Posted on: November 8, 2011 7:27 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 7:41 pm

Joe Paterno, hero

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- More than 1,000 Penn State students gave Joe Paterno the hero treatment on Tuesday night, gathering outside his house to wave supportive signs and chant his name -- and roaring in glee when he stepped outside to thank them.

"You've been great, just great," Paterno said softly, comments that couldn't have been heard by more than 25 people.

Paterno said something else that surely wasn't heard by most of the crowd, which is a shame:

"The victims," Paterno said. "Say prayers for them."

That message didn't get to the outer edges, to people who weren't there to hear deep thoughts. They were there to touch or just glimpse the winningest coach in Division I history -- who is also one of the handful of Penn State officials who didn't call the police in 2002 after learning that an eyewitness on his coaching staff had accused former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky of sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower on campus.

One Penn State fan outside Paterno's house waved a sign that read, "Two of my favorite J's: Jesus and Joe Paterno."

This scandal has turned campus into Bizarro World, a place where up is down and wrong is right and Joe Paterno is serenaded by students who were roughly the same age, in 2002, as Sandusky's alleged shower victim.

Meanwhile, off campus, people are horrified. It seems to be the dominant opinion elsewhere that Paterno, like the handful of other Penn State officials with knowledge of the alleged assault -- the grad assistant who saw it, the athletics director who was told about it -- concerned themselves only with the minimum legal standards in 2002. The moral minimum would have been to call the police. Nobody did.

I had that very argument Tuesday night with a Penn State student, who apparently recognized me as I stood on Paterno's lawn and asked me, accusingly, "Don't you hate Paterno?"

Me: I don't hate him. But I think he should be fired.

Her: Why?

Me: Because there are eight [alleged] victims that we know about, and who knows how many more, and Paterno had the chance to stop it in 2002 and he didn't.

Her: Oh my god! He did what he was supposed to do! He told his boss!

Me: That was the bare minimum, and if you think that's great, I don't know what to tell you.

Her: I don't think it's great, I just think ... put it this way: Would you have called the police? Really? Would you?

Me: Of course. It's not even a question.

And there our conversation ended. We'd both heard enough, and we'd heard nothing. She wasn't listening to me, and I wasn't listening to her. But I was still listening to the crowd, which was chanting even as it was dispersed from Paterno's yard by police:

"We want Joe!"

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.

"We want Joe!"

After that chant died down, another started. It was a chant that showed the priorities of the 1,000 students who gathered outside the house of one of the few men on the planet who had the ability to stop an alleged pedophile in 2002 ... but didn't do it. Paterno told his boss, yes, but he didn't tell the police, even after it was clear that nobody else was going to tell the police. An alleged pedophile roamed State College, Pa., for another nine years. But that wasn't on the minds of the 1,000 people on Paterno's lawn Tuesday night.

This was:

"Beat Nebraska!"

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.

"Beat Nebraska!"

Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:13 pm

Who is Scott Paterno? A guy who won't shut up

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The more Scott Paterno talks, the worse it looks for his father. And here he goes, talking some more.

"Nobody has asked Joe to step down," Scott said outside his father's house on Tuesday, where about 75 reporters were waiting for the chance to speak with the coach as he left for practice. "No more comment, guys."

Scott Paterno has become a major player in this story, if only because he's the mouth that won't stop flapping. Before this Jerry Sandusky scandal, which will bring down Joe Paterno one way or another, I didn't know about Scott Paterno. Didn't know he was a lawyer. Didn't know he had a goatee. Didn't know he existed.

Now, you can't miss him. He's everywhere, and if you can't find him in person, find him on-line.

"Follow me on Twitter," Scott Paterno told the media Tuesday outside his father's house.

And I'm not making that up. Joe Paterno's son really did use this moment to ask the media -- under the guise of gathering information -- to "follow me on Twitter." He sounded like some punk begging for attention.

Which he is, come to think of it. But I'm glad someone is willing to seek attention, after the school pulled the plug on Joe Paterno's weekly press conference Tuesday when it finally dawned on someone in the administration that this scandal is sort of a big deal. So the press conference was canceled. More than 200 reporters went sent away from Beaver Stadium, and they were sent away unhappy.

"He had in fact wanted to answer questions at the press conference," Scott Paterno told reporters outside his father's house on Tuesday. "I have nothing more to say."

He has said enough, believe me. Scott Paterno is the one who suggested -- on Twitter, follow him! -- that his father would give an off-campus press conference after the campus event was canceled. That sent almost 100 people to Paterno's house Tuesday, including 20 or so students who were there just ... because.

Eventually Joe Paterno popped out, walked to his car and said a few lines, most notably these: "I know you guys have a lot of questions. I'm trying to answer them today."

When? Where? He didn't say. He climbed into his car, after nearly tripping over someone's foot, and sped away.

Scott Paterno stayed to handle the publicity, because that's what he does. He handles publicity. He doesn't handle it adroitly, but that's not my problem. Almost everything Scott Paterno has said in the last few days has shown a severe disconnect between the Paterno side and the Penn State side. They are not on the same page here, but we only know that because of Scott Paterno. He has said his father would meet the media at his regular press conference, but the school shut down the press conference. He has said his father would meet the media off-campus, then didn't make it happen. Probably because the school caught wind of it and urged for something resembling silence.

The school is very clearly trying to find a way to separate itself from Joe Paterno, but Scott says that's not the case.

"Status quo. Joe will coach Saturday," he told reporters outside his father's house Tuesday. "I have no other comment."

Scott Paterno is the son who helped Joe craft that ill-conceived statement over the weekend, where Joe Paterno claimed to have been "fooled" by Jerry Sandusky, even though Joe Paterno himself is the one who reported Sandusky's alleged molestation of a boy in 2002 to Penn State athletics director Tim Curley.

That statement also played the family card -- "Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people ..." -- and in general made a mess of Paterno's involvement in the case. Well done? Not close, but that's Scott Paterno. He doesn't know what he's doing.

"Guys, I have to go. I have nothing more to say," he told reporters outside his father's house Tuesday, after his father had left for practice. Scott Paterno said that as he walked toward the front door.

And then Scott Paterno did the weirdest thing. He stopped walking toward the house, turned and faced the reporters.

"No comment," he said, but he didn't leave. He didn't move. And he talked for about three more minutes. The attention is a flame. Scott Paterno is the moth.

And his father's career is being burned to a crisp.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:17 pm

Little Bear Bryant, up to his old tricks

He's doing it again, Little Bear Bryant, the son of The Man. He's standing in the way of, if not outright blocking, the progress of the football program at UAB.

Five years ago I wrote this when Little Bear did that, helping the Alabama System Board of Trustees block UAB from hiring its first choice, and then its second choice, for football coach.

Now, Bryant and his BOT -- Little Bear serves as president pro tempore, a Latin term for "over my dead body" -- have stopped UAB from building an on-campus football stadium. Actually, the Little Bear-run BOT (LBRBOT) has done something more galling than that.

The LBRBOT has stopped UAB from even discussing the concept.

When you're stopping a school from even talking about improving its football program, in a day and age when Division I football generates millions upon millions of dollars, you've done something very strange. And people in Alabama can't make sense of the decision by the LBRBOT.

Well, I can.

I invite you, again, to read my story from 2006. Change a few nouns -- "coach" becomes "stadium" -- and you've pretty much got it.

It's like that Tebow thread that went nuts this week:


Category: NCAAF
Tags: UAB
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:14 pm

Big East reduced to WVU, Potsie and Ralph Malph

As if it hasn't jumped the shark already ... if the BCS doesn't take away the automatic bid from the Big East for the 2012 season, I'd ask the following:

Who's running the BCS? Arthur Fonzarelli?

Listen, I live in Cincinnati and don't enjoy the watering down of my own backyard football program, but facts are facts. And the fact is, the Big East probably didn't deserve a BCS bid at full strength -- and the Big East definitely won't deserve a BCS bid next year, barring something crazy like Notre Dame (or Texas) joining.

And since the Big East is looking instead at schools like East Carolina, Central Florida and Memphis ... well, there you have it. This is not a BCS league.

This is not even the Mountain West.

No offense to you, Mountain West.

And no offense to you, either, West Virginia. The Mountaineers deserve better than to be in such a weakened league, but that's where West Virginia is. Surrounded by mediocre, at best, football schools. And West Virginia plus a whole host of mediocre football schools does not equal a BCS bid.

I mean, that's not an even an opinion.

That's a fact.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: BCS, Big East, Fonzie
Posted on: September 24, 2011 3:28 pm

Notre Dame wins, crisis averted

PITTSBURGH -- Tommy Rees wasn't good for long, but he was good enough -- for long enough -- to save Notre Dame on Saturday against Pittsburgh.

Rees, who has replaced Dayne Crist as the Irish's starting quarterback, was mostly awful on Saturday but summoned a perfect drive in the fourth quarter -- going 8-for-8, and also connecting on the two-point conversion after his touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert -- to rally Notre Dame past Pittsburgh 15-12.

Other than that drive, the Notre Dame offense was one play, a 79-yard burst off tackle by short-yardage back (!) Jonas Gray for a 7-3 Irish lead early in the second quarter.

Other than that drive, Rees was unremarkable. He was 15-for-32 for 137 yards and two turnovers -- an interception and a fumble. Rees has committed nine turnovers in four games, and had he not led that late TD drive, this week would have been full of talk of a quarterback controversy in South Bend, not to mention a 1-3 season going nowhere in the second year under Brian Kelly. Who would have been described, probably, as "embattled."

Instead, a 2-2 start for the Irish ought to become 4-2 after games with Purdue and Air Force, and after that who knows? A hot team is a confident team is a dangerous team.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:32 am

And John Swofford's the snob from Pretty in Pink

So I just read this conference realignment take from wonderful Detroit Free-Press columnist Michael Rosenberg, and it made me nostalgic. For high school. Because that's what conference realignment reminds me of -- high school.

The passage from Rosenberg that struck me hardest was this one:

"Will a 14-team ACC or SEC be stronger, or better, than the 12-team leagues they have now? The ACC, for example, is a middling BCS football league and premier basketball league. Adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh makes the ACC ... a middling BCS football league and premier basketball league. The revenue pie will get bigger, but it will get cut into 14 slices instead of 12. What the ACC really gets is protection. At 14 teams, it feels safer. There is comfort in numbers."

At 14 teams, it feels safer. There is comfort in numbers.

Just like in high school. With that in mind, here are the cliques the leagues represent:

The jocks: The SEC. Duh. Other than Vanderbilt, these schools are in it to win it. There are some nice academic schools in the mix, including (ahem) Florida and Texas A&M, but by and large this conference is here to destroy you on the football field, not in the debate class.

The geeks: The Big Ten. And that's a compliment, people. The Big Ten has the best academics, on a whole, in the BCS. That's an awesome place to be. This is still high school college, you know.

The snobs: The ACC. Epitomized by penny-loafered commissioner John Swofford, this league walks around with its nose in the air because it thinks it's better than everyone else. And in some ways, it is. Everyone else fantasizes from time to time about hanging with the snobs, if only so the snobs will stop snickering at them behind their back. High school is full of weakness, remember. The ACC preys on that weakness.

The cool kids: The Pac-10. They're way out West where the surf's up and the mountains beckon. They're OK at sports. They're OK at academics. They're kind of good at everything, but not great at anything, but man are they cool.

The misfits: The Big East. Big schools. Private schools. Catholic schools. College towns, monster cities. Football, no football. These guys don't fit in with anyone else, so they crowd around the same lunch table and make awkward conversation among themselves.

The losers: The Big 12. Sorry, guys, but that's you. It's Texas and everyone else. There's no pride here, just a bunch of folks hanging around Texas for the protection Texas offers. Which makes Texas the biggest loser of all, seeing how Texas doesn't have the guts to strike out on its own. Instead, it surrounds itself with lackeys who will carry its books and tell the Longhorns how pretty they are. The other cliques think, "Sure, Texas is pretty. But what a lousy personality."

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 20, 2011 6:33 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 9:34 am

Isn't it ironic ... don't you think?

You have to admire the timing, the gall, the pumpkin-sized testicles required to do what Oklahoma did on Monday.

On the same day Oklahoma's Board of Regents gave the school president the authority to move the Sooners to the Pac-12, the Regents also gave football coach Bob Stoops a raise that will move his annual salary past the $5 million mark.

As if the two aren't related.

They're completely related, since conference realignment is nothing but a money grab by schools (engineered by ESPN ... and other networks that include my own, sigh) meant to pay the whopping cost of running a football program. Why does it cost so much to run a football program? The facilities, for one.

And the coach's salary, for two.

A coach's salary is roughly 10 times higher today than it was 15 years ago, and think about that for a minute. That's inflation on steroids on HGH with a horse urine cocktail for good measure. That's insane, as is the arms war between schools to build the biggest, gaudiest, most ridiculous football palace -- stadium or weight room -- in the country.

But how does a school pay for that? For one, it raises the cost of tuition for you or for your kids. For another, it jumps from the Southwest Conference Big 8 to the Big 12 to the Pac-48, chasing ESPN like a junkie chases a dealer.

And then it has the oafishness to announce that it has done both on the same day.

Well done, Oklahoma Board of Regents. Just another reminder that the people running our universities are the dumbest smart people on the planet.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 16, 2011 6:36 am

Schlichter is down, and he's not getting up

I don't say this as a literal statement, but as a metaphor, as hyperbole to make a point that I don't know how else to make:

Maybe a guy like Art Schlichter shouldn't be simply locked up for 10 more years, or even for life. Maybe a guy like that should just be put down, like a rabid dog, a broken-down horse or any other creature that has a fatal problem that simply isn't -- won't -- get better.

That wasn't literal, but I'm at my wit's end with Schlichter -- and he hasn't done anything to me. But I've been reading about the guy for 25 years, about his gambling issues, his gambling addiction, a problem that doesn't just bring him down. It brings down people around him, the people he uses his charm and grace to swindle out of their retirement funds so he can pay off old debts and rack up new ones.

Art Schlichter, the former Ohio State superstar, the former No. 4 overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, has a problem that isn't getting better, and it's ruining the people around him. He already has spent 12 years in prison, and this week he was sentenced to 10 more. If he's still alive when he gets out, he'll swindle more money from more innocent victims before he's caught and returned to the only place where he can't do any more damage to society.

Well, I can think of one more place where he couldn't do any more damage to society. And it wouldn't cost taxpayers a penny.

But that's not a literal statement. That's hyperbole, to make a point.

I think.

Category: NCAAF
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