Trustees support PSU president

August, 13, 2012

Penn State's board of trustees voiced its support for university president Rodney Erickson and will comply with sanctions handed down by NCAA.

Big Ten mailblog

July, 24, 2012
Very Penn State heavy, as you'd expect. Will try to have another mailblog Friday, but with Big Ten media days going on, no promises.

Let's get started ...

Dan from The Moon writes: Why doesn't the B1G do away with divisions this year? Just keep the schedules the way they are and the top 2 teams go to Indy for the championship game. It's not really fair that one conference is only a 4 (reality 3) team race to go to the Championship game. Why should everybody in the other division have to fight 2 more teams?And while they are at it they can do away with the division names. It's embarrassing to have 2 teams in the Leaders division ineligible due to LEADERSHIP violations.

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, my first letter from the moon. Very cool. Dan, while I see your point, Ohio State and Penn State still will impact the Leaders Division race by playing the other teams within the division. Ohio State will be a stronger team than it was in 2011. We'll have to see on Penn State, but the Lions still should be a tough team to beat, especially at home. My point is that Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana still have to contend with the other two squads to get to Lucas Oil Stadium. While it's entirely possible an average team could win the division at, say, 5-3 in Big Ten play, I don't think you can totally scrap the divisions, especially with the season rapidly approaching. It's not ideal by any means, and the Legends Division race should be much more compelling. I think if multiple teams were prohibited from postseason play for multiple seasons, the Big Ten would have to consider alternatives. But Ohio State is back in the mix next season.

Drew from St. Louis writes: Adam, in the wake of all this news regarding Penn State, can Penn State players now transfer to Big Ten schools with the same ease as transferring to other Div 1 schools outside of the Big Ten? If so, would Iowa have a decent chance in landing Redd for a RB this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Iowa president Sally Mason weren't quite as open as the NCAA folks in discussing Penn State player transfers Monday, but it doesn't sound as if the Big Ten will stand in the way of players wanting to switch teams within the league. Brian Bennett covered this well in a Monday post, in which Delany says, "The conference has some limitations in terms of internal transfers, but the students in this situation ... their interests need to be prioritized. We'll take a very close look at the NCAA declaration about freedom to transfer, and I think our first inclination is to allow those students to have the most freedom and flexibility if they choose to transfer. At first blush, our orientation would be to support as much freedom as possible for those students." So while that's not a complete acknowledgment that Penn State players can go where they want, it certainly appears the Big Ten is leaning in that direction. Iowa certainly could use a running back like Redd, although I think it's USC or Penn State for the Lions junior.

Joel from Panama City Beach, Fla., writes: You know Adam you sat down and had a very candid conversation with Ed Ray. You asked him directly "President Erickson was quoted today as saying that Penn State accepted that deal because if not, you would have decided to suspend play. Can you confirm that? " and he answered "But I can tell you categorically, there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to." You and I know that PSU would not of caved otherwise and here Mark Emmert even says so himself "Emmert told Y! Sports that a multi-year suspension of the football program was "vigorously discussed" with members of the Division I Board of Directors. Ultimately, Penn State's willingness to take its medicine ? commissioning, accepting and making public the damaging Freeh Commission report, and accepting massive NCAA penalties without due process ? helped save the school from a complete shutdown of football for a season or longer, Emmert said."So maybe you need to go back to Ed Ray and ask why such an ethical guy would lie?

Adam Rittenberg: Joel, someone isn't telling the truth here. Ray's statement and Erickson's statement totally contract one another. So whom do we believe? We know the NCAA executive committee and Mark Emmert discussed the "death penalty" extensively, but Ray said it didn't have as much support as the penalty package ultimately handed down to Penn State. Ray also said they wanted to hand down penalties that would elicit a consent decree from Penn State. He also categorically denies that threats were made. So is Erickson lying? He clearly was under a lot of pressure, and he's now taking criticism from his constituents for not fighting harder or standing up to the NCAA. By saying he had to take a deal or face a football shutdown, he strengthens his position with Penn State alumni/fans. I honestly don't know who to believe here. I just wonder why Ray would lie about a threat. Erickson, meanwhile, had to show Penn Staters why the school accepted everything without a fight. Still, it's entirely possible the NCAA pressured Penn State into accepting this deal, but whether the specific threat was made is a bit of a mystery.

Paul from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Adam, I need clarification on the Penn State penalties handed by the NCAA. Who are they punishing with the existing penalties (bowl bans, fines, loss of victories)? Are they punishing anyone who did wrong -other than Paterno, who is dead- ? What about players like Adam Teliferro, nearby gameday restaurants, the students, and current players and coaches, and all of Pennsylvania? It sounds to me like the main people being punished are the innocent. Any of the guilty should be fired, fined, and convicted of assisting in a sick crime. However, the other penalties only punish the innocent who remain trying to recover in the aftermath, or take away from someone who is deceased(Whom I believe had quite a few things pointed at his head behind the scenes that we don't know about). Am I wrong? I understand that we must punish to prevent sick crimes like this in the future, but my theory of punishment will prevent anything as it tells any staff member in the NCAA that you do not do this, or else.

Adam Rittenberg: Paul, while I understand your points -- and you're not alone in this view -- the NCAA saw Penn State's failings as an institutional problem, not problems of a few individuals. The NCAA saw the leadership failures as an institutional/program failure. Therefore, the program gets punished. Whoever is in the program or around it also suffers, but the idea remains that the program/institution failed, so the program/institution suffers the consequences. The inherent problem with NCAA penalties is they almost always punish the present and future players/coaches more than the ones in the past, when the problems occur. The NCAA absolutely had to send a message here. Did they send the right message? There's a lot of debate over this issue. I'm just trying to explain their line of thinking.

Marty from Charlotte writes: The NCAA should not allow other institutions to contact these players. The players should decide if they want to leave or not. And if they do then it should be up to the players to make first contact. USC's act here is disgusting and if the NCAA is intending to change the culture of college athletic, then allowing such contact, and vulture-like mentality, is counter to that mandate. This is a low move by USC even considering Kiffin's seeming arrogance in the past.

Adam Rittenberg: Marty, my understanding is the player first has to notify Penn State of his possible intent to transfer, and then the other schools can contact Penn State about recruiting the player. Now obviously teams are going to find ways to contact players or those around them to gauge their interest, but that's the procedure. Are other programs vultures to a degree? For sure. But the Penn State players ultimately have the final say. They don't have to go anywhere. Yet if they want to leave Penn State, there are few obstacles in their way.

Matt from DC writes: Adam, Personally I have mixed feelings about the sanctions but I can attest to losing no sleep over them. But as certain writers have suggested (Stewart Mandel at SI and Mitch Albom at the Detroit Free Press) I am concerned with the NCAA going this route because they have clearly moved the narrative back to football. Other than the $60 million dollar fine the penalties do nothing for victims of child abuse. In addition, Mark Emmert and the NCAA will move forward with a billion dollar cash cow (college football) and many schools will still overemphasize college football. The NCAA did nothing more than turn a horrible, horrible situation and make it all about football again because the only thing people are talking about now is the football program and no longer the victims. I love college football and as an Ohio State fan my team will benefit from the PSU penalties but I now sit with shame for myself and embarrassment for the thousands of other fans who have had the thought cross their mind that these penalties will benefit their favorite football program. Penalties that were imposed because children were raped.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, some excellent points here. Did the NCAA keep the victims in mind enough with the punishments leveled? While $60 million is a significant sum -- along with Penn State's bowl revenue share that the Big Ten will donate (estimated at $13 million) -- it can get lost in the shuffle with the other penalties. The NCAA felt the program needed to suffer the consequences because the program, because of its incredible leadership failures, allowed these horrible crimes to be committed year after year. I think it's fair to question the balance of the penalties and whether the NCAA should have kept the victims more in mind. But I also think the Penn State program had to be held accountable, even though it's tough for the current players and coaches.

Kay from Germantown, Md., writes: Adam, your article notes the devastating impact on Penn State football scholarships, but I was wondering what the $60 million fine will mean to Penn State's non-football scholarships. Since most other teams at the school rely heavily football revenue to fund their scholarships, will this fine result in the death penalty for some of the other teams? Will those athletes be permitted to transfer and immediately play on a new team like the football players? I haven't seen these issues addressed in any articles yet.

Adam Rittenberg: Kay, the NCAA made it clear that the $60 million must not come at the expense of Penn State's other sports programs. The NCAA will use a third party (still unknown) to monitor the payments, which will take place during the next five years. While you can argue that any money coming out of Penn State could harm other sports programs, these payments are not supposed to come out of funds specifically delegated for non-football programs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA president Mark Emmert received most of the attention Monday in announcing the unprecedented penalties for Penn State's football program, but Oregon State president Ed Ray also played a significant role. Ray chairs the NCAA's executive committee and represented the presidents and chancellors Monday. He helped give Emmert the green light to punish Penn State outside of the normal infractions process. He also didn't mince words about what he called "a conspiracy of silence at the highest levels" of Penn State regarding the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

I caught up with Ray on Monday afternoon following his return to Oregon. He explained several elements of Monday's decision and also disagreed with the claim made by Penn State president Rodney Erickson that Penn State had to accept the NCAA's penalties or face the so-called "death penalty," a suspension of its football program.

Here's my conversation with Ray:

[+] EnlargeMark Emmert and Ed Ray
AP Photo/Michael ConroyOregon State University president Ed Ray (at podium) and NCAA president Mark Emmert made history Monday.
Earlier today, you mentioned a retreat several presidents and chancellors took last year where they decided they had had enough with corruption. How did that play into Monday's decision and the need to reclaim control?

Ed Ray: The retreat last year was a pretty amazing experience. There was a recognition that we needed to change the risk-reward calculation that people are doing. We talked about a lot of things. The whole reform effort is touching on many categories. Some of them are enforcement, policies, procedures, penalties, guidelines for penalties. I chair the work on that. We'll get a penultimate draft of that document out at the meetings on Aug. 2. So I think there has been a lot of attention focused on the need to make certain that the actions that are taken, whether they're through the enforcement process or outside by the executive committee, that the messages sent need to be very clear.

Having said that, it would be unfair to say people didn't have what we understood was unfolding at Penn State in front of mind. But when all is said and done, this is about this case. This isn't about people being mad or happy or wanting to send broad messages to the world. This is about the Penn State case, period. And given the circumstances of the Penn State case, given the agreement of the basic facts as we know them from the Freeh report, both the university and the NCAA executive committee, we found a basis for asserting what we would want Penn State to agree to in a consent decree, which was presented to them and they accepted it.

Was there any apprehension among you or your fellow presidents in going this route as opposed to the NCAA's normal enforcement and infractions process?

Ray: Everybody felt these are truly extraordinary circumstances in the sense that this isn't about team violations or a coach doing something with respect to competition on the field or recruiting. This was an institution-wide lack of institutional control, a loss of integrity in the way the university was operating. It really called for consideration of extraordinary measures. The heinous nature of it, if anything, simply added to the sense that there is a common understanding of what needs to be done in a punitive way and in a corrective way, and that it needs to be pursued. It really was the nature of what went on there. It reflected a complete lack of institutional integrity and institutional commitment to the core values of the NCAA. It led us to conclude it was within the authority of the executive committee to take and exercise its authority. And that's what we did. There have been other cases where we did not go through the normal enforcement process, given the nature of the case at hand.

What were the discussions like regarding penalties for Penn State?

Ray: It was pretty straightforward. Once we had the Freeh report, the university commissioned it and released it without comment, so we had a pretty clear sense that the university itself accepted the findings. Then the question was: Are there appropriate punitive actions and corrective actions that could be taken? So the executive committee and the Division I board charged President Emmert to discuss possibilities with his staff, with others, whoever he felt would be appropriate. He called some of us individually to talk about what set actions would be most appropriate, given the facts as we understand them, that we could present to the university for a consent decree -- for them to either accept or determine they wanted to go in a different direction.

The only potential penalty that we had some extended discussion around was suspension of play, whether that ought to be part of a basket of punitive and corrective measures. There were people who felt that was appropriate, but the overwhelming position of members of both the executive committee and the Division I board was to not include suspension of play. And therefore we moved quickly to a consideration of the actions you heard about today. And that had unanimous support from both groups.

President Erickson was quoted today as saying that Penn State accepted that deal because if not, you would have decided to suspend play. Can you confirm that?

Ray: I've known Rod for a long time. I didn't hear what he said. I was on a plane flying back to Oregon. But I can tell you categorically, there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to.

So it wasn't as though you said, "Take this deal or we're shutting you down"?

Ray: That was never even a point of discussion within either the executive committee or the Division I board.

I'm sure you also had familiarity with Graham Spanier. What are your thoughts about his involvement in this, somebody who had such a big role on NCAA committees and had a lot of respect in both Big Ten and NCAA circles?

Ray: I think [Emmert] said it right in that we don't have all the facts about individual culpability. The Freeh report talked about the participants and the cover-up and the conspiracy. But as Mark said, we're going to take a wait-and-see attitude with respect to taking further actions with respect to individuals, as the legal and other processes play their way out, and we get hopefully a clearer sense of what, if any, culpability individuals have. So we did not take action with respect to individuals. We took action with respect to a university that lacked institutional commitment to integrity and the other values of the NCAA.

You've said this is all about Penn State's case, but how do you think other schools will receive the action you took today against Penn State?

Ray: Let me tell you what I would hope that they take away. What I would hope is this is a cautionary tale. For one thing, we certainly acted expeditiously and have dealt with very heinous offenses against human decency, much less [NCAA] values. This was so egregious, and it's hard to fathom anything like it. So what I wouldn't want somebody to do is decide, "This is so unique. It doesn't apply to me." Every major college and university in Division I certainly, if not elsewhere, ought to do a gut check and ask: Do we have the balance right between the culture of athletics and the broader culture and values of our institution? How do we know that? And if we don't, what do we need to do to make sure we get that balance right?

Was there any discussion for a television ban or a reduction in home games for Penn State?

Ray: What we talked about were two sets of options. One is the set of actions that you learned about today. That got unanimous consent. We also talked about suspension of play plus some or all of the other actions, but maybe to a lesser degree to get the balance right. In the end, there was overwhelming support for the actions reported today.

Where does Penn State go from here?

Ray: Well, hopefully they go in the right direction and work very hard at creating a culture of commitment to the values of the association, from top to bottom. I hope they work with the integrity officer and they meet the requirements of their probationary period. It is a wonderful, wonderful university, and I expect it will move to a better place. That was really the point of the corrective measures that were taken, to help a very fine university get its bearings straight again.

Many feel SMU's program has never really recovered from what happened. With these types of penalties, do you think Penn State is in a similar situation?

Ray: We tried to find a balance so that taking these actions would not preclude Penn State from being in the future among the leaders in intercollegiate athletics. But let's be clear: These actions were taken because of a conspiracy of silence that went on for years, with total disregard for the well-being of young children. That is what we were trying to send a message about, both in terms of the punitive elements and also with the corrective elements. Those are intended to give people a path to move forward productively.
Mark Emmert made it clear Monday that the heavy sanctions handed down came from the NCAA, not Penn State. The school didn't offer any self-imposed penalties, the NCAA president said.

Although Emmert and others praised Penn State's transparency and cooperation in fast-tracking Monday's decision, the NCAA would have gone forward with or without Penn State's blessing. Penn State signed a consent decree and won't appeal the sanctions, and some wondered whether the school, despite its weakened position, gave in too easily.

Well, here's your answer.

From the Centre Daily Times:
Penn State president Rodney Erickson revealed that the university accepted the severe NCAA sanctions announced today to avoid the death penalty for the football program.
In an interview with the Centre Daily Times, Erickson said, "We had our backs to the wall on this. We did what we thought was necessary to save the program."
Joined by board of trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz and interim director of athletics David Joyner, Erickson said he signed the NCAA agreement because no better deal was available.
He said Penn State could have faced at least one year without football and still would have endured additional penalties.

Emmert and Oregon State president Ed Ray, chair of the NCAA's executive committee, both said the "death penalty" wouldn't have been the only punishment handed down.

How do Erickson's comments impact your view of Penn State's response? Although the NCAA penalties handed down will weaken Penn State's program, especially the scholarship reductions, the Nittany Lions still will play football this season and in future seasons.

A season without football in State College remains the most dramatic penalty Penn State could have received. That's the way Erickson saw it, and so he took the only deal he was offered.
Will Rodney Erickson be remembered as the man who dismantled Penn State football or the one who saved the school from itself?

Time will tell, but it's a fact that Erickson was thrust into an incredibly difficult situation when he was named Graham Spanier's successor as school president this winter. Some Nittany Lions fans may never forgive him for taking down the Joe Paterno statue and agreeing to incredibly harsh NCAA sanctions. But Erickson also was given very little choice.

The Penn State president issued this statement in the wake of the NCAA sanctions announcement:
"The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our University altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. [Jerry] Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.

"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA. With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward. The NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.

"The NCAA also mandates that Penn State become a national leader to help victims of child sexual assault and to promote awareness across our nation. Specifically, the University will pay $12 million a year for the next five years into a special endowment created to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse. This total of $60 million can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing.

"The NCAA penalty will also affect the football program. There is a four-year ban on all postseason games, including bowl games and the Big Ten championship game, and a future reduction in the number of football scholarships that can be granted. We are grateful that the current student-athletes are not prevented from participation because of the failures of leadership that occurred. Additionally the NCAA has vacated all wins of Penn State football from 1998-2011.

"We also welcome the Athletics Integrity Agreement and the third-party monitor, who will be drilling into compliance and culture issues in intercollegiate athletics, in conjunction with the recommendations of the Freeh report. Lastly a probationary period of five years will be imposed.

"It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.

"Since receiving Judge [Louis] Freeh's preliminary recommendations in January, the University has instituted several reforms. Today we accept the terms of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. As Penn State embarks upon change and progress, this announcement helps to further define our course. It is with this compass that we will strive for a better tomorrow.

"Penn State will move forward with a renewed sense of commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University. We continue to recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community as we strive to appropriately balance academic and athletic accomplishments. Penn State will continue to be a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud."
The NCAA has scheduled a news conference Monday to announce "corrective and punitive measures" for Penn State.

NCAA president Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, chair of the NCAA's executive committee and president of Oregon State University president, will address reporters at 9 a.m. Monday at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

A high-level NCAA source tells that Monday's announcement would be "significant," although the source couldn't confirm whether the NCAA and Penn State had reached an agreement on penalties.

Colleague Joe Schad reports that the NCAA's board granted Emmert unprecedented authority to impose penalties rather than going through the normal infractions process. The penalties will be severe, Schad reports, and could include a postseason ban and scholarship losses. While the so-called "death penalty" is unlikely to be imposed, the penalties could be more severe in the long term.

The sanctions aren't self-imposed or negotiated, Schad reports.

Needless to say, this is a highly unusual step in an highly unusual case. Typically, NCAA infractions cases are drawn out, featuring letters, responses and hearings. The only official action taken regarding Penn State and the child sex abuse scandal is a letter Emmert send to Penn State president Rodney Erickson back in November. Erickson said last week he would respond to Emmert within days.

Emmert told PBS last week that major sanctions, including the so-called "death penalty," remain on the table for Penn State. If this is any sort of joint agreement, it makes sense for Penn State to be proactive and not simply let Emmert or the Big Ten drop the hammer.

Much more to come.
For decades and decades, Joe Paterno belonged to Penn State. Since November 2001, so did the Joe Paterno statue.

Paterno's fame extended far beyond Happy Valley, as college football fans and even non-fans marveled at his win-loss record, his "Grand Experiment," his longevity and his backstory. But the man made the most profound impact on the campus and in the area where he coached football for 61 years. To students and residents of the region, he was their coach, their father, their grandfather, their hero.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Michael R. Sisak/Icon SMIA fixture outside Beaver Stadium for more than a decade, the statue of Joe Paterno was removed on Sunday.
Never was this clearer than in the past 10 days, as Penn State weighed whether to remove the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium in the wake of the Freeh report, which found Paterno culpable in an extensive cover-up surrounding the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Paterno supporters visited the statue, left flower bouquets and notes, and snapped countless pictures, often mimicking the statue's pose -- one finger raised.

Several of the statue visitors I spoke to on my recent visit to State College not only voiced their support for the statue to remain but also said the decision on its future is, unquestionably, a Penn State decision. They acknowledged the mistakes Paterno made in the cover-up and the overwhelming sentiment outside the Penn State community to remove the statue immediately. But external pressure didn't matter. Joe Paterno was Penn State, they said. Penn State, and no other judge or jury, should decide the statue's fate.

Penn State rendered its verdict Sunday morning, as university president Rodney Erickson announced Paterno's statue would be removed from the platform on the west side of Beaver Stadium where it has stood since November 2001. They brought out the jackhammers, placed a towel over the statue's head and used a blue tarp to cover the surreal scene. Less than 90 minutes after Erickson released his statement, the statue had been removed. Time of death: 8:20 a.m. ET.
I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.

The key phrase: "across the nation and beyond."
The world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead.

In the end, this was more than a Penn State decision. It was bigger than that. And while Erickson had to consider the campus community, he couldn't make the decision in a vacuum. The scope of the scandal had gone far beyond State College.

I thought the statue had to go as soon as the Freeh report came out. I also respected the feelings of many Penn Staters to have it be a Penn State decision. It was a more understandable position than the blind loyalty some still had for the former coach.

David Jones, a terrific columnist for The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News, recently wrote:
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.

He's right, to a large extent. Joe Paterno and the Joe Paterno statue belonged to Penn State. But Penn State could no longer make these decisions with only itself in mind. You could argue that's exactly what Paterno and three other top school officials did for years and years while Sandusky continued to abuse children on school property.

Penn State's image has been damaged, and keeping the Paterno statue would only reinforce the perception that the school can't acknowledge the gravity of the scandal. Some argue the statue also would represent the many good things Paterno did during his Penn State career. That's a very tough sell when the statue -- next to the inscription "Educator, Coach, Humanitarian" -- appears on every pregame show and before and after commercial breaks on nationally televised broadcasts of Penn State games.

According to Louis Freeh, Paterno and the other Penn State officials kept quiet about Sandusky in large part to prevent a PR backlash against a powerhouse football program. Erickson's decision Sunday also had Penn State's image in mind, but for much more sensible reasons. Although the statue's removal will cause some short-term backlash, keeping it would have been a long-term disaster.

Those who feel the statue's removal ignores Paterno's positive accomplishments at Penn State need to walk over to the school's library. It will continue to bear Paterno's name, Erickson confirmed Sunday, and it should. I hope many Penn State fans and others make the Paterno Library a stop on their game-day visit to State College.
The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno's commitment to Penn State's student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the University. Thus I feel strongly that the library's name should remain unchanged.

Although the statue debate gained a ton of attention -- more than 13,700 votes were cast in our poll about it -- there are much, much bigger issues at Penn State. The NCAA on Monday will announce significant penalties against the school.

The world continues to cast the spotlight on Penn State. It's good for the school that the statue won't be in it.



Saturday, 10/25