Sunday, September 1, 2013

Penn State Football: Orange Ex'Cused as the Penn State Football Nation Shows Some Love

It wasn't always pretty, and it came down to the final minute or so, but Penn State got the job done, beating Syracuse 23-17.  And so the second season under Coach Bill O'Brien gets off to a roaring start, under the shaky (at times) leadership of a true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg who is still learning the game but obviously has great potential.  At the end of the game, O'Brien relied on the defense to secure the win, not daring to risk another offensive turnover in a game that had plenty of ups and downs for both teams.

This was a most unusual game for me and especially for my husband Terry.  We weren't actually there.  For the first time since September 1990 my husband Terry was not able to make a Penn State game in person, and the last game I missed was September 2001, a game in Iowa City that Terry went to but I stayed home due to a sick animal.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Great Retrospective on the 2012 Penn State Football Season

Yesterday, Penn State sports historian and author Lou Prato stopped by our house to visit Terry.  It was a great visit, and we spent time discussing our separate journeys to becoming devoted Penn State football fans.  Lou, with his years of experience as a journalist and in broadcast news, has tons of stories not only about his work with Penn State sports, but his coverage of other teams like Ohio State and Michigan.  Hilarious.

Lou learned that our story is different than a lot of Penn State fans.  Our devotion to Penn State had nothing to do with attending school here, and so Terry told him about how he evolved from Ohio State to Missouri to Penn State.  And I told him about my complete lack of devotion to football before I met Terry.   Also as I will tell my students tomorrow when classes begin, the reason I'm here teaching at Penn State's Smeal College of Business is due to Penn State football.  It's not the other way around.

One of Lou's tasks yesterday was to autograph his new book, entitled, "We Are Penn State:  The Remarkable Journey of the 2012 Nittany Lions".   You can purchase it here.  It's a very good read.  I finished it in a day.  Its hard to put down once you get started.

While Lou certainly has a point of view about what happened to Penn State as a result of the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal, especially the damages done to the football team and the Penn State brand by the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions, he does not dwell too long on those issues in the book.  He has written about those topics elsewhere, such as in his columns in Blue White Illustrated.

Rather, this book is almost entirely about the 2012 team who stayed when the NCAA sanctions said they could leave at any time without penalty.  It's about this remarkable group of football players whose emotional leaders were seniors Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich, and their brand new coach, Bill O'Brien, and how they kept Penn State football alive and helped us all smile again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Penn State Football: "Life Comes At You Fast", and Sometimes It Isn't Pretty

It is with a great deal of sadness that I announce that as of this coming football season, the attendance streaks at Penn State football games for my husband Terry and myself will end.  For Terry, it was 282 games in a row.  The last game he missed was the Penn State - USC game in Los Angeles in 1990.  For me, it was 146 games in a row.  The last game I missed was the Penn State - Iowa game in 2001 in Iowa City.  The games we attended were anywhere in the country:  home, away, and bowl games.

Somehow, none of that matters now.  It's just a game, after all.  Right???

Well, maybe.

There was a sign I saw recently in a medical office:  "Life is just a game.  Football is serious business."  For us, it certainly has been that way.  It dominated our lives each fall, and, well, I expect there to be a big hole now.

Unfortunately, I know how it will be filled, and finding time to tend to what needs to be done over the coming months will be a real challenge.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Penn State Football: Is This The Feeding Frenzy the NCAA Wished For?

Is this what the NCAA intended last year when, as part of the NCAA sanctions announced a year ago, they reduced scholarships for Penn State football by 20 scholarships per year for four years, and they allowed current Penn State football players to leave for other schools without penalty?

Fortunately many of the schools represented here in this mascot collection exercised restraint last summer on recruiting current PSU football players, and the one school that did not, Illinois, does not have a mascot so is not in these photos.  Chief Illiniwek, now gone, was never a mascot.  He was a spirit, I was told when I tried to acquire one the first time Penn State played Illinois in Champaign.

 Photos by Carolyn M. Todd.  All Rights Reserved.

Sure looks like the NCAA wanted a recruiting picnic full of mayhem that would cripple if not destroy Penn State forever.   A feeding frenzy of sorts.

And even if none of these schools pictured here directly tried to destroy Penn State, they are in fact represented on the NCAA Board and Executive Committee that discussed, approved and authorized the sanctions announced by Dr. Mark Emmert on the basis of a management advisory opinion piece called the Freeh Report rather than follow its own investigation rules.

Fortunately, few players transferred, thanks to the quick thinking leadership of the 2012 football team senior leaders, and the fact that the new coaching staff at Penn State, led by Coach Bill O'Brien, had earned the team's respect.

However, with 80 scholarships gone over the next four years, I can't help but think that Penn State's ability to be competitive over time, even with the most brilliant coaching staff around, will be crippled.

The feeding frenzy might not be so dramatic as it was last summer, but if nothing is done about these draconian scholarship reductions, sanctions that are particularly punitive to current students and players who had nothing to do with Sandusky's criminal behavior, it will be felt over time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Penn State Football: On Losing Your Voice When It Comes to Sandusky

Media critic John Ziegler had it right in his newly published online book, "The Betrayal of Joe Paterno", which I recommend that you access here at his website  In Chapter 5, entitled "The Firing", Ziegler describes the late night decision of the Board of Trustees to fire Joe Paterno via cell phone at 10 p.m., and then the ensuing "riot" downtown after it became known.

This riot of a few thousand people who were downtown when they heard the news consisted of a trash can fire and the toppling of a news van that created serious damage to the van.  But because all the national media were present, the images became something much more like a full scale riot in the minds of the public.

Never mind that five times as many students turned out two days later for a candlelight vigil on the lawn of Old Main to pray for victims of child abuse, and students and alumni in the next several weeks also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for child abuse prevention causes at that Saturday's game and beyond.   That didn't get nearly the publicity or the press images.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Penn State Football: Will Bob Costas Create New Discussion on Sandusky Case?

Tomorrow night, on Wednesday May 29 sportscaster Bob Costas will air a long-awaited discussion about the Sandusky scandal.  He has been rumored to have second thoughts after the Paterno family commissioned a report authored by former US Attorney General Richard Thornburgh regarding the Freeh Report's inadequacies.

According to ESPN:  "In addition to Thornburgh, former FBI supervisory special agent and former state prosecutor James Clemente, and Dr. Fred Berlin, a treating physician, psychiatrist, psychologist and expert in sexual disorders and pedophilia at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine, contributed independent evaluations of the Freeh Report."   The report was entitled "The Rush To Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno."

According to NBC's Vice President of Communications Adam Freifeld, “(The Freeh Report) will be the focus of Costas Tonight tomorrow at 11pm ET following hockey on NBCSN.”

Is this good news or bad news for Penn State fans waiting to hear some positive news about the role of Joe Paterno in this scandal?  It remains to be seen what Costas will say and what he will conclude.
One has to ask about the timing of this broadcast.  The show is not exactly prime time coverage!

Those of us who have lived through this saga remember all too well how overly-consuming the media coverage was in November of 2011.  Prime time coverage was not a problem when it came to media suggestions that former Penn State head coach and college football icon Joe Paterno was somehow at fault for not stopping Sandusky's crimes.

As to any effort at vindication, it appears to me that the media has given such news second fiddle at best.

Here is what John Ziegler, independent documentary film maker and creator of the website has to say:

"Having spoken to Bob Costas twice about the facts of the case and the nature of the show he might do on this, I am confident that he will take a fair and objective second look at the facts here. Unfortunately, he will not be taking an advocacy role here and the size of that audience at the time with limited time to promote won't be ideal."

Bob Costas' show will air on NBCSC immediately after the hockey program is concluded.  That is anticipated to be about 11 p.m. EST on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Penn State Football: It's About That Culture Thing

Why did Louis Freeh determine that Penn State had a so-called "football culture"? 

In his report, Freeh states the following key finding:

"In the Fall of 2000, a University janitor observed Sandusky sexually assault a young boy in the East Area Locker Building and advised co-workers of what he saw.  Also that evening, another janitor saw two pairs of feet in the same shower, and then saw Sandusky and a young boy leaving the locker room holding hands.  Fearing that they would be fired for what they saw, neither janitor reported the incidents to university officials, law enforcement, or child protective agencies."

Later in his report, Freeh describes an interview with one of the janitors involved:  "Janitor B explained to the Special Investigative Counsel that reporting the incident 'would have been like going against the President of the United States in my eyes.' 'I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone.'  He explained, 'football runs this University,' and said the University would have closed ranks to protect the football program at all costs."

And so according to Freeh, even though a more senior janitor discussed with these two janitors how to report what they saw, the two janitors involved decided that because they were fearful of losing their jobs, they would not report a tremendously awful crime.  Or at least that's what they told Freeh twelve years after it happened.