NCF Nation: Joe Paterno


Penn State football has paid its penance, and the NCAA's executive committee on Monday lifted a bowl ban on the program and will return the full complement of 85 scholarships by 2015-16.

So what does it all mean? Read on.

  • Penn State is relevant again: It's not as if the Lions' accomplishments the past two seasons went unnoticed, but when a team is ineligible to win its league or compete in a bowl game, it naturally falls off the national radar. Penn State is still in the building stages under first-year coach James Franklin, but Lions players now can eye a championship in a league that, as we saw Saturday, looks very vulnerable. Michigan State remains the Big Ten's most complete team, but Penn State hosts both the Spartans and Ohio State. Depth remains a concern but Penn State should get better as the year goes along. A bowl appearance seems extremely likely, and don't be surprised if the Lions are a factor in the East Division race.
  • [+] EnlargeJames Franklin
    AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBeing able to participate in postseason play will only help James Franklin's recruiting efforts.
    Franklin's recruiting pitch is even stronger: Although there had been rumblings about the bowl ban being lifted as early as last summer, Penn State had to operate as if it would be sidelined for two more postseasons. Franklin doesn't need much help in landing top recruits, but now he can sell the opportunity to reach bowl games and compete for championships right away. That's especially important as Penn State also has opportunities for recruits to contribute immediately.
  • Roster depth isn't a long-term problem: When the sanctions came down in 2012, many pointed to the scholarship penalties as the most damaging, more than the four-year bowl ban. It was hard to argue. But the restoration of the 85 scholarships by 2015-16 should make depth less of a concern going forward. Penn State won't have the truncated roster USC used for years and years. The Lions will be a young team for a while, but they'll have the scholarship players.
  • The Big Ten gets a boost: After a disastrous Saturday that some think removed the league from the College Football Playoff picture, the Big Ten needed some good news. Penn State returning to eligibility both for the league title game and the postseason provides some. The Lions haven't looked like world-beaters the first two weeks, but they're 2-0 and boast a ton of talented young players who will be energized by this news. Plus, they're a flagship program working toward restoring elite status. After Michigan's repeated flops and Nebraska's shakiness, the Big Ten needs Penn State to be Penn State.
  • The PSU community will be more united: Total harmony might not be possible because of the emotion that still surrounds Joe Paterno, whose family will continue to pursue its lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State. But a larger portion of the Penn State community will be able to move forward. The lingering penalties for players who had nothing to do with the Jerry Sandusky scandal brewed bitterness toward the PSU administration, the NCAA, the former board of trustees and others, but the mood should change a bit in State College.
  • The East Division steals more of the spotlight: The concern when the Big Ten realigned its divisions was that the East would garner most of the attention. Penn State's restoration to bowl eligibility thickens the plot in a division that already includes Michigan State and Ohio State. The West Division has looked relatively weak so far, as Minnesota has been the only team without a scare in its first two games.
  • Franklin's life gets even better: What hasn't gone right for Franklin since he arrived at Penn State in January? Monday's announcement brings even more news for the lead Lion. His contract includes a $200,000 bonus for making a bowl game and bonuses for both making the Big Ten title game ($250,000) and winning it ($350,000). Franklin doesn't need much to get energized about coaching Penn State, but he'll be even peppier now.
  • Bill O'Brien becomes a vital figure in program history: There are some PSU fans still bitter about O'Brien's departure to the NFL after two seasons. Three words: Get. Over. It. Remember the doom-and-gloom predictions for Penn State when the sanctions came down in July 2012? How the program wouldn't be stable until 2020 or beyond? Thank O'Brien for stabilizing things masterfully, and thank an exceptional 2012 senior class that included linebacker Michael Mauti, quarterback Matt McGloin and other standouts.

3-point stance: Pac-12 QB talent

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
1. According to ESPN Insider and Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, it’s a thin year for veteran quarterbacks everywhere but the Pac-12. Listing the top pro prospects for the 2015 NFL draft, Savage, speaking with me on the ESPNU College Football Podcast on Wednesday, started with Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Brett Hundley of UCLA, then tossed in Sean Mannion of Oregon State. Not to mention the league has Kevin Hogan of Stanford, Taylor Kelly of Arizona State and Cody Kessler of USC.

2. Dabo Swinney is a good man and a stand-up guy. He is proud of his Christianity and believes it can help others as much as it has helped him. As the coach of Clemson, a public university in a religious state, he is preaching to the choir. I’d bet it never occurred to Swinney that he stepped over the line between church and state, perhaps because the line is blurrier in South Carolina than in Madison, Wis., where the Freedom From Religion Foundation is based. If the foundation’s complaint makes Swinney realize again that everyone is not Christian, then the foundation’s complaint is a success.

3. The town of State College is crowdsourcing a statue to honor the late Joe Paterno, and it’s wonderful that the planned site is not far from Old Main, the home of the Penn State administration that removed the original Paterno statue from outside of Beaver Stadium in July 2012. What are the university administrators thinking? Do they understand they never should have made the removal of the statue permanent? Do they understand how much they rushed to judgment to vilify Paterno? When will they do their part to restore Paterno’s place of honor in Penn State history? The locals are doing their part.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State officials ordered Joe Paterno's statue to be taken down nearly two years ago, but fans here haven't forgotten. They never will.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesPenn State fans won't easily forget Joe Paterno's legacy at the school, despite how his career ended.
So while controversy might swirl in other parts of the country with the news today that two alumni are seeking to install a $300,000 statue downtown, the overwhelming sentiment around here is, "About time."

You can argue about whether such a statue is appropriate, or what type of role Paterno played in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, but common ground in that argument is about as elusive as a national title. So let's just deal with the facts here.

Fans here aren't going to forget about Paterno in another two years, 20 years or 200 years. It's about as difficult to separate Paterno from Penn State as it is to separate Penn State from Pennsylvania. Ignoring Paterno’s legacy doesn't freeze the controversy; it just builds up.

There's a growing divide between fans and university officials on this -- and no matter what your feelings are on the issue, the university owes fans an explanation. The new statue has stirred up old questions and renewed others: Will Penn State ever honor Paterno? When? Why or why not? Transparency isn't a negative in this case; the university would do well to fill in fans on its intentions.

Officials ordered the original statue to be torn down, and they've never so much as disclosed the current location. Then-president Rodney Erickson's statement read, "I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing our university and beyond."

The ironic part is that the university's silence on the issue has also become a source of division. In the weeks and months following the statue's removal, it was easier to understand that silence. Fans may not have agreed with the decision, but they understood it. The nation was watching, and many -- rightly or wrongly -- looked at Paterno as more of a criminal than a legend. Like with anything, that extremism eventually gave way to more of a middle ground.

I reached out to a Penn State spokesman in an effort to shed some light on what the university's plans are regarding Paterno. What's the concern with putting Paterno's statue back up? Would there be national outrage? How does the university view him? Those questions remain unanswered because, unsurprisingly, the message was not immediately returned.

If officials are truly concerned about "divisions" and "obstacles," then they should open a dialogue instead of ignoring questions that most of the fan base have asked at one time or another. Maybe the university just wants to focus on a program that has real enthusiasm behind it, one that's somehow thrived under the sanctions. But staying quiet doesn't seem to be working.

Silence might bury a lot of things, but for better or worse, it's not going to bury Paterno's legacy. So no matter where you stand on the issue, one aspect should be evident: Penn State owes its fans and alumni an explanation.

Mike McQueary's last stand

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
Former Penn State quarterback and later assistant coach Mike McQueary was the key whistleblower in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that brought down Joe Paterno and several school leaders.

McQueary will once again be an important figure in the criminal trials of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and in his own lawsuit against Penn State. ESPN The Magazine takes a closer look at McQueary in this gripping story.

One of the bombshells from the story is that McQueary told Penn State players in 2011 that he could relate to Sandusky's victim in the shower incident he witnessed because he, too, had been sexually abused as a child.

Don Van Natta Jr. writes that McQueary's life has been difficult since his allegations came to light. He still lives in State College at his parents' house but is unemployed and broke:
Approaching 40, McQueary fills his days hunting for distractions, scouring the web for employment -- he's failed to land several sales jobs -- and visiting his lawyer's office at a strip shopping center. On some days, he pays his respects at Joe Paterno's final resting place.

Van Natta also reports that McQueary developed a compulsive gambling problem while he was a player at Penn State and that he even bet on Nittany Lions games:
One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.

As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."

Whether Paterno or his assistants were aware of McQueary's gambling isn't known, but several teammates and former coaches say they doubt it. By all accounts, McQueary was fooling fans across Happy Valley -- and pulling the wool over on Paterno. "I love Joe to death," says a woman who worked for years in the football office. "But in a lot of ways, he was clueless."

There have been inconsistencies in McQueary's account of what he saw in the Lasch Building showers on Feb. 9, 2001, and those statements and his memory will thoroughly be dissected in the forthcoming trials.
1. West Virginia hired Tom Bradley as assistant head coach, and for the first time since the Penn State scandal erupted, a majority of Joe Paterno’s assistants are working again. Has it been the taint of the scandal or a commentary on Paterno’s staff? The two assistants Bill O’Brien kept -- Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden -- have moved to Ohio State and Air Force, respectively. Galen Hall and Dick Anderson retired. Jay Paterno is running for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania. Mike McQueary, a big witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial, has yet to resurface.

2. Speaking of Penn State, new head coach James Franklin might be the first sitting SEC head coach to leave the conference for a Big Ten school since the SEC began playing football in 1933. I say “may” because I haven’t found one in my research, but I am not positive I have run down every single lead. In recent years, two prominent head coaches, Nick Saban (Michigan State to LSU) and Bret Bielema (Wisconsin to Arkansas), have left the Big Ten for an SEC school.

3. Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys 25 years ago today, catapulting his University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson out of college football after a three-year run in which Johnson’s Miami Hurricanes went 34-2, winning one national championship (1987) and losing to the eventual No. 1 team in the other two years (Penn State, 1986; Notre Dame, 1988). Another of Jones’ Razorbacks teammates, Barry Switzer, came out of retirement and joined Johnson as the only head coaches to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl (until Pete Carroll joined them earlier this month).
As the coach hiring season nears an end, we're examining the Big Ten coaching landscape and some recent trends. We wrap up the series today with a look at the importance of coaching continuity in the Big Ten going forward.

It's no coincidence that a historic downturn in Big Ten football has coincided with a historic stretch of instability among the league's coaches.

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesIowa's Kirk Ferentz has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach.
Think back to 2005, a season that ended with two BCS bowl wins and teams ranked No. 3 (Penn State) and No. 4 (Ohio State) in the final polls. Seven of the league's 11 coaches had been at their schools for six or more seasons. Ohio State's Jim Tressel, three years removed from a national title, logged his fifth season in Columbus. Three coaches -- Penn State's Joe Paterno, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez and Michigan's Lloyd Carr -- all had held their jobs for more than a decade (in Paterno's case, four decades).

The Big Ten coaches that year had combined for four national championships, five Rose Bowl titles and seven BCS bowl victories.

Since 2005, the Big Ten has gone through 17 coaching changes (not counting Nebraska's after the 2007 season). Seven teams have made multiple changes, including Penn State, which introduced new coaches earlier this month and in January 2011 after not doing so since February 1966. Last season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson was the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders division. He was hired in December 2010.

As the Big Ten invests more in its coaches, it also must ensure it has the right leaders in place for the long haul.

"If you believe strongly in the person you have," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told, "continuity is invaluable."

Few programs value continuity more than Iowa, which has had two coaches (Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry) since the 1978 season. Ferentz, who just completed his 15th year at the school, has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach. He's one of only four FBS coaches to start before the 2000 season (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Troy's Larry Blakeney are the others).

Iowa awarded Ferentz with contract extensions both in 2009 and 2010, the latter a whopping 10-year deal with a salary of $3,675,000. The Big Ten hasn't set the pace nationally in coach compensation, but Iowa's pledge to Ferentz, often the subject of NFL rumors, jumps out. Ferentz's salary is frequently debated and scrutinized, especially when Iowa struggles like it did in 2012, but Barta's loyalty to him hasn't wavered. Iowa rebounded to win eight games last season.

"Because of that commitment, we made our statement," Barta said. "We're going to fight through this with the person in whom we have great confidence and trust. There's no guarantees in life, but because of Kirk's past performance, because of his long-standing approach at Iowa and his proven success, it was a risk I was willing to take. Knock on wood, so far it has worked out terrific."

Barta sees a similar approach from Big Ten schools like Michigan State, which won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles in Mark Dantonio's seventh season as coach. Dantonio in 2011 received a contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life," and his newest deal is expected to more than double his salary from $1.9 million in 2013.

"Continuity breeds success," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said, "and that's the hardest part sometimes on the institutional side, to keep that commitment, keep that contract whether it's an assistant or a head coach. … It requires a high level of confidence and a high level of trust."

The day of playing musical chairs with coaches, of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon
There have been similar long-term commitments at other Big Ten schools. Northwestern awarded coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract in 2011. When Indiana hired Wilson, it gave him a seven-year contract, longer than the initial deals new coaches typically receive. Athletic director Fred Glass links Indiana's lack of continuity -- the school has had five coaches since 1996 -- with its on-field struggles (only one bowl appearance since 1993) and knows the school needs a more patient approach.

"Stability is an important thing in our league," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who applauded recent moves like MSU retaining Dantonio and Penn State hiring James Franklin. "The best example I'll use is men’s basketball where we're having tremendous success, in large part, because of the stability we have in a number of our programs. I think we need to get that in football."

While Big Ten football has struggled in recent years, the league is surging on the hardwood, in large part because of veteran coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo (19th year), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (13th year) and Ohio State's Thad Matta (10th year). Six of the league's 12 basketball coaches have been in their jobs for at least five seasons.

Continuity doesn't guarantee success, but it often correlates. Barta has tried to create "an environment of longevity and long-term commitment" at Iowa, while also recognizing the pressure to win and, in some cases, the need to part ways with a coach.

"The day of playing musical chairs with coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right."

After several years of transition, the Big Ten hopes it has the right men at the top -- and the ability to keep them there.

Penn State's last coaching search went at a slow, seemingly wayward pace and left plenty of questions, especially about the man being introduced to lead the program on Jan. 6, 2012.

There will be no Bill O'Who moments when James Franklin, officially hired today as Penn State coach, steps to the lectern this afternoon inside Beaver Stadium. Franklin is a known name and a big name in the coaching profession. He has accomplished what few believed possible: He made Vanderbilt not merely relevant in football, but pretty darn good with three consecutive bowl appearances and a 24-15 record. The 41-year-old has been mentioned for seemingly every college and NFL coaching vacancy this year. If Penn State fans weren't familiar with his work before the past few weeks, they certainly are now.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesNew Penn State coach James Franklin led Vanderbilt to a 24-15 record.
Franklin isn't a mystery man like Bill O'Brien was two years ago. Penn State is getting a sharp, dynamic coach who can compete with Ohio State and Michigan on the recruiting trail and, despite the lingering NCAA sanctions, should soon make Penn State a contender in a tough Big Ten East division. Some felt sorry for Penn State when O'Brien bolted for the NFL just two seasons after the NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions on the program, including a four-year postseason ban.

No one is feeling sorry for Penn State now. The only pity party being thrown might be by new Big Ten member Maryland, which tapped Franklin as its coach-in-waiting in 2009 but couldn't keep him in town.

This is a move that carries potential high rewards for Penn State, and also some risks.

Franklin signed the nation's No. 22 recruiting class in 2013, and Vanderbilt's 2014 class currently ranks 29th. He's an exceptional recruiter with national reach, as well as ties both in the state -- he's from Langhorne, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, and played quarterback at East Strousburg University -- and in the Mid-Atlantic. Franklin's time in the SEC should put Penn State in play for more prospects in a region they rarely have entered.

Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states, including the big three (Texas, Florida and California), but also Big Ten states Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

There has been a lot of talk about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shaking up the Big Ten with his "SEC-style" recruiting approach. Well, Meyer has company with Franklin. That's not a bad thing for a league that for the most part lags behind in recruiting at the highest levels.

Franklin will fire up Penn State fans, players and recruits when he speaks. He oozes confidence -- some see it as arrogance -- and won't flinch at the NCAA sanctions, the administrative instability and the pro-Joe Paterno section of Penn State's fan base, which frustrated O'Brien at the end of his tenure (but wasn't the primary reason he left). Penn State is an old-school program and Franklin is undoubtedly a new-school coach, but the marriage can be successful.

His hiring also brings some potential red flags.

1. Franklin has had six coaching jobs since 1999 and hasn't remained in one place for longer than five years. Although many believe he's suited for the college game, NFL teams could come calling if he continues to succeed. When top SEC vacancies become available, his name likely will be mentioned. For all his talk of "anchor down" at Vanderbilt, it's debatable whether Franklin will ever truly drop anchor, even if he's back in his native Pennsylvania. The buyouts in his contract will be very telling, as Penn State can't afford to be a steppingstone job.

2. A Penn State program embroiled in a child sex-abuse scandal in 2011 is hiring a coach who had four players accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. A November court filing by defense lawyers requested text messages sent by Vanderbilt coaches that could shed light on what took place. Franklin immediately dismissed the players and hasn't been implicated in any potential cover-up, but Penn State simply can't afford any character issues with its new coach. PSU's vetting of Franklin had better be foolproof or the school will suffer.

3. There's a lot of hype around Franklin, some of which might be overkill. Coaches who win at places like Vanderbilt or Duke or Northwestern tend to get additional credit when it's not always merited. Of Franklin's 11 SEC wins at Vanderbilt, only two came against teams that finished with winning records. He still must show he can beat top teams like Ohio State, Michigan State and possibly Michigan, all three of which he'll see annually in the East division. Vanderbilt's offense ranked no higher than 55th nationally in scoring under Franklin, who has overseen only one truly explosive offense (Kansas State in 2007, when he served as coordinator).

Al Golden would have been the safe choice, but Penn State swung for the fences with Franklin, who will earn up to $4.5 million per season, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Franklin mint, indeed.

There are more potential rewards than risks here, and the fact Penn State could land such a coveted coach under the cloud of sanctions illustrates how the job has improved in two years. Franklin enhances the Big Ten coaching fraternity. That two of the league's past three coaching hires are African-American is an excellent sign after a lengthy drought.

A Penn State program not known for glitz under Paterno has made a flashy, fascinating hire in Franklin.

Buckle up, Nittany Nation. This will be a wild ride.

Speculation of O'Brien to NFL is premature

December, 17, 2013
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien is probably heading to the Houston Texans. Wait, no -- the Vikings. Actually, Washington is intriguing because of its young quarterbacks. Scratch that, the Giants have location on their side.

It's another cold December in Happy Valley, which means the season for O'Brien coaching rumors -- and the accompanying panicky fan base -- is in full swing.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesWith Bill O'Brien in high demand from the NFL, Penn State fans will have to get used to coaching carousel rumors being the norm.
Chatter in local bars and on message boards tends to focus on the latest O'Brien rumors, but it's difficult to blame the fans. The college football norm is unique to Penn State, and fans just don't know how to react. O'Brien is going everywhere and nowhere at once.

CBS' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that both the Texans and Vikings have already approached O'Brien. That's not surprising; Penn State's dimple-chinned coach is in high demand for developing quarterbacks and showing tremendous leadership during a dark time in Happy Valley. Why wouldn't teams be interested?

No reports have emerged yet about interviews or potential contracts. Heck, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier hasn't even been fired yet.

"When you're a team that has four wins," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "[reports like that are] going to happen. That's the NFL, the business we're in. It happens."

And when you're a college coach who's guided a rookie quarterback and a roster of just 60 other scholarship players to a winning season, new opportunities are going to happen. It's the same situation and same question as last season: Will O'Brien leave for the NFL?

And the answer is likely the same this time around: Eventually, yes -- but just not this season.

Penn State fans are a jittery bunch these days, in part because they've never had to deal with these offseason rumors in the past. Joe Paterno became a PSU assistant coach in 1950, a year before sales of a commercial computer that weighed 13 tons. (Seriously.) He was named head coach in 1966, three years before man walked on the moon.

And before the age of Twitter and the Internet, Paterno thought about leaving Happy Valley just three times -- in 1969, 1973 and 1982. Alumni celebrating their five-year college reunions weren't even alive the last time a head coach other than O'Brien thought about leaving for another gig.

So, maybe understandably, the same fans who pack Beaver Stadium every Saturday are worried they won't see O'Brien again next season. The panic button has already been hit -- but it's been hit much too prematurely.

If O'Brien chooses to stay another decade, his name could pop up on coaching lists every offseason. Even before the confirmed reports, some media outlets floated O'Brien's name as a potential candidate. This is the new normal. But it's just not normal to fans who still drive around with "409" bumper stickers or who have lived through the tenures of nine U.S. presidents and just two Penn State head coaches.

All these reports, and accompanying speculation, revolve around the same storyline as last year: O'Brien is an attractive choice because he's a good college coach.

So, maybe, it's fitting to look back at what O'Brien had to say when the dust cleared around this time last year. It likely still applies.

"I have a lot of respect for that league," O'Brien said on Jan. 7, referring to the NFL. "I love that league. Again, this is my profession. I'm a coach. And that's the highest level, and so -- but at the same time, like I've said, I really, really, I can't be more clear about this: I love coaching these kids.

"I enjoy being the head football coach at Penn State, and I enjoy working here. I enjoy the people I work for, the people I work with, all the people I've met, the student body is incredible here, and I enjoy being here. And I plan to be here."

History tends to repeat itself. Last year, O'Brien garnered interest and worried fans before staying put at Penn State. This year, it's likely more of the same -- even if PSU fans aren't yet used to it.

3-point stance: Scoreboard watching

September, 5, 2013
1. You probably knew this already, but inflation has struck the scoreboard. Of the 10 longest scoring streaks in the history of the game, four are current: Michigan, which has scored in 353 consecutive games, is eight short of the record set by BYU (1975-2003). There’s also No. 3 Florida (309 games), No. 9 TCU (255) and No. 10 Air Force (247). The Wolverines were last shut out, 26-0, by Iowa in 1984, one of only two shutouts that Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler suffered in 21 seasons in Ann Arbor.

2. Frank Fina, one of the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky case, told 60 Minutes Sports that he found no evidence that the late Joe Paterno took part in any effort to conceal Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. “I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence,” Fina said, “not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.” Fina agreed, using Paterno’s own words, that the coach should have done more. That’s a long way from the Freeh Report. So someone with subpoenas exonerated Paterno. Maybe now NCAA president Mark Emmert will realize that he overreached. Probably not.

3. With the commitment of West Monroe, La., offensive tackle Cameron Robinson to Alabama, the Crimson Tide has 14 players in the 2014 ESPN 300, including 10 in the top 120. However, only two of those prospects are from the state of Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban has commitments from players as far away as California, Oklahoma, and Iowa. That’s a long way from 2008, when Saban found three future first-round draft picks in Alabama alone: Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Marcell Dareus.

Video: Bridge to next era at Penn State

August, 31, 2013

Born with severe scoliosis, Brad "Spider" Caldwell enters his 31st season as the Penn State equipment manager.
Penn State is getting closer to settling the legal claims made by the alleged victims of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Penn State's board of trustees has authorized approximately $60 million in payments to the men who say they were abused by Sandusky. Sources tell the newspaper that Penn State has agreements in principle to settle about 25 of the approximately 30 claims brought against the university. Penn State on Friday announced it had reached tentative settlements but didn't provide specifics on how many cases had been settled or dollar amounts.

Sandusky, Penn State's longtime defensive coordinator under Joe Paterno, is serving 30-60 years in prison after being convicted last summer on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

From the WSJ:
The university has reached agreements in principle to settle about 25 out of some 30 claims, and settlements are expected to be finalized within the next month, the people said. It is unclear what will happen to the remaining claims, including at least one in which the plaintiff has filed a civil lawsuit against the university.

Attorneys for the men have declined to say how much money they were individually seeking, but people familiar with the process said amounts would vary and be determined in part by the nature of the abuse, whether it occurred on Penn State's campus and over what length of time.

The university doesn't plan to comment on the settlements until all are final, which could be happening soon.
A federal judge on Thursday tossed out the antitrust lawsuit Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett brought against the NCAA that sought to overturn severe penalties imposed on Penn State and its football program.

U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane wrote it was a fairly easy decision to dismiss the lawsuit, as the NCAA sanctions against Penn State didn't meet the standards for an antitrust case.
"The fact that Penn State will offer fewer scholarships over a period of four years does not plausibly support its allegation that the reduction of scholarships at Penn State will result in a market-wide anticompetitive effect, such that the 'nation's top scholastic football players' would be unable to obtain a scholarship in the nationwide market for Division I football players," Kane wrote.

She said the questions the case raises are important matters of public debate but are not anti-trust grounds.

"In another forum the complaint's appeal to equity and common sense may win the day, but in the antitrust world these arguments fail to advance the ball," Kane said.

NCAA general counsel Donald Remy said he was "exceedingly pleased" with the ruling in a statement released Thursday.

The university wasn't a party in the case and has opted to stay out of all lawsuits against the NCAA, including the one fielded last week by the family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

It will be interesting to see if the quick dismissal impacts the Paterno family lawsuit against the NCAA. The Paterno family camp doesn't sound too worried.'s Lester Munson wrote last week that the Paterno family lawsuit is more viable than Corbett's "bizarre attack." The Paterno family lawsuit is a "serious effort that will determine the success or failure of the NCAA's efforts in the worst scandal in the history of college sports," Munson wrote.

Penn State's trustees -- at least those not involved in the Paterno family lawsuit -- are trying to promote the reforms they've adopted since the NCAA sanctions, hoping that the NCAA will eventually reconsider the penalties. Board chairman Keith Masser and trustee Joel Myers told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the university's consent agreement with the NCAA allows it to be reopened if both sides agree.

"You've got to serve some jail time before you serve probation," Masser told the AP. "Everybody wants to get this behind us as soon as possible, so we want to do whatever we can to get this behind us as soon as possible."
Representatives for the Paterno family announced on Wednesday that they would sue the NCAA. That lawsuit was officially filed earlier today in Centre County, Pa. You can read the full complaint, which is filed on behalf of the Paterno estate, several Penn State trustees and former players, at this link.

Among the suit's main charges:
"Defendants circumvented the procedures required by the NCAA’s rules and violated and conspired with others to violate Plaintiffs’ rights, causing Plaintiffs significant harm. Defendants took these actions based on conclusions reached in a flawed, unsubstantiated, and controversial report that Defendants knew or should have known was not the result of a thorough, reliable investigation; had been prepared without complying with the NCAA’s investigative rules and procedures; reached conclusions that were false, misleading, or otherwise unworthy of credence; and reflected an improper “rush to judgment” based on unsound speculation and innuendo. Defendants also knew or should have known that by embracing the flawed report, they would effectively terminate the search for truth and cause Plaintiffs grave harm. Nonetheless, Defendants took their unauthorized and unlawful actions in an effort to deflect attention away from the NCAA’s institutional failures and to expand the scope of their own authority by exerting control over matters unrelated to recruiting and athletic competition."

And ...
"Defendants knew or should have known that the Freeh Report was an unreliable rush to judgment and that the conclusions reached in the report had not been substantiated. Defendants also knew or should have known that by accepting the Freeh Report they would dramatically increase the publicity given to its unreliable conclusions, effectively terminate the search for the truth, and enable the NCAA to force Penn State to accept the imposition of unprecedented sanctions."

The lawsuit alleges the NCAA of committing a breach of contract, defaming Joe Paterno and other Penn State coaches and conducting a civil conspiracy. It asks to invalidate the consent decree the school signed with the NCAA and for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

There's not a lot new in the suit that we haven't heard elsewhere, but go read the whole thing if you're interested.
1. Make no mistake -- the SEC will go to a nine-game conference schedule shortly. It won’t happen in 2014. And it’s not because Alabama coach Nick Saban wants it and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin doesn’t. As my SEC blogging colleague Chris Low explained Wednesday on the ESPNU College Football Podcast, SEC commissioner Mike Slive is for it. And in the long run, what Slive wants, the SEC gets. Most prominently, the College Football Playoff.

2. The family of the late Joe Paterno announced Wednesday night that it, too, is suing the NCAA regarding its punishment of Penn State, to which I say, the more the merrier. NCAA president Mark Emmert ignored NCAA procedure and rushed to the front of the parade of people who condemned the university. He depended on a rush job of a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The longer view has exposed Emmert’s rush to judgment as a textbook case of grandstanding. As if the NCAA didn’t have enough problems.

3. Colorado forced athletic director Mike Bohn to resign, and supposedly the university wants to hire a replacement who can raise the funds the Buffaloes need to catch up to the rest of the Pac-12 in the athletic arms race. Good luck -- the Colorado fan base has not been a generous one, at least by FBS standards, and the Buffs remain no better than a distant second behind the NFL's Denver Broncos in local fan interest. That Pac-12 Network money can’t start flowing soon enough.
1. Former U.S. Attorney Richard Thornburgh, commissioned by the family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, poked enough holes in the Freeh Report to let the air out of it. Thornburgh’s report, released Sunday, illustrated that the Freeh Report was not the last word on the Penn State scandal -- merely the first. The NCAA built its case against Penn State on the Freeh Report because the Board of Trustees vouched for it. That’s not much of a defense now that the Freeh Report appears to be a rush to judgment. Instead, it’s one more blow against what credibility the NCAA has left.

2. By accepting Kyle Whittingham’s offer to become Utah co-offensive coordinator, Dennis Erickson did more than return to the sideline one year after being fired at Arizona State. He delayed his candidacy for the College Football Hall of Fame. Erickson’s record of 179-96-1 (.650) and two national titles (Miami, 1989-91) means his entry into the Hall is a question of when, not if. And his acceptance of the job confirms him as a guy less interested in the trappings of a million-dollar job than in coaching ball -- and kids.

3. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops pushed offensive line coach James Patton out the door (to Indiana) after seven seasons because the Sooners’ running game has been mediocre for four years. In that time, Oklahoma hasn’t averaged more than 163 yards per game or finished higher than seventh in the Big 12. It may be a recruiting issue. The Sooners have had one All-American (tackle Trent Williams) in the last four years. Stoops will tell us the new direction of his running game by revealing Patton's replacement.