This is way better than the guy in our inbox who wants to make sure we know we can divine Wes Lunt’s transfer destination by realizing we cannot spell “Lunt” without “UT.”
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• Good morning. If you’re reading this, you’ve survived a weekend without football of any sort. Army’s Black Knights, bless them, begin spring practice tomorrow, but until then keep up your winter conditioning with Florida’s spirit squads.
• Coach-hirin’ season! Utah has just announced the hiring of Dennis Erickson, and we’re just going to paste in an excerpt from the athletic department here with some emphasis added:
Dennis Erickson, who compiled a 179-96-1 record in 23 seasons as a head college coach and won two national championships, has joined Utah’s staff as the co-offensive coordinator. The 65-year-old Erickson, whose background also includes six years as an NFL head coach, will share the coordinator title with 26-year-old Brian Johnson.
BUDDY COP STORY, BUT WITH COACHES. SITCOM WAITING TO HAPPEN. HIJINX ABOUT TO ENSUE. Brian Johnson and Dennis Erickson becoming besties is now all we want out of the 2013 season.
Elsewhere on the perpetually active college football coaching carousel: Todd Grantham withdrew from consideration for the Saints DC job on Friday … Kennedy Polamalu is out as offensive coordinator at USC … Gregg Brandon will coach quarterbacks and coordinate the offense at New Mexico State.
Because more reading on the Jerry Sandusky case is just what you need to perk up your Monday afternoon, here are three more stories to throw on the Penn State tire fire. First up, in chronological order, from Saturday’s New York Times: a report on Joe Paterno’s contract negotiations, which got an early start in January 2011, and which benefited the Paterno family after his death.
The board of trustees ultimately agreed to make good on the full package anyhow, and in April paid what was owed to the Paternos. Additional demands, like the desire by Mr. Paterno’s wife to make use of the athletic department’s hydrotherapy facilities, were met. The board did draw the line at the family’s request to use the university’s corporate jet, arguing that the contract limited that use to the coach himself. And it refused the family’s demand to retain use of the stadium box next to the university president’s, the one reserved for the head coach, offering the family the choice of two other suites on a different floor.
Next up, Dan Wetzel’s Sunday column, contrasting Graham Spanier’s actions during the Curtis Enis affair with his handling of Sandusky:
SI.com will have much more on the Freeh Report throughout the day, but for those of you without the time or stomach to page through the whole thing, we’ve summarized some important bits below. For more reading material, including copies of e-mails between high-ranking Penn State officials, click through. [Note: That website has been experiencing some hiccups due to high traffic this morning; SI has an archive copy of the full report here.]
As expected, the report is full of damning blows for those at the loftiest levels of the university operating system, most particularly Penn State president Graham Spanier, Senior vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and Joe Paterno: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.” Freeh’s group states the four men “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities.”
Yes, conceal. And yes, Paterno is included in that sweeping statement. Freeh emphasized that during today’s press conference, stating, “The facts are the facts. [Paterno] was an integral part of the act to conceal.”
Other takeaways from the Freeh Report:
I’ve never been quite comfortable with the notion of raising statues in monument to the living. What if Tim Tebow retires from the NFL and takes a job as an assistant coach at Florida State? What will become of the larger-than-life metal version of Nick Saban should Tuscaloosa’s generalissimo return to the pros to ply his trade? Right up to their last breathing moments, our idols retain the capacity to disappoint, merely by virtue of being human. When that happens, there’s an over-sized hunk of bronze hunching complacently in all its craggy glory, and we idolaters are stuck with it.
That’s a touch cynical, but it’s my cynicism. I wasn’t close to the Penn State football program, but if I’d been covering the team my entire career it still wouldn’t be my place to dictate Joe Paterno’s place in college football’s pantheon. If I’d been on duty this past weekend, I would’ve churned out a piece that sounded a lot like what Gregg Doyel came up with. It’s not up to us to tell you how to feel right now. It’s not up to anybody.
Take this moment to enjoy a few deep cleansing breaths and remember that a hire is not a hire until it’s a hire. The Associated Press is reporting that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has agreed to become Penn State head coach, but that the details are still being discussed and nothing is official. Yet reality is congealing, and we concede: It looks very much like O’Brien to Penn State will happen.
And so, we’re taking a quick break from bowl coverage to survey fan and media and fan-media hybrid reactions to the development:
• Leading off with the loudest: LaVar Arrington, former Nittany Lions standout and staunch supporter of interim head coach Tom Bradley, is most displeased with the hire:
“I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage,” Arrington said. “Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that’s the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I’m done. I’m done with Penn State. If they’re done with us, I’m done with them.”
• Fellow alum Todd Blackledge also expressed his reservations, and on national television:
• No vapors in the desert air: RichRod returneth! Arizona AD Greg Byrne further endeared himself to sports nerds by tweeting the announcement himself Monday evening. The school’s full release is available for your perusal here. Stewart Mandel likes the move, thanks to the noted absence of trappings that come with the Wildcats, and I’m inclined to agree. There’s a void beyond the top-tier teams in the Pac-12, and Rodriguez will have his kind of quarterback right away.
• Fresh coaches, bought and sold: Elsewhere in skipper-tracking: UMass fires Kevin Morris before the Minutemen even get to the MAC. There is curiosity about the movements of Skip Holtz. George O’Leary gets that old chestnut, the public vote of confidence. Can’t wait for Urban Meyer‘s next career move to be a critically reviled, ratings-happy television special.
• We remember: Arkansas held a candlelight memorial service for tight end Garrett Uekman, where Bobby Petrino remarked, ”Moments like this make you realize just how insignificant wins and losses can be and how important the people around you are. Garrett was important to all of us.” Our continued best wishes to the Razorbacks football community.
• SEC, 1-2-3: Your freshly updated BCS standings are led by LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. Count me in the anti-rematch camp, if mildly, but here we are. Unless this is in fact a slippery slope to a best-of-seven series between the Bayou Bengals and Crimson Tide that stretches into spring. With my NFL team in the thick of the race for the No. 1 2012 draft pick, I’d watch that.
The Coaches’ Poll now has actual reason to rank Virginia Tech ahead of Clemson (thanks plenty, NC State!), but in the absence of that hilarious oversight a new grumble has cropped up in the AP poll, which is supposed to know better: Oregon over USC! Too bad these two squads didn’t settle things on the field the day before yesterday, amirite?
Tangentially related, but interesting: If you’re a polling nerd, check out how one beat writer sifted through the one-loss teams on his ballot.
• No. 11 Houston 73, Tulane 17: Another day, another garish display by the Houston offense. The Cougars matched their season scoring high against the two-win Green Wave, and did it without much sweat from Case Keenum. After three quarters, 325 yards and three touchdown passes to Patrick Edwards, Keenum ceded control to able backup Cotton Turner. It was running back Charles Sims’ turn for a career day; the sophomore recorded 207 yards on just 10 carries. Tulane also gave up two punt returns for touchdowns to Edwards and Damian Payne. [RECAP | BOX]
• Ohio 43, Central Michigan 28: Enjoy elocuting Tyler Tettleton’s name? He’s making it easy, running up 268 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Eloquently monikered sophomore Beau Blankenship more than doubled his previous season high with a 121-yard performance on the ground, and his first two-touchdown game. [RECAP | BOX]
• Back in the valley: Since we last discussed the Jerry Sandusky case in this space: Mark Emmert told the Associated Press, “The NCAA will defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since this situation involved alleged crimes.” The NCAA compliance blog examines the intersection of crime and compliance. Penn State students plan a candlelight vigil for Friday in place of a pep rally. Mike McQueary will not coach in Saturday’s game against Nebraska. Jerry Sandusky could face new charges in Texas.The Patriot-News traces their coverage of the Sandusky story, and examines all the dropped threads in the case.
• The wisdom of youth: Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier have been ousted by the university’s board of trustees, which held a press conference shortly afterward that you have to see to believe. (And if you’re like me, you’d rather believe a few disgruntled students got in than believe reporters were behaving in that manner.) Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been made interim head coach; original whistleblower Mike McQueary remains on staff. Moderate chaos broke out on campus, where for a group of students felt the legacy of Joe Paterno trumped the heinous actions of Jerry Sandusky.
More reading material, if you can stomach it: The sister of a victim speaks on life at Penn State. Paterno’s statement. Spanier’s statement. Mike McCann analyzes the legal issues facing Paterno. Paterno addressing the players. The withdrawal of an award the NFF was to present to Penn State’s AD. The investigation the Department of Education is launching into Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky case. Bill Connelly: “By shielding and fearing football, we weaken it.”