NCAA: It’s not our job to ensure educational quality


By Sara Ganim, CNN

Updated 8:47 PM ET, Wed April 1, 2015

In response to lawsuit, NCAA says it doesn’t control quality of education for student-athletes
But its website emphasizes importance of education, “opportunities to learn”
Lawsuit claims students didn’t get an education because of academic fraud at UNC

(CNN)After years of making the case that the education of athletes is paramount, the NCAA now says it has no legal responsibility to make sure education is actually delivered.

On its website, the NCAA prominently states, “It’s our commitment — and our responsibility — to give young people opportunities to learn, play and succeed.” And later, it says that “in the collegiate model of sports, the young men and women competing on the field or court are students first, athletes second.”

But the NCAA is taking a very different position in response to a lawsuit filed by former University of North Carolina athletes. The lawsuit claimed the students didn’t get an education because they were caught up in the largest known academic fraud scandal in NCAA history.

In its response, the NCAA says it has no legal responsibility “to ensure the academic integrity of the courses offered to student-athletes at its member institutions.”

Even with pages of online information about academic standards, and even though the NCAA has established a system of academic eligibility and accountability that it boasts of regularly, NCAA attorneys wrote in this court filing that “the NCAA did not assume a duty to ensure the quality of the education of student-athletes,” and “the NCAA does not have ‘direct, day-to-day, operational control’ ” over member institutions like UNC.

“It’s nonsense. It’s double talk,” said Gerald Gurney, a former athletic-academic director who is now president of The Drake Group for academic integrity in collegiate sport.

“If you look at their basic core principles, it’s all about academics, the experience, the integration of academics, and the education of the student is paramount,” Gurney said. “They seem to talk out of both sides of their mouths.”

The NCAA referred calls for comment to an online statement, which read in part:

The NCAA believes that the lawsuit misunderstands the NCAA’s role with respect to its member schools and ignores the myriad steps the NCAA has taken to assist student-athletes in being equipped to excel both in the classroom and on the playing field.

“This case is troubling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the law does not and has never required the NCAA to ensure that every student-athlete is actually taking full advantage of the academic and athletic opportunities provided to them,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer.

In its response to the lawsuit, it also likened its role to that of the American Bar Association or American Medical Association, and said that those entities are not sued every time a lawyer or doctor acts inappropriately.

‘Lost its meaning’–The scandal at UNC involved thousands of athletes who, over 18 years, were funneled into classes that never met, where advisers fudged grades and accepted plagiarism so that athletes who were falling behind in class could remain eligible to play sports.

Mary Willingham, the UNC whistleblower turned NCAA critic, has for years said that athletes across the country are accepted to colleges even though they’re academically underprepared and then pushed into classes where little work is required. The system of eligibility that the NCAA brags about, she says, is a sham.

“Why do we go through the trouble of compliance if we can’t legitimize that the courses are real and the education is real anyway? It makes no sense,” said Willingham, who recently wrote a book about the UNC scandal called “Cheated.” “If they can’t legitimize that the academics are real and take no responsibility for that, then why certify students semester after semester to play? It’s lost its meaning for me.”

The NCAA’s claim that it’s hands-off when it comes to athletics seems to be a direct contradiction of what the organization has been repeating for years, not just in the rhetoric on its website, but in speeches by its president, Mark Emmert, and in court defending itself from numerous lawsuits over paying athletes.

For example, before it lost a case filed by former UCLA player Ed O’Bannon, suing for the right of athletes to make money off their images and likenesses, the NCAA stood on the pillar of amateurism, insisting that college athletes are paid with an education.

That’s the defense the NCAA is now using in another class action filed by big-time sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler, seeking to make college sports a free market where athletes are paid salaries based on their value.

In response, the NCAA said that what sets college sports apart from pros is education: Consistent with “its commitment to amateurism, member institutions conduct their athletics programs for students who choose to participate in intercollegiate athletics as a part of their educational experience and in accordance with NCAA bylaws.”

Attorney Michael Hausfeld, who represented both O’Bannon and now the UNC athletes, said this:

“This startling inconsistency is unfortunately all too symptomatic of the NCAA’s shifting rhetoric and faltering commitment to its college athletes. NCAA President Mark Emmert has repeatedly proposed that ‘What we live for is the education of our athletes,’ but the NCAA’s record tells a far different story.”

But Rick Burton, professor of sport management at Syracuse University, said it’s not realistic to think that the NCAA would regulate every professor and every course an athlete might take at each university across the country.

“I understand, I think, where the NCAA is coming from. We would not let the NCAA come in and tell us how to run our chemistry department at Syracuse University,” he said.

“It sounds like someone is trying to say the NCAA should have been supervising that department at the University of North Carolina, and there’s no logic to that,” he said. “The people who are saying the NCAA should be held accountable for academics at every school are just looking for an opportunity to throw rocks at the NCAA.”

UNC, which was also sued, has admitted to the fraud, but also asked for a judge to throw out the case, saying the athletes waited too long — seven years — to sue and the “educational malpractice” theory doesn’t apply. UNC claims it is protected by state law

No health and safety enforcement–This is reminiscent of another NCAA reversal.

The NCAA, which was founded a century ago to protect athletes from “dangerous and exploitive athletic practices,” now says it does not enforce health and safety rules.

In fact, in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of a player who died in 2011, the NCAA wrote: “The NCAA denies that it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes.”

A CNN investigation found that the NCAA has failed to open investigations in several cases where safety rules allegedly were broken. It has also fallen behind in imposing rules for concussions — far behind even the NFL.

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, and a leading thorn in the NCAA’s side for decades, said this latest backpedaling from the NCAA leaves him wondering why the organization exists at all.

“There’s nothing left the NCAA can claim it does that is beneficial to college athletes or society. One has to wonder what does the NCAA do if it doesn’t protect players? If it doesn’t play a role in the education of college athletics? It begs the question of why does the NCAA exist — and why does it have a tax exemption.”

Suhey Directs Erickson to Tear Down Statue


Recent court depositions, and the discovery process for the Paterno estate’s lawsuit against the NCAA, show that the Paterno statue should have never been removed.

It therefore needs to be returned to its rightful place effective immediately.

Trustees Kenneth Frazier and Keith Masser were forced to admit under oath that they and their colleagues, as of Nov. 9, 2011, not only scapegoated Joe Paterno for public relations reasons, but then lied about this in March 2012 when they said they fired Paterno for “failure of leadership.” Masser’s deposition says, “The decision to remove Paterno had nothing to do with what he had known, what he hadn’t done.

It was based upon the distraction of having him on the sidelines would have caused the university and the current football team harm.”

Nobody who scapegoats any subordinate is qualified to hold any position of trust, and no organization can afford to tolerate liars in responsible positions. Discovery in the Paterno estate’s lawsuit, meanwhile, obtained an email in which ex-Trustee Paul Suhey directed former President Rodney Erickson to remove the statue to placate the now-disgraced NCAA.

“I don’t care if you have to bring your own bulldozer over and drag it to your farm, do it!” Suhey wrote, to which Erickson replied, “That’s precisely what I’m trying to do, Paul. Was on the phone earlier with Mark Emmert.”

As far as I can tell, Suhey had no authority as an individual trustee to give Erickson this directive, and Erickson had no right to obey it.

Ex-PSU President Files Defamation Suit Over Sandusky Report


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Former Penn State president Graham Spanier filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday that accuses ex-FBI director Louis Freeh of scapegoating him in Freeh’s scathing report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The long-promised lawsuit called the Freeh report “a public relations product” that faulted Spanier, then-football coach Joe Paterno and other school leaders in order to vindicate the board, which had hired Freeh to conduct the internal probe amid allegations concerning Sandusky, a former assistant coach.

The suit also accused the university of breach of contract.

“The Penn State Board of Trustees needed Freeh to assign blame for Sandusky’s behavior and to justify the hasty personnel decisions made in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal,” Spanier’s lawyer, Libby Locke, wrote in a press release.

By the time of the July 2012 report, the board had fired Paterno, gotten Spanier to resign and sent vice president Gary Schultz back into retirement, the lawsuit noted.

Spanier, Schultz and former athletic director Timothy Curley are still awaiting a criminal trial over their handling of complaints that Sandusky was molesting children.

Freeh also knew the NCAA expected him to target high-level school officials “to justify the NCAA’s highly dubious claim to have jurisdiction to punish Penn State for Sandusky’s actions,” the lawsuit said.

New Penn State President Eric Barron has pledged to review both the report and the source material, given the acrimony that has developed in its wake. Freeh’s report was issued shortly before a consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA that resulted in a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine and a temporary loss of football scholarships. The NCAA recently ended the bowl ban and restored the scholarships.

Freeh’s office did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment. A university spokesman said officials would have no comment until they can review the complaint.

Keith Oelbermann and His Antics


The Penn State faithful were up in arms following last week’s $13 million THON total and the stupid remarks made on Twitter by an ESPN personality.
The ESPN personality in question has apparently been less than kind in his previous comments about the Sandusky scandal and Penn State in general but particularly in the recent repealing of the sanctions and the return of the 112 wins.
After THON and the Penn State community’s amazing effort in the support of The Four Diamonds Fund, an organization that provides financial support for research and treatment of pediatric cancer, a 1982 graduate of Penn State sent a “tweet” to said ESPN personality with a “WE ARE” and included a link to a THON video.
His response was “Pitiful.”
The Twitter-sphere exploded with Penn Staters calling ESPN guy out on his disrespect for the university. He continued to fire back. Fast forward to the end of the story and ESPN comes out with an apology, the sportscaster issues his own lame apology and then ESPN announces that he will be suspended for five days (with pay). There is an on-line petition with a mounting number of signatures requesting that the employee be permanently canned from ESPN.
In the service of not enabling the attention addiction that seems to be the curse of celebrity, I refuse to even type his name.
Through social media and bad decisions, even a has-been celebrity or sports personality can turn up the wattage of the spotlight and make it last just a little bit longer.
The last time this same sportscaster made particularly stupid comments he was fired from his job and then eventually picked up by ESPN. This time he disparages a whole university including its students and alumni and gets a five day vacation with pay.
It’s really not much different than the toddler in the department store shopping cart that gets the toy after throwing a temper tantrum. We will see this behavior again.
Reinforcing bad decisions and attention seeking guarantees it will be repeated.
by Patty Kleban on March 02, 2015 6:15 AM

Penn State projected up to 84 scholarship players in 2015


James Franklin When Penn State was slammed with a significant reduction in scholarships in 2011 it was expected to take about a decade before Penn State could get back to full strength, if it ever did. Times have changed rather quickly for Penn State’s football program as the NCAA has scaled back and rescinded sanction terms following positive annual reviews from George Mitchell and ongoing legal battles. Now, on the eve of National Signing Day, Penn State is currently projected to have a roster with 84 scholarships filled in 2015.

This is the first full recruiting class Penn State has been able to attempt to fill since being hit with sanctions by the NCAA. The NCAA restored some scholarships in time for last season’s recruiting class to be put together, but this is the first 25-scholarship limit Penn State has had. It was filled today with new breaking Tuesday afternoon Penn State had flipped linebacker Kevin Givens from Pittsburgh to Penn State. He is Penn State’s 25th member of the Class of 2015, which includes three early enrollees this semester and a junior college transfer with junior eligibility.

With a full set of scholarships filled in the Class of 2015, Penn State is now back to a 84-scholarship roster. The work and planning done previously under Bill O’Brien seems to have paid off in this respect by helping to make this a possibility. Penn State will have 12 players with senior eligibility this season, 17 with junior eligibility and 16 with sophomore eligibility. Penn State had 15 players redshirted last season that will be eligible to play this year, bringing the total to 60 scholarship players returning in the fall.

Penn State may have filled all 84 scholarships allowed by the NCAA, but it is still going to be another year or two before Penn State is taking the field with a full active roster of scholarship players. Penn State will have 84 scholarship players, but how many of the incoming Class of 2015 players sit out with a redshirt this fall remains unknown. Roster management will continue to be key for James Franklin and his staff.

Penn State is locking down the second-ranked class in the Big Ten, trailing only defending national champion Ohio State.

Correction: This story previously claimed Penn State would have 85 scholarships. It has been edited to more accuarely detail the 84 scholarships on roster.

Penn State Board Has a Job to Do! NOW


cropped-penn-state.jpg

Now is the time for the board of trustees …

To demonstrate leadership and defend our great school.

To practice openness and transparency in deeds as well as words.

To be a body of inclusion rather than one of exclusion.

To recognize that trust is earned in two directions.

To correct Mark Emmert for his many misstatements that have harmed our school.

To invite Louis Freeh to Penn State so that the community can query him regarding his conclusions.

To invite former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh and former FBI profiler James Clemente to Penn State so that the community can query them regarding their assessment of the Freeh report.

To respond to former Jerry Sandusky prosecutor Frank Fina’s statement that he “found no evidence” that Joe Paterno covered up Sandusky’s crimes by publicly repudiating the conclusions of the Freeh report.

To put back the statue and wall in their rightful place outside of Beaver Stadium.

To work to ensure that we leave Penn State a better place than we found it.

To join our 600,000 alumni who never lost the “We” in “We are.”

If we are truly interested in real healing, then we should demonstrate the courage and leadership that our roles as trustees require in order to serve the best interests of our great university. And if the Penn State community did not distrust us, then …

To formally honor the 61 years of service that Joe Paterno gave to Penn State.

written by trustee Anthony Lubrano

editor note: NOW IS THE TIME.  WE WANT THE STATUE AND THE WALL BACK WHERE IT BELONGS!

Penn State BOT and Dave Joyner Reason O’Brien Left


After days of dancing back and forth, with everyone from Penn State’s fans to the trustees wondering if head football coach Bill O’Brien was going to stay or go, he finally ended the suspense: O’Brien announced he would be leaving State College after two seasons to coach the NFL’s Houston Texans.

At first glance, it’s an old story: An NFL offensive coordinator gets a chance to lead a legendary college program, then jumps back to the NFL when he’s offered the opportunity to become a head coach. But after conducting hundreds of interviews inside Penn State’s program to write my latest book Fourth and Long, and several articles, I can tell you it’s not that simple. Or, rather, it’s almost that simple — but it’s not what you think.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see O’Brien’s decision — made at the eleventh hour, after much hand-wringing — was based as much on the appeal of the Texans’ offer as it was the lack of leadership presented by Penn State.

Probably no one felt this more acutely than the players on the 2012 team, Penn State’s first after the dismissal and death of Joe Paterno.

“Who was stepping up and taking it?” 2012 senior Michael Zordich asked me. “We were. They never stood up for us. Not the president, not the AD. They were silent. Silent. Thanks. Who was standing up for us? O’Brien — and that’s it.”

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who was elected to the board as an alumnus in the summer of 2012, understands Zordich’s frustration. “From 1995 to 2011, until they accepted Graham Spanier’s resignation and fired Joe Paterno, those two were clearly the face of Penn State,” he told me. “Since their respective departures, no one has replaced them, and we’ve struggled to overcome that. New logos and slogans haven’t helped, either.”

‘It Lies With The Board’

Penn State’s problems start with its outdated 30-member Board of Trustees. While other universities elect or appoint their trustees, Penn State uses a bizarre hybrid to fill its Board. This includes the state secretaries of education, agriculture, conservation and natural resources; six appointees by the governor, nine elected by alumni, and six elected by Pennsylvania agricultural societies. It harkens back to the school’s founding as a land-grant college. Six additional trustees are selected by a committee representing business and industry.

Although the six business appointees, led by BNY Mellon president Karen Peetz, comprise only one-fifth of the board, they tend to have the most influence, and the nine elected alumni much less.

Consider three key decisions that were driven by just a handful of business appointees:

— On July 12, 2012, within hours of receiving the damning Freeh Report — which accused Penn State’s leaders of a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims” – a few business appointees officially accepted the report on behalf of Penn State. That decision, in turn, prompted the NCAA to accept the report in lieu of its own investigation, resulting in severe sanctions.

— Failing badly to select a permanent president in November 2013 (more on that later).

— Creating the $4.25 million per year salary for new football coach James Franklin, in early 2014.

The nine elected alumni trustees, in contrast, could count only one representative on one of those committees.

After NCAA President Mark Emmert delivered his famous quote about the “culture problem” with Penn State’s football program, in July of 2012, Lubrano, who had just been elected to the board as an alumnus, responded, “We do have a ‘culture’ problem. But it lies in the board of trustees.”

The Sandusky scandal has taken its toll on Penn State, as you’d expect. But right when the football team, at least, seemed poised to emerge from the crisis, the issues with Penn State’s leadership have persisted, manifest in their struggles to select a permanent president and to provide crucial support for a football program still in flux.

Hiring One Of Their Own

This brings us to the position of Athletic Director. After longtime AD Tim Curley stepped down in 2011, the process of replacing him has been similarly bumpy and unorthodox. The board quickly named one of its own, David Joyner, as the “Acting Director of Athletics.”

Joyner had been an all-American defensive lineman at Penn State in 1971, and went on to become an orthopedic surgeon. He was elected to PennState’s Board of Trustees in 2003, 2006, and 2009, taking one of the nine seats reserved for alums, voted on by alums.

Nonetheless, Joyner was an odd choice for athletic director. That Joyner had no experience working in an athletic department was a weakness Michigan, Notre Dame and Oregon had also overlooked in their searches, in favor of business experience. But what business experience Joyner had was not a ringing endorsement for his candidacy. In 2002, he founded a company which operated a chain of gyms called C-5 Fitness. In 2006, the company filed for bankruptcy.

“Some companies do go bankrupt, no matter what you do,” Joyner said to PennLive.com. “I’m certainly not a venture capitalist, but I’m told that successful venture capitalists fail 85 percent of the time.”

Messages to the Penn State Athletic Communications office to speak with Dr. Joyner (left in picture, with O’Brien and interim president Rod Erickson) for this story were not returned.

After Joyner took the job, trustee Ira Lubert, a real estate millionaire, arranged for the Joyners to stay in one of his homes in State College, and another in Hershey. Two months later, Penn State named Joyner the permanent athletic director.

The board’s decision to hire a fellow trustee attracted the attention of the Pennsylvania auditor general, who released a report in November 2012, stating it created “reasonable public perceptions of insider influence and conflicting interests.”

Penn State dismissed the AG’s concerns, but the players did not. After the 2011 team finished 9-3, without a permanent president, athletic director or head coach, the team captains called a players-only meeting to decide whether to accept the bid to the lowly TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. After a civil discussion, they decided if they represented Penn State’s values, they had to go.

All seemed settled — until Dr. Joyner addressed the team after their vote. According to over a dozen players present, he accused them of being “a bunch of children” for declining the bowl invitation, which prompted Gerald Hodges to stand up and demand Dr. Joyner show more respect. The two started walking toward each other, creating a commotion loud enough for assistant coach Larry Johnson Sr., waiting outside, to come into the room, hold Hodges, and literally escort him out.

Finally, when captain Devon Still told Joyner, “We already decided. We’re gonna go,” Joyner calmed down, and told the team they had their full support, but the players never bought it. After Joyner hired O’Brien, the players asked O’Brien to keep Joyner away from the team — essentially banning him from their sideline, their locker room and their team meetings — and Joyner obliged, not appearing before the team again until the 2012 senior banquet.

The Outsider

When Dr. Joyner courted Bill O’Brien after the 2011 season, he asked him to FedEx his resume and cover letter, then lost the envelope in the department mailroom for eight days until O’Brien called to make sure they’d received it. O’Brien was smart enough to ask about the possibility of the NCAA punishing the football program, but naïve enough to believe Joyner when he assured O’Brien the NCAA would steer clear.

On July 23, 2012, the NCAA leveled historically severe sanctions against the school for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, leaving Penn State’s football program to face a slow version of the death penalty. But O’Brien and a special class of seniors not only kept the team alive, they thrived, knocking off ranked teams en route to an 8-4 record.

Two days after Penn State finished the triumphant 2012 season by beating eventual Big Ten champion Wisconsin, I sat with Bill and Colleen O’Brien at their breakfast table. “We like it here,” Bill said. “She likes it here, and the kids do, too. We love this team, the families. I love the values here, and I believe in them.”

But as he was talking, his cell phone buzzed so often it almost fell off the edge of the table.

It wasn’t friends or well-wishers calling, but athletic directors from Boston College, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers. They all wanted to know one thing: What would it take to get O’Brien to jump?

The Monday after the football season ends, college and pro alike, is traditionally the day when the athletic director, the general manager, or the owner calls in the head coach to assess the season just past and to plan for the seasons ahead. But not at Penn State. At least, not in 2012.

While O’Brien’s phone was blowing up, Dave Joyner was on a hunting trip. It was the opening day of Pennsylvania’s deer season. When I asked O’Brien about this, he shrugged it off, but then-senior linebacker Mike Mauti did not.

“That enrages me,” Mauti told me, in December 2012. “Let’s lay it out there: He’s the reason we did all this. They hire anyone else, this doesn’t happen — and who knows where the program is? He’s it. If O-B leaves … it’s because they didn’t do their jobs and do what’s right.”

Nonetheless, O’Brien declined the overtures from other athletic directors and the NFL, and stayed put in State College. In the spring of 2013, Penn State bumped O’Brien’s pay to $3.2 million. To keep up with the never-ending arms race that is modern college football, O’Brien also received assurances from Joyner that he would increase the budget for assistant coaches’ salaries, recruiting and facilities face-lifts — the very things rivals Michigan and Ohio State already have.

O’Brien’s players followed up their inspirational 2012 season with an equally surprising 7-5 record this year. After the NCAA greatly reduced Penn State’s sanctions, and recruiting picked up accordingly, the program’s future suddenly looked much brighter.

New Year, Same Problems

But the school’s leadership, from the Board of Trustees to the athletic director, continued to stumble. After the Board set a meeting for November 1, 2013, to name SUNY Upstate Medical University president David Smith to replace interim president Rod Erickson, it canceled the meeting when Smith told one of the committee members he had received roughly $35,000 of unapproved income from a company that did business with the SUNY system. However, in a November 1 letter, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher informed Smith they had discovered the total was actually $349,295. Smith resigned, but there is a flap about his continuing to draw a paycheck from New York state.

After Penn State’s 2013 season, according to insiders familiar with the situation, Joyner failed to follow through on his promises to boost O’Brien’s budget for assistant coaches’ salaries, recruiting and facilities. At the 2013 senior banquet, one witness said, the tension between the two men was “palpable. You couldn’t ignore it.” After the event, Dr. Joyner waited more than a week to respond to O’Brien’s requests to follow up on his promises. (When I asked O’Brien about these accounts, he did not deny their accuracy.)

Given this, when the NFL’s siren song resumed, O’Brien was ready to listen. The Houston Texans offered him the most appealing package: A great contract, a loaded roster, and strong, supportive leadership.

O’Brien based his decision partly on his long-held desire to become a head coach in the NFL, and the Texans’ attractive offer. But it wasn’t simply about money. It wasn’t State College, the Penn State fans or the players, either.

When I reached him last week, he said, “I want to be clear: I love the Penn State fans and always will. They were incredibly supportive, and the players were great. I love those guys. I just felt that this was the best move for me and my family.”

Joyner responded to O’Brien’s departure faster than he’d responded to O’Brien’s phone calls. He lured former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin to State College for $4.25 million a year — a third more than O’Brien received his second season. Joyner was also willing to overlook the fact that four of Franklin’s players were charged in June for raping an unconscious 21-year old woman in a dormitory, and a fifth player who pled guilty to covering it up.

More By
John U. Bacon.

It is hard not to conclude the Texans wanted O’Brien more than Joyner did, and that Joyner was more eager to hire Franklin than keep O’Brien.

Reached this week, Mauti said of O’Brien’s departure, “It doesn’t shock me one bit, unfortunately. It didn’t take a genius to see it coming. You always try to leave your program better than you found it. That’s what O-B did. He gave us all he had, and that’s why I’ll always respect him. I wish him nothing but the best.”

O’Brien’s career as an NFL head coach has just started. At Penn State, however, instead of basking in the incredible good fortune of finding the right guy during a desperate time, the same school that needed only two head coaches for 62 seasons is now welcoming its second coach in two years.

The years ahead will tell us who made the best decisions. But it’s a safe bet that Penn State University will not return to its former heights until it finally addresses its fundamental problem: the lack of strong leadership.

— John U. Bacon 

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.

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