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December 21, 2012

Johnny Manziel Can Afford Courtside Seats, But it Shouldn’t Be an Issue

At least Manziel is managing to find one way to benefit from his talent.

Tonight, Heisman Award-winning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was spotted by TNT sitting courtside in Dallas to see the Miami Heat:

“How does a college kid get courtside seats to a Mavs game? Those are expensive seats,” Steve Kerr said gravely, wondering how such a good kid went bad as if Manziel had been caught stealing laptops.

Continue reading Johnny Manziel Can Afford Courtside Seats,…

November 5, 2012

I Went There: Alabama @ LSU in Baton Rouge

This past June, I read Dixeland Delight, a book by Clay Travis in which he traveled to every SEC stadium in one season. As I turned the pages, I realized three things:

1) I had to go to travel to my first SEC game this season. (I’ve been to three bowl games where Wisconsin played SEC teams – Auburn, Arkansas, and Tennessee, but I wanted to see an intra SEC matchup in its natural habitat.)

2) I had to go to a night game at LSU.

3) That game had to be against Alabama.

Everything about the experience surpassed my very lofty expectations.

The Tailgate

As I was boarding my Friday flight from Chicago to New Orleans, the airport television showed clips of diametrically opposite Obama and Romney responses to the exact same data set in that day’s jobs report. I laughed about it and made some joke with the two people in front of me in line. We started talking, I told them that I was headed down South to see Bama-LSU, and my new friend Dennis said that he was also going to the game and invited me to his tailgate where they would be roasting a pig and cooking a full cauldron of jambalaya. Yes please.

On Saturday, my dad and I got to Baton Rouge at about 2:00, found free parking about two miles away from Tiger Stadium, and made the hike. About a half-mile away from the stadium, parking lots full of tents started popping up. The volume and breadth of these tailgates was staggering. There must have been 5,000 tents. Everybody went all out. Full spread. The works, really. Everywhere you looked, somebody was grilling or smoking something. For the next five hours, the smell of bold flavors wafted through the air.

At about 3:00 pm, we found Dennis’ tailgate in Touchdown Village, one of several parking lots FULL of RVs. (Dennis had spot #161 and the lot extended much further.) “How do this many people even own RVs?” I asked.

“They give them to us when we graduate.”

The first thing we saw?

Continue reading I Went There: Alabama @ LSU…

October 29, 2012

In Aggregate, Wisconsin Students are Bad Football Fans

Let me preface this column: this generalization of course does not apply to every individual Wisconsin student. There are a lot of die hard fans that actually arrive on time for games, are more locked in on the football game than trying to start the wave, and don’t leave after Jump Around. These people be as upset about it as I am: our student section is embarrassing.

It’s one thing to show up late and leave early for an 11 AM game against Cupcake U on September 7th. It’s another for the student section to be half-empty approaching the second quarter of a 2:30 Michigan State game in late October. It’s an eyesore on TV, hurts our home field advantage, and is an affront to the widely-shared-in-social-media notion that Madison is the best college sports town in America.

Continue reading In Aggregate, Wisconsin Students are Bad…

August 14, 2012

Penn State in Danger of Losing Accredidation

Nate Minks of reports:

Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits degree-granting colleges in the region, issues a warning when an institution is not in compliance with government policies and the university’s governing body responsibility for quality and integrity. It is requiring the university to submit a report on issues like governance and financial stability by Sept. 30.

“It is critical to emphasize that Middle States does not issue a warning unless the commission believes that an institution has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period and then sustain itself to stay in compliance,” Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs, said in a press release. “This certainly is true for Penn State. We’re confident that our monitoring report and the site visit will confirm this to the commission.”

What exactly is this supposed to mean?

“I understand all of the facts that emerged from the Jerry Sandusky investigation and still plan to attend Penn State for its academic pedigree. That is all coming into question now because the prestigious Middle States Commission on Higher Education is threatening to pull Penn State’s accredidation. Looks like I have to attend the Wilkes-Barre Scranton campus now!” – something an 18-year old would never say.

Penn State’s football program faced “unprecedented” sanctions in the form of scholarship losses and four years of bowl ineligibility while the university was fined $60 million. When you add in the civil lawsuits that are assuredly coming, the school will end up doling out hundreds of millions of dollars. Joe Paterno’s reputation, which was pristine ten months ago, is irrevocably tarnished to all but a delusional faction of cult worshippers. None of this is unjust. I’ve been as vocal a critic of the Penn State administration as anybody (see here, here, and here), but at some point people need to stop piling on and let the university put its best foot forward.

Some commission that nobody has ever heard of’s pulling the university’s accredidation is a grandstanding move that does absolutely nothing for the victims. But now I guess we know the Middle States Commission for Higher Education exists.

July 23, 2012

NCAA Penn State Sanctions: Probably Right Outcome, DEFINITELY Wrong Process

At this point, anyone who is rational understands that Penn State leadership conspired to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes and that both the football program and broader institution deserve weighty sanctions for their egregious inhumanity. Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert acted with “unprecedented” authority and delivered just that: Penn State received a 4-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine, facing the reduction of 10 scholarships a year while current recruits and players are free to transfer to other schools without the standard 1-year wait. Penn State’s wins from 1998-2011 are vacated. (While the vacating of wins is normally a hollow gesture–the NCAA, unlike the Men in Black, can not erase our memory–this removes Joe Paterno’s all-time wins record and takes him all the way out of the top 10.)

Though stiff, these penalties are warranted. In fact, that Penn State agreed in advance not to appeal implies that it worked in concert with the NCAA to self-impose them. While many people are saying that this is worse than the “death penalty,” it’s really not. It will keep Penn State out of legitimate national championship contention for six or seven years but with the fertile Pennsylvania recruiting base and the right people in charge the program could return to prominence within a decade. $60 million sounds like an outrageous amount of money but Penn State has a $1.83 billion endowment. (The impending civil suits, though, will make more than a 3% dent in that lofty figure.) So Penn State is getting stiffly–but not irrevocably–punished from all this.

What’s wrong with that?

The process.

In taking unprecedented measures to swiftly and unilaterally impose sanctions on Penn State, the NCAA establishes the precedence for future swift and unilateral action. There are few institutions in America less deserving of the public trust to act in this manner. As we’ve seen time and again, the NCAA is a cartel whose primary purpose is to maximize personal wealth and status for its stakeholders–coaches, athletics directors, and bowl presidents to name a few. It only acts in the best interest of its student athletes and/or the overall public if its actions happen to also be in the best interest of these shareholders.

There are hundreds to choose from but here are a few examples of why it might not be best for the NCAA to act with sweeping authority going forward:

Via NYtimes: Its recent absurd sanctions on Cal Tech, where certain sports were given a one-year postseason ban and the school was put on three years’ probation:

The N.C.A.A. determined that a total of 30 Caltech athletes on 12 teams practiced or played in games while academically ineligible from the 2007-08 to 2010-11 academic years. But most of the infractions, which were discovered and reported by Athletic Director Betsy Mitchell in 2011, were the result of Caltech’s unusual class registration system.

During the first three weeks of each trimester, students at Caltech, the academically rigorous college in Pasadena, take part in a process known as shopping, in which they are allowed to essentially sample classes before being required to register for them. Rod Kiewiet, Caltech’s dean of undergraduate students, said many students stayed in these classes for the entire term, but they, like so many college students, sometimes procrastinated.

“A very large number of them have already picked out their classes, and they’re going to the classes,” Kiewiet said. “They just don’t get registered until the deadline.”

If students are not officially registered for enough classes during this three-week period, they can be considered part-time students, and part-time students are ineligible to compete in N.C.A.A. events.

Via SI: The tale of Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker, who expensed $1,241 at a strip club amongst other ridiculous expenditures:

The Fiesta Bowl had covered $13,086 in expenses connected with one employee’s wedding in Kansas City. Junker bestowed on others such gifts as iPads, gift cards and, most bizarre, bullion. He purchased (and billed to the bowl) some $22,000 worth of gold and silver coins.

This is not a good day for the BCS. The Sugar and Orange Bowls have also recently come under withering criticism for the excessive compensation of executives and extravagant expenditures. Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan’s 2009 income of $645,386 was just 40K or so shy of Junker’s. Last June, according to a complaint filed by a committee called Playoff PAC, the Orange Bowl treated its executives and college athletic directors to “Summer Splash,” a four-day Royal Caribbean cruise featuring several stops in the Bahamas … but no business meetings. (Spokespeople for each of the bowls deny any impropriety.)

Via The Nation: The persecution of Jamar Samuels, who had to miss his final Kansas State basketball game as a player for allegedly accepting $200 from his former AAU coach so he could buy groceries for his mother:

2. Jamar Samuels’s suspension led to the following headline that simply says it all: “Jamar Samuels Ruled Ineligible For Trying To Feed His Family.” His former coach, Curtis Malone, admitted after the suspension that he had given him $200 so Samuels could buy groceries for his mother. “Yeah, I did,” he said. “It’s the same way when he played [for me] on road trips. When he didn’t have money to eat, he ate.” He later told, that he didn’t know that he was doing anything wrong. “If I knew it and wanted to hide it, I would have done it differently. The kid’s family doesn’t have anything and he called me for money to eat.” Neither Malone nor Samuels thought they were doing anything wrong. Malone had known Samuels’s mother for years and they live in a situation where poverty literally means not knowing how you will find food for the week.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, meanwhile, was paid at a rate of almost $1.6 million per year in 2010.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Penn State fallout is the proclivity for those with absolute power to abuse it and act with impunity and without accountability. Joe Paterno was supposed to be a benign dictator. Does anyone have such delusions about the NCAA?

While the Freeh Report’s facts and conclusions have not been disputed by any credible sources (Graham Spanier and the Paterno family of course do not qualify as such), it was a private, for-profit investigation that ultimately absolved its sponsor, the Penn State Board of Trustees, of wrongdoing except for its lack of appropriate oversight. Accepting it as the gospel is not adequate due process. Why didn’t the NCAA conduct its own independent investigation after news broke in November instead of waiting for the results of one commissioned by Penn State? Are we sure that no Penn State trustees and nobody working for the NCAA had even an inkling about Jerry Sandusky, the architect of the great ‘Linebacker U’ defenses who abruptly retired at 55 and somehow never coached again anywhere else?

As a University of Wisconsin alum, I would not want the fate of the Badgers to rest unequivocally in Mark Emmert’s hands. Obviously, Penn State presented an extremely unique circumstance and something had to be done quickly to allow innocent players the right to transfer and meld with their new teammates, coaches, and university. But the process should have been more inclusive and transparent because now that the NCAA has established this level of power, it will be that much harder to wrest it away when (not if) it’s wielded unjustly.


Photo Credit: USA Today

July 2, 2012

New Emails Confirm That Joe Paterno Acted in Self-preservation to Cover Up Sandusky Crimes

When word first came out that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was being charged with child molestation and we had time to process the gruesome grand jury report, it seemed pretty cut and dry that Joe Paterno and Penn State administrators Gary Schultz, Tim Curley, and Graham Spanier conspired to cover up Sandusky’s heinous crimes. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Penn State administrators were more concerned with self-preservation than justice for past victims and prevention of future ones.

Telling Sandusky “not to bring any Second Mile children into the football building” sends a clear signal that Curley and Schultz did not care about sexual abuse victims as long as Penn State would not be implicated in them and be held liable.

Considering this callousness and utter lack of responsibility for humanity, it is not a stretch to believe that Curley, Schultz, Spanier, and Paterno chose not to go to the authorities with this matter because they did not want to incur intense scrutiny from the media and general public as to a) why Sandusky wasn’t prosecuted the first time he was investigated despite a mountain of evidence which included a tacit admission, and b) why he was still allowed unfettered access to campus facilities with young boys from his charity when he had been investigated for sexually deviant behavior in the past.

Media coverage wouldn’t have been AS bad as it has been this week if in 2002 Sandusky was turned in to authorities because there would not have been such an egregious cover-up and the internet had not yet evolved into what it is today. However, it would not have been pretty for those in power at Penn State. Couple that with the fact that the Nittany Lions were not winning on the field (they had no bowl appearances from 2000-2002) and Paterno would have had an extremely difficult time keeping his job in a scandal where his long-time defensive coordinator–who had been previously accused–raped an underage boy in the football team’s locker room. Jobs would have been lost and Penn State’s pristine reputation would have been immensely and perhaps irreparably tarnished. Only now, it’s worse.

Continue reading New Emails Confirm That Joe Paterno…

January 23, 2012

Paterno’s Complicated Legacy

The legendary Joe Paterno, 85 but recently seeming old for his age, passed away this past weekend and leaves behind a life full of accomplishment, altruism, and goodwill. His pristine reputation, earned in full public view in the past 46 years as Penn State’s head football coach, was tarnished in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but not obliterated. The proportion of which these polar opposites will endure to form the ultimate shade of gray will depend more on individuals weighing and evaluating Paterno’s legacy than any collectively formed judgment.

My opinion at the time the scandal broke has not changed: when presented with a firsthand witnessed account of Sandusky’s alleged indiscretions by graduate assistant Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, and Graham Spanier acted consciously and in self-preservation to cover up the crime, thus enabling Sandusky to continue his abhorrent behavior for another eight years.

If Paterno had turned in Sandusky to the appropriate authorities–not merely his higher-ups in title but not compensation or power–in 2002, he would have been fired as Penn State football coach due to a combination of his age, the comparatively milder cover-up from 1998 when Sandusky was first investigated, and–most importantly from a career, if not humanitarian, perspective–that Penn State had been struggling on the football field and had not had a bowl appearance in the previous three years.

It’s impossible to say for sure what anybody else would have done if he/she were in McQueary, Paterno, Curley, or Spanier’s shoes. I would love to believe that I would have acted with the utmost character, become a shunned whistleblower, and seen my guilty conscience bury the entire Penn State football program. But, I’m skeptical of institutions and authority figures to my own self-detriment. And I still don’t know for sure how I would have acted in any of their shoes because doing the right thing would have meant the end of my career, my professional reputation, everything I had worked for–to truly empathize with these men, my life. Decisive, morally correct action by Paterno would not only have cost him his own job–his life–but would also have been a black eye on his beloved Penn State, a blemish so severe and inextricably linked to his life’s purpose that it could very well have deluded him into believing that he was acting selflessly and for the greater good.

Continue reading Paterno’s Complicated Legacy

November 10, 2011

Why Joe Paterno HAD to Go

Before starting this, I first want to express the most remorse humanly possible for the innocent victims who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky. Our nation was founded upon protecting natural rights and what could very well end up being over 100 children had those rights grossly and preventably violated. I cannot even fathom the physical and emotional damage that was inflicted upon these defenseless victims, both at the time of their sexual abuses and from the trauma that endured thereafter. Read Rick Reilly’s excellent piece on what people who are sexually abused go through afterwards. That Jerry Sandusky was able to continue this reprehensible behavior after being investigated in 1998 and witnessed in 2000 and 2002 should haunt the consciousness and dreams of anyone who had the power to stop it and chose not to.

I avoided writing about this all week because I didn’t think that there was anything particularly unique or insightful that I could add to everything that I was reading. To me, this seemed extremely black and white and I did not understand how Joe Paterno or Graham Spanier kept their jobs past Monday, let alone that there should be a debate about whether they should be able to continue to. In 2002, Joe Paterno, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley, and Graham Spanier consciously neglected to report sexual abuse of a child knowing that the alleged suspect had been previously investigated for similar behavior in 1998. It is impossible to read the Grand Jury report and consider contextual information and not conclude that this was calculatedly done out of self-preservation. This selfish cover-up enabled Jerry Sandusky to continue to freely and habitually prey on victims for an additional nine years.

What follows is going to be extremely graphic but is necessary to show that the only rational conclusion from the grand jury report is that no matter how much good for how long Joe Paterno did for Penn State University, the only rational decision given what we know and can logically infer from it is that Joe Paterno HAD to be fired for his inactions. My thoughts and opinions are not entirely original. I have been educated and influenced by everything I have read on various web sites as well as Twitter, especially Dan Wetzel, SportsbyBrooks, Bomani Jones, Pete Thamel, Mark Madden, The Big Lead, Ty Duffy, Jason Whitlock, and Pat Forde.

Grand Jury Report: Page 19-20; 1998

“While in the shower, Sandusky approached the [11-year old] boy, grabbed him around the waist and said, ‘I’m going to squeeze your guts out.’ Sandusky lathered up the boy, soaping his back because, he said, the boy would not be able to reach it. Sandusky bear-hugged the boy from behind, holding the boy’s back against his chest. Then he picked him up and put him under the showerhead to rinse the soap out of his hair.”

“When Victim 6 was dropped off at home, his hair was wet and his mother immediately questioned him about this and was upset to learn the boy had showered with Sandusky. She reported the incident to University Police who investigated. After a lengthy investigation by University Police Detective Ronald Shreffler, the investigation was closed after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there would be no criminal charges.”

“The mother of Victim 6 confronted Sandusky…Sandusky said he had showered with other boys…and said, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.’


Sandusky retired the next season, at the age of 55. This past April (!!!!!!!!!), when news of the current Sandusky investigation first broke, Beaver County Times columnist Mark Madden wrote:

Initially accused in 1998. Retires in 1999. Never coaches college football again. Sandusky was very successful at what he did. The architect of Linebacker U. Helped win national championships in 1982 and 1986. Recognized as college football’s top assistant in 1986 and 1999.

But there’s no shortage of stories and rumors about Penn State football sweeping problems under the rug, is there?

Why did college football let an accomplished coach like Sandusky walk away at 55? Why did he disappear into relative anonymity?

More on this in a minute.

Pages 6-12 of the Grand Jury report detail the testimonies of then-graduate assistant and current Penn State wide receivers coach Michael McQueary, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, President Graham Spanier, and Joe Paterno. To understand the full context it would be in your best interest to read that whole section but the following passage from Page 9 is, in my opinion, the most relevant:

“Schultz testified that he and Curley agreed that Sandusky was to be told not to bring any Second Mile children into the football building and he believed that he and Curley asked the ‘child protection agency’ to look into the matter. Schultz testified that he knew about an investigation of Sandusky that occurred in 1998, that the ‘child protection agency’ had done, and he testified that he believed this same agency was investigating the 2002 report by the graduate assistant.”

There are several important implications from the preceding paragraph and passage about Sandusky’s retirement in 1999:

1. Joe Paterno HAD to have known about Jerry Sandusky’s 1998 investigation.

There is just absolutely no chance that Gary Schultz, VP for Finance and Business, was aware of an investigation involving the football team’s defensive coordinator but Joe Paterno was not. Zero. As the most important figure on Penn State’s campus, it is impossible to believe he didn’t know about this investigation, involving his long-time assistant, having been carried out by campus police.

Many have defended Paterno, saying that they would not want to believe such egregious accusations about a trusted former assistant, player, and friend that they had known and mentored for over 30 years. It is understandable that the first alleged offense–considering that Sandusky was, for whatever reason, not prosecuted (it would not be overly paranoid to suggest that this might have been intentionally covered up the first time but with the prosecutor’s mysterious disappearance in 2005 there is just no way to know for sure why the investigation stopped)–did not cause Paterno and Penn State to fully sever ties with his legendary assistant (Sandusky remained a professor emeritus which “allowed him access to all recreational facilities” amongst other privileges).

That being said, at the time of the 2002 allegations by McQueary, this was now a demonstrated pattern of unspeakably horrific behavior. As noted by Madden above, shortly after the first time he was accused, Sandusky “left” his position as a highly effective assistant at the age of 55. Whether he was pushed out or actually did retire on his own volition, to not vigorously pursue justice when confronted with such terrifying firsthand evidence for a second time in four years is morally reprehensible and completely unjustifiable.

2. Penn State administrators were more concerned with self-preservation than justice for past victims and prevention of future ones.

Telling Sandusky “not to bring any Second Mile children into the football building” sends a clear signal that Curley and Schultz did not care about sexual abuse victims as long as Penn State would not be implicated in them and be held liable.

Considering this callousness and utter lack of responsibility for humanity, it is not a stretch to believe that Curley, Schultz, Spanier, and Paterno chose not to go to the authorities with this matter because they did not want to incur intense scrutiny from the media and general public as to a) why Sandusky wasn’t prosecuted the first time he was investigated despite a mountain of evidence which included a tacit admission, and b) why he was still allowed unfettered access to campus facilities with young boys from his charity when he had been investigated for sexually deviant behavior in the past.

Media coverage wouldn’t have been AS bad as it has been this week if in 2002 Sandusky was turned in to authorities because there would not have been such an egregious cover-up and the internet had not yet evolved into what it is today. However, it would not have been pretty for those in power at Penn State. Couple that with the fact that the Nittany Lions were not winning on the field (they had no bowl appearances from 2000-2002) and Paterno would have had an extremely difficult time keeping his job in a scandal where his long-time defensive coordinator–who had been previously accused–raped an underage boy in the football team’s locker room. Jobs would have been lost and Penn State’s pristine reputation would have been immensely and perhaps irreparably tarnished. Only now, it’s worse.

It is simply impossible to read the grand jury report, combine it with contextual circumstances, and rationally conclude that this was an honest mistake and not a calculated cover-up. Because Jerry Sandusky was allowed to remain a free man for nine more years, more boys were sexually abused.


Having felt that this is so cut and dry (apparently not everyone else has read ~100,000 words about Penn State this week and spent a majority of their consciousness thinking about it), it has been absolutely surreal to take in the coverage of these events this week. There was Graham Spanier’s saying that his support of Curley and Schultz, who are charged with perjury from their grand jury testimony in addition to their admitted negligence, was unconditional. There was the idea that in notifying athletic director Tim Curley–a former player of Paterno’s who he handpicked for the position–of what McQueary saw fulfilled any obligation other than a legal technicality to inform a “higher-up”. There were Paterno’s bizarre statement about finishing the season and brief appearances where he neglected to demonstrate awareness of the gravity of the situation or sincere remorse and accountability for his role in it.

Perhaps the most bizarre has been the unconditional support for Paterno that has erupted amongst his ardent fans. Students are rioting in the streets in protest; ESPN keeps running the same clip of a loud–but wrong–Paterno apologist which we are led to believe is a representative sample of the campus. The local media did everything but bring pitchforks to the press conference where Paterno was fired by the Board of Trustees earlier this evening.

My friends who went to Penn State universally do not believe that Paterno should have been fired. I have known all three of them since I was 12 (more than half of my life) and they are rational, thoughtful people. To them, Paterno represented the ultimate source of honor, integrity, and success and was far and away the foremost symbol of pride in the institution of which they were educated at and whose football team they root for on Saturdays (the magnitude of the latter cannot be overstated). He was the sole reason that one of them went to Penn State and had dreamed of doing so since he could remember. Paterno was such a godlike–but also deeply personal–role model for them that this scandal feels as if it is happening to their third grandfather. It is simply unfathomable to them that Paterno acted in conscious self-preservation and did not make an honest mistake. Even if he DID make an honest mistake–which I clearly find very difficult to believe–people lose their jobs for much less serious errors in judgment.

In a must-read account of how this is affecting him personally, Grantland’s Michael Weinreb, who grew up in State College and attended Penn State, wrote:

I can’t add a lot to what’s been written about the facts of the burgeoning scandal at Penn State, except to tell you how strange it feels to type the phrase “burgeoning scandal at Penn State.” I know that I’m in denial. I know that I’m working through multiple layers of anger and disgust and neurosis and angst. I know that I’m too emotionally attached to the situation to offer any kind of objective take, though I don’t think I realized how emotionally attached I was until this occurred. I never understood how much of an effect both football and a sense of place had on my persona. I apologize if what follows seems disjointed, because I am still coming to terms with the fact that this is real. “What can I say?” my mom wrote me from State College on Monday afternoon. “We’re sort of going around in a daze.”

I honestly cannot fathom how a similar situation would affect me if it occurred with one of my sports heroes–Aaron Rodgers, Ted Thompson, and Mike McCarthy come to mind. Even then, there is no single figure in sports who is comparable to Joe Paterno and the positive effect he had for so long on his institution and community. Coach K is the only person who comes close but even then he is a divisive figure in his own community where at least half of the residents root for North Carolina and loathe Duke. Moreover, he sustained Duke’s previously achieved success whereas Paterno built the Penn State program with his bare hands. For 50 years, as almost every other major college football program reeked of scandal and foulplay, Penn State won national championships and was almost entirely blemish-free. He has the most wins of any NCAA football coach all-time and has given back to the community generously and conspicuously.

As Weinreb alludes to, we are more emotionally entangled with our sports teams and figures than we can possibly quantify or realize. An irrationally high proportion of our self esteem is inextricably linked to their successes and failures. No singular person had engendered as great a sense of pride for as long a time as JoePa did at Penn State. If anyone had earned the right to go out on his own terms, surely it was he. And he was. He proved it when he refused to step down in 2004 and continued coaching through until he was 84. But not in the wake of this. Short of murder, there is nothing worse that he could have covered up and enabled to perpetuate. There aren’t very many but some things are more important than football.

Since he steadfastly refused to step down with as much dignity as he could have preserved in this scandal’s wake, he left the Penn State Board of Trustees no choice but to fire him. He had to go. Before Saturday when #12 Penn State hosts #19 Nebraska in a game with tremendous BCS implications which would have re-defined the words media circus if he had sat there looking confused and blissfully ignorant in the press box as the cameras focused on him incessantly and attention was detracted from the players who have earned the right to have the national spotlight in this game. It is extremely sad that Joe Paterno’s legacy will always carry the weight of this scandal when as recently as a week ago it would have been universally remembered as everything that is right about sports and humanity. Paterno is not a victim, though. The children who were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky are victims and who knows how many more of them are out there now because of Paterno’s and the Penn State administration’s selfish and unjustifiable inaction.

October 25, 2011

Bielema’s Egregious Timeout

As many people have written about and I alluded to in yesterday’s Gameday Diary, Bret Bielema called one of the worst timeouts in the history of football in Saturday night’s loss to Michigan State.

Receiving the ball with 1:26 to play and the game tied 31-31, MSU ran the following series:

  • 1st and 10 at MSU 22 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Le’Veon Bell for 3 yards to the MchSt 25. 31 31
  • 2nd and 7 at MSU 25 Kirk Cousins pass incomplete to Keith Nichol.
  • 3rd and 7 at MSU 25 Kirk Cousins pass complete to Le’Veon Bell for 9 yards to the MchSt 34 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at MSU 34 Kirk Cousins sacked by Brendan Kelly for a loss of 10 yards, fumbled, forced by Brendan Kelly, recovered by MchSt Dan France at the MchSt 24.
  • 2nd and 20 at MSU 24 Timeout WISCONSIN, clock 00:42.
  • 2nd and 20 at MSU 24 Kirk Cousins pass complete to B.J. Cunningham for 12 yards to the MchSt 36.
  • 3rd and 8 at MSU 36 Timeout WISCONSIN, clock 00:30.
When MSU was faced with 2nd and 20, they were going to let the clock run out and go into overtime but Bielema called timeout to stop the clock and give the Badgers a chance to perhaps get the ball back in win in regulation. This timeout is slightly defensible because if MSU had run negative plays or thrown incompletions, the Badgers would have had a reasonable shot to get the ball back with enough time to get into field goal range. I would have opted for overtime here with Wisconsin’s having all of the momentum but I can rationalize why he wanted to go for the kill in regulation.

The timeout on 3rd and 8, though, was egregious. The upside of this timeout could have only come from a stupid turnover, a blocked punt, a terrible punt or great punt return, or magic. The most likely scenario if Wisconsin was to get the ball back here would have been that that they received the ball on their own 20-yard line with about 20 seconds left. If MSU had an incomplete pass, Wisconsin would have had one timeout left. If they ran the ball or completed a pass short of the first down, Wisconsin would have had no timeouts. Either way, unless something catastrophic happened to MSU, WISCONSIN WOULD NOT HAVE HAD THE TIME TO ADVANCE THE BALL INTO FIELD GOAL RANGE.

The downside of this timeout was the highly unlikely potential for a hail mary that gets tipped and then advanced into the end zone or, more reasonably, that it would give MSU time to draw up plays to have a chance to kick a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. THIS scenario was far more likely than disaster striking MSU and why calling the timeout on 3rd and 8 was outrageously stupid.

Bret Bielema is an incredible recruiter and great motivator–he brings A LOT to the table. But, as we saw in the Rose Bowl and on Saturday, he still needs to work on game management. Ugh.

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