Joe Paterno, We Are Because You Were–Remembering


The statue wall outside Beaver Stadium used to say the following:

“Joseph Vincent Paterno: Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.” 

And that about sums it up.  People who believe Paterno was just a football coach are kidding themselves.  More than any coach in sports history, Paterno’s impact spread well beyond his greatness leading his team on the field.

He demanded his players have strong academic standing, exemplified by his team’s top graduation rates year in and year out. He cared deeply about how his players performed on the field, but understood that their success after college was the most important thing. He didn’t coach for the money, shown by his modest home and lifestyle and his constant donations to Penn State. And even in his final days, Paterno remained loyal to the university that employed him for 61 years.

“They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach,” a Paterno quote on the wall outside the statue read. –And Rodney Erickson and the Board of Trustees Removed it.

Oh JoePa, you certainly did. Before Paterno arrived at Penn State as an assistant in 1950, the school and its football program was barely known. In 2012, as Paterno has left this earth, the football team had national power status and a stadium with more than 108,000 seats. And with the help of the millions he donated to the school and the many lives he affected, the university has become a respected academic institution.

In today’s college and professional sports world, winning overrides everything. Class, academics and sportsmanship often seem to be thrown out the window. Most coaches appear to care about their paychecks and the championships they have won more than teaching young people to become better in their lives.

Paterno had a connection with the Penn State community that can’t be compared to any other coach in history. For more than half a century, Paterno was the face of Penn State. To players, students, alumni and fans, JoePa was a father or a grandfather figure. This close relationship was displayed by the strong emotional reaction on Penn State’s campus by students and fans on Sunday January 22, 2012 after news of his death.

There are and will always be great coaches. But none of them will ever be Joe Paterno

Penn State Football: Franklin Sells Penn State Fans What They Want To Hear


By Ben Jones

Success at the job requires a large amount of shoveling of post-digestive remains in order to get the target audience to fall for the pitch. You can fall for the presentation, but there is always the threat that the rug will be pulled out from under your feet when you take that leap of faith.

The guy says the car runs, but have you gotten it off the lot yet?

James Franklin, turns out to be — at first glance — the best used car salesman Penn State has seen in a long time. He has the energy, speaking for just over 40 minutes during his initial news conference, without losing pace or enthusiasm. He has the looks. A young energetic coach hitting his stride at the right time. His suit is probably the last thing you would have ever seen either of his predecessors wear.

There was a North Carolina blue pocket square poking out of his jacket, opposite a Penn State pin that was a fitting mirror image of the Houston Texans’ pin Bill O’Brien wore only a few days earlier. Both men, looking the part. Perhaps both men are better at their new jobs rather than their old ones.

But not every used car salesman is out to get you. Sometimes people really do find a deal, walking away with exactly what they wanted and what they were told they were getting. And sometimes with a little work, a used car can look like it was never driven before.

And that seems to be the kind of salesman James Franklin is. If O’Brien’s job was to put out fires. It seems only hours into the job that Franklin is focused on post-fire restoration.

Right now, that’s exactly what Penn State needs.

Franklin is aggressive, boldly declaring Penn State will “dominate” the state and region in recruiting. He used the word “dominate” on ten different occasions during his press conference. He was giving the Kanye West of coaching pitches, firing a salvo at Pittsburgh when he said that he respected the program but Penn State was going to recruit in every corner of the state.

“Well, I have tremendous respect for Pittsburgh, for the University of Pittsburgh, tremendous respect for their coach, tremendous respect for their university. But when I say Pennsylvania, and when I say Penn State, that is the whole state. That is the whole state.” Franklin said emphatically.

“I’m going to let you finish your recruiting pitch,” Kanye Franklin would have said to Pitt, “But I’m going to come and recruit those kids too.”

And that’s what fans want to hear.

Penn State in large part has been a dormant program over the past decade. It has every thing it needs to succeed at a high level but those assets have been under sold or under utilized. The program has only just now become accustomed to a head coach being active in the recruiting process.

John Urschel Named Best Person in Sports


on October 23, 2013 12:50 PM

 Penn State offensive guard and math wiz John  Urschel has another accolade to add to his many accomplishments: On  Monday, Fox Sports named him Best Person in Sports for “excelling in the classroom and on the field.”

Last year Urschel was selected as  a first team All-Big Ten guard and  was also named a Capital One/CoSIFA Academic All-American in 2012. He  finished his undergraduate degree in mathematics in just three years  while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. He is now working on  earning his master’s degree and has plans to pursue a PhD after his  football career.

Urschel’s research has been published in the “Celestial Mechanics and  Dynamic Astronomy” journal, and he currently has several more articles  in the works. When he is not on the field he can be found teaching mathematics in classes such as Math 041. He can undoubtedly be considered one of the best student athletes in all of college sports.

While Urschel’s academic accomplishments are nothing to be scoffed  at, his success on the field is equally impressive. He has quickly  excelled as an elite athlete and NFL prospect after making the  decision to play football in ninth-grade. Last season he earned  first-team All-Big Ten honors after starting every game at right guard  and helped Zach Zwinak rush for over 1,000 yards. This year, he’s  continued to be a leader on the team while playing a key role in the  offensive line.

The Reason “We Are”….Penn State”


As SuperFan of the Maize Rage student section at the University of Michigan, I have the opportunity to travel to all of the Michigan football away games and experience what football Saturday means in different parts of the country. This feature will run after each away game this season, detailing the gameday experience for Michigan games outside of Ann Arbor. Previously: UConn.

When Michigan fans travel to different schools to watch the Wolverines play on the road, they regularly have to get used to a much smaller stadium and quieter atmosphere. In Week 4, the Connecticut Huskies broke a Rentschler Field record by packing 42,000 people into the stadium; about 70,000 less than that of a typical Ann Arbor game day.

This weekend was a different story. As the few Wolverine fans trickled into Beaver Stadium they realized that the structure was possibly even more impressive than our very own Big House.

When I first arrived in State College, one of the first things I learned was that this was the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions. On Friday night before the game the students were happy to explain their hatred for both Michigan and Ohio State, but it was clear that the night game against the Maize and Blue would be Penn State’s bowl game this year.

Beaver Stadium is an imposing structure, both inside and out (Derick Hutchinson, M&GB)

Not having been to Penn State since the Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky scandal, I wasn’t sure how touchy of a subject it was among the students. Surprisingly, it was basically the butt of all the jokes. Though our little group in maize never brought the scandal up, we did end up discussing it multiple times throughout the weekend. Penn State students want to prove that they have moved on from the nightmare and won’t let it define them.

Instead, they just want to beat Michigan.

While tailgating before the game on Saturday, Penn State fans made it very clear that Michigan was their main target. An enormous homecoming crowd of almost 108,000 couldn’t have included more than a few thousand Michigan fans. It was easy to pick them out because of the famous Penn State white out.

The white out stands for what separates the Penn State game environment from that of Michigan. During a maize out, Michigan Stadium has one maize section where the students stand and a mixed bag of maize and blue throughout the rest of the bowl. Fans don’t put much stock in participating in the game atmosphere but simply want to watch their team win. It’s tradition.

But in Happy Valley every single fan is ready to cheer like crazy for Penn State from the opening kickoff. The white out was breathtaking. Over 100,000 strong were decked out in all white and shaking white pompoms as Bill O’Brien led his team onto the field. This scene was unlike anything our little group of Michigan students had ever experienced, but we had faith that our undefeated Wolverines would quiet things down.

For much of the second half, we were exactly right.

Michigan came out of halftime with a bang, returning a fumble for a touchdown on Penn State’s first offensive play. A quarter later, the Wolverines were ahead by 10 points with six minutes to go and we were enjoying the eerie silence in the enormous stadium.

Though it has a smaller capacity than the Big House, Beaver Stadium is built entirely above ground and is much more intimidating both inside and outside. Second and third decks keep all of the sound in while reaching up much higher than the final rows in Ann Arbor. If you’re wondering how a structure like this can be safe, you aren’t alone.

Penn State’s famous chant is the Zombie Nation cheer, which gets the entire audience involved in jumping and screaming along. Because it was one of the things I was really looking forward to, I asked our host, a senior at Penn State, about Zombie Nation.

“There’s a new rule that we can only do it two times each game,” he told me. “We were doing structural damage to the stadium so they had to limit us.”

Derick (2nd from left) and his crew were impressed by the atmosphere and how welcoming the Penn State fans were (Derick Hutchinson, M&GB)

At the suggestion of damaging a concrete structure like Beaver Stadium I was astonished, but when Penn State came back and tied the game with under a minute remaining in regulation, Zombie Nation blared and the back wall of the stadium was visibly wavering back and forth with the Nittany Lion faithful.

It was the most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of, and I wasn’t even in an appreciative mood. Four overtimes later Michigan had missed easy kicks and taken costly penalties and Penn State was celebrating an unbelievable win.

Following such an emotional win I expected to be mercilessly harassed by the Penn State students all night, but was surprised when they continued a trend set before the game. While migrating toward the stadium for the game, our little group of Michigan fans was welcomed to Happy Valley countless times. Students, alumni and others went out of their way to walk past us and say good luck.

It was extremely strange. We weren’t sure how we felt about the hospitality because it didn’t feel right, but it was much better than being harassed in Columbus or East Lansing. After the game there were fans that laughed and jeered at us, but the number that told us good game probably outnumbered them.

Even though they always seem to beat Michigan in recent years, and they ended our undefeated season, it’s hard to hate Penn State fans because of how cool they were; both when they were sure they would lose and after they had won.

I hope that Michigan fans can learn from the atmosphere that exists within Beaver Stadium. The students lead the charge, but alumni and casual fans set it apart by participating much more than those around other Big Ten schools. Even the younger fans are fully invested in Penn State football, as we found out when a couple of three-year old girls started the “we are” “Penn State” cheer all by themselves from atop an RV after the game.

While I wouldn’t trade game day in Ann Arbor for anything, I do think that Michigan fans can learn from the commitment in Beaver Stadium. Michigan’s tradition and history set it apart, but there is room to make the Big House even better.

Winning on the road is a great feeling, but losing is definitely the worst. Thankfully, the Penn State faithful were bearable after the game, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth after Michigan blew the 10 point lead.

The first loss is one of the hardest each year, but Michigan won’t have to deal with an atmosphere like Penn State’s for the rest of the season.

Losing is never fun, but witnessing a Penn State night game was an incredible sports experience. Hopefully Team 134 can tighten things up and send us home with more road wins in 2013.

A message from The Penn State Online Magazine


Consider this a reminder. A reminder that what “we are” is a community, and that no one segment of that community exists without the others.

We are not Penn State without the faculty and staff who turn on the lights, teach the classes, serve the food, do the research, and mow the Old Main lawn.

We are not Penn State without the alumni who build the traditions, hire the recent graduates, start families of future Penn Staters, and give generously to ensure their alma mater can continue to thrive.

We are not Penn State without the students whose hard work, idealism, and ambition are the reason the rest of us have a university to work for and support.

Consider this also a plea.

To alumni, and to those who never attended a class but are invested as life-long Penn State football fans: Remember why this place exists. Remember the thousands of faculty members whose teaching and research improves lives. These brilliant, motivated people came to Penn State—and remain here—because Penn State remains a place they can do great, important work.

Remember, too, the tens of thousands of students planning and preparing for the rest of their lives. Remember that they’re living the life-defining moments you’ve already experienced, and that their experience these past two years has been among the most challenging in Penn State’s history. Remember that many of these students are working their way through college, balancing jobs and full class loads, or working toward a degree that may take years to pay off. These students, their needs and their perspective, deserve your respect, even when they might differ from yours.

And to students, particularly those in campus leadership roles, and those with a public profile and media platform that allows their voices to be heard among the din: Try not to add to the noise. Try to appreciate the emotional roots of dissatisfaction among some members of this shared community. Try, especially, not to generalize—to avoid the tone of us-vs.-them that seems increasingly to define our interaction. From State Patty’s Day to empty seats in the student section, you’ve felt victimized in the past by broad and sometimes unfair accusations; turning that broad brush against a huge alumni body you’ll soon be a part of helps no one.

The past two years have provided a harsh lesson on how easy it is for others to hold the actions of a few against an entire community. We’ve all heard countless references to “Penn State’s guilt,” as if an institution can do anything, and as if such careless language doesn’t have repercussions for everyone affiliated with it. We know this; we’ve lived it.

Too often now, such generalizations are directed at fellow members of this community. Alumni think this; students don’t understand that. Our internal discourse has taken on the worst aspects of our national political discourse: so much shouting, so little listening. No matter what side you’re on, you can see where that’s gotten us. If it continues, we only hurt Penn State. Which is to say, we only hurt ourselves.

Ryan Jones, senior editor, Penn State Online Magazine

Sandusky Prosecutor–Joe Not Involved in Coverup


This time, CBS Sports is getting in the mix with a Penn State feature on “60 Minute Sports” on Showtime at 10 p.m. tonight. The episode focuses on Frank Fina and Joe McGettigan, the two prosecutors who helped put Sandusky behind bars.

CBS released a clip of the interview yesterday and once you get past the “college football’s darkest episode” rhetoric, there is actually some interesting material.

Notably, Fina was asked if he thought Joe Paterno participated in a coverup of Sandusky’s actions as he believes former administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz did.

“I do not,” Fina said straight up when asked if Paterno participated in a coverup.

“And I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence, not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.”

Emails Conflict Testimony of Spanier, Curley, Schultz


Before the grand jury investigating child sexual  abuse by former Penn State coach Jerry  Sandusky, Spanier had denied that he had discussed with former Athletic  Director Tim  Curley and retired Vice President Gary  Schultz turning a 2001 allegation over to authorities.

Email shows otherwise. Confronted in 2001 with the question of how to  respond to another coach’s report of seeing Sandusky naked in a shower with his  arms around a boy’s middle, Spanier had agreed with Curley that the best course  of action was to skirt authorities and confront Sandusky directly.
“The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed,” Spanier  wrote, according to the email presented as evidence during the preliminary  hearing on charges the men lied and hid Sandusky’s crimes.

Prosecutors detailed allegations that the men agreed not to report a 2001  allegation Sandusky sexually assaulted a boy in a shower even though they knew  he had previously been investigated for similar conduct.

Their “conspiracy of silence” allowed Sandusky to abuse at least three more  children on campus between 2001 and 2009, Beemer said in his closing  argument.

“By their own admission they had thousands of children on their campus for  all types of camps and activities and they take the position in 2001 to allow  Jerry Sandusky to have access to the campus,” Beemer said.

Beemer said evidence, including correspondence beyond emails, contradicts the  men’s grand jury testimony that they had limited knowledge of the 2001  allegation and a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky, and shows they worked  to deceive even as investigators closed in.

Bob Costas Doubts Paterno Involved in Cover Up


Emmy Award-winning NBC sportscaster Bob Costas said Wednesday concerning the  ongoing investigation of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State sex scandal, “I don’t buy  the idea that [late head coach Joe Paterno] was actively involved in a  cover-up.”

“There’s a grand jury proceeding that just said there’s enough evidence to  take it to trial, which was no surprise to anybody,” Costas replied. “Spanier,  Curley, and Schultz, the administrators, who will go on trial.”

“But the main figure to the average person,” he continued, “the main figure  is still, other than Sandusky himself, Joe Paterno, who has since passed away.  And I really think that there is now some legitimate doubt.”

“I don’t know where the truth is,” Costas added, “but there’s some  legitimate doubt about the extent of Paterno’s involvement. The pat storyline  became, everybody, Paterno included, knew pretty much what Sandusky was up to.  And they all kind of conspired to cover it up to protect the image of the  football program at Penn State.”

“And you don’t think that’s true?” Leno asked.

“I  think that Paterno was negligent,” answered Costas. “I think he should have  recognized what was going on because the warning signals were there. But, having  read the Freeh report, and then having read some of what’s been put out to  refute it, I don’t buy the idea that he was actively involved in a  cover-up.”

 

 

What Did Spanier Know and When?


Penn State’s leadership kept the university’s public information director out of the loop about Jerry Sandusky between a media inquiry in 2010 until “all hell broke loose” in November 2011 with the release of the grand jury presentment, the employee testified Tuesday.

“Our office had no idea,” said Lisa Powers, the university’s top spokeswoman whose duty is to promote its positive image.

“We did not anticipate the presentment, we did not anticipate the fallout, and we were inundated with media from everywhere,” Powers said. “I didn’t answer my phone, and I couldn’t answer my email. There were just too many of them.”

Powers testified that she was one of several people who got an email in September 2010 from a Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter asking if anyone knew of any investigation into Sandusky. The email was sent by blind carbon copy, or bcc, to Spanier, Powers and another spokesman, Bill Mahon.

Spanier responded about an hour after receiving the email: “I haven’t heard this. Can you tell me more?” The reporter never responded, Powers said.

Powers testified she spoke with another employee who had found something about Sandusky touching boys that was posted on an online message board on a bodybuilder’s website. Powers said she and the employee noted the title of Sandusky’s autobiography, “Touched,” but when Powers went to find the message board, the comment had been removed.

Powers said she learned of another potential Sandusky-related issue when she was told that the reporter had camped outside the home of former Penn State police chief Thomas Harmon, who retired in 2005.

Powers said she was told by Al Horvath –— then the university’s senior vice president for finance and business — there was an investigation into Sandusky, but it had been closed.

The prosecution presented an email by Spanier to Horvath that Powers was only given enough information so she could field media inquiries without “exacerbating the situation.”

Powers testified she received another media inquiry in March 2011 about Sandusky, to which Powers responded the university didn’t know about any investigation and that Sandusky was a former Penn State employee who retired 10 years earlier.

Then, in late March 2011, when a grand jury investigation into Sandusky was revealed in a news report, Powers learned that senior leadership had gone to testify to the grand jury.

Caught off-guard, Powers sought information about the grand jury process from Cynthia Baldwin, who was then the university’s general counsel.

According to Powers’ testimony, Baldwin made the news report out to be a non-issue. Powers said Baldwin told her the grand jury investigation was a “fishing expedition” and had convened three times before and found nothing.

Powers said she was concerned that senior administrators had testified, but Baldwin never mentioned her role in accompanying Curley, Schultz or Spanier to the grand jury.

Seven months later, on Oct. 28, 2011, Powers was called into a meeting with Spanier, Baldwin, Mahon and the trustees chairman at the time, Steve Garban.

She testified she was told that a presentment was coming, and that Curley and Schultz may be indicted on perjury charges.

Penn State Season Opener 2014 in Ireland


DUBLIN—Penn State will open its 2014 football season against the University of Central Florida in Ireland, the first international game for either team.

Officials from both schools along with the Gaelic Athletic Association announced Sunday in Dublin that the game will be played at Croke Park on Aug. 30, 2014, and will air on ESPN2.
“Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “I have great respect for coach (George) O’Leary and his team and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.

The Nittany Lions will be the first Big Ten Conference team to play internationally since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in the 1993 regular season finale.

The game will be the eighth American college football game to be played in Ireland. Notre Dame and Navy opened the 2012 season in Dublin’s Aviva Park