Sweet, sweet Saturday football.

Saturday marks the first time since 2000 the Penn State Nittany Lions will open a season away from Beaver Stadium, and I extremely fine with that, as I WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE. The Lions will be locking horns with the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium in the dirty Jerz (I’ve never ridden a train to a game before…).

It has been 272 days since Penn State has played an official football game (not counting the Blue and White game, even though I showed up with my buddy at our Penn State bar in NYC, demanding they put the scrimmage on). The now very-much-revered Bill O’Brien enters his second season as head coach, and something feels very familiar… oh yes, Penn State once again does not have a specified starting quarterback.

Which young skinny boy is ready?

Will it be Christian Hackenberg (true freshman, left) or Tyler Ferguson (sophomore, right)? Neither has played a D1 game (or has even taken a snap in a D1 game) in his life, which might be O’Brien’s hesitation to throw all of his blue and white eggs in one of their proverbial baskets. But what is this, the start of the 2011 season?! Cough, Rob Bolden vs. Matt McGloin, cough. We all know how that turned out, but it was severely cringeworthy for a while. No matter what happened in 2010-2011, B.O.B. is not revealing his starting quarterback until the first offensive snap tomorrow.

Quarterback situation or not, tomorrow marks another step forward. The Jerry Sandusky scandal and NCAA sanctions still weigh heavily on the program, but a year passing makes a difference. The courage and heart of 2012’s seniors and everyone else who stayed, coupled with O’Brien’s heightened prominence has helped nudge Penn State football out from under the thick dark clouds of last year.

We Are.

 

 

Notes on a Scandal.

I have stayed silent (online) as everything connected to Penn State was coming to a head. I am still grappling with all that I feel. But I want, no need to say something. The problem is that I have so many things and groups I’d like to address – from the former and current Penn State leaders I am disappointed in and ashamed of, to the angry mob wanting only blood from Penn State instead of support for the victims, to my friends and family.

In light of the sanctions that were leveled against Penn State this morning, Monday, July 23, 2012 by NCAA officials – specifically NCAA President Mark Emmert – I want to first address the sanctions on a critical level, something befitting my sports journalism degree.

In an unprecedented power move, Emmert dropped the proverbial hammer on Penn State, including scholarship losses, a multiyear ban in postseason competition, a $60 million fine (which will thankfully go to foundations to help child sexual assault/abuse victims), and the nullification of all wins between 1998 and 2011.

Sources say the sanctions came almost solely from Emmert, who appealed to the NCAA Board of Directors to provide him power status that does not currently exist for an NCAA president.

Let me be clear – Emmert based his sanctions on emotion and public uproar, as well as his personal interpretations of the findings in the Freeh Report (Freeh’s investigation was set in motion by Penn State, not the NCAA). Emmert did not call for an NCAA investigation, there were no hearings before the Committee on Infractions or letters of inquiry, there was no discourse between the NCAA and Penn State to allow for a formal response. Most importantly, the criminal cases are ongoing, evidence is still being uncovered – but Emmert did not want to wait.

From Dan Wetzel on Yahoo Sports, “this isn’t how the Association has conducted business in decades. Toes were stepped on.”

“The man with a Ph.D in public administration just went pseudo dictator in a move right out of the playbook of Roger Goodell or Bud Selig.”

To expand on the Goodell thought, it should be noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell operates as the leader of a private business. Therefore he can pull those power moves. The NCAA is what you could call (and what SI.com’s Andy Staples does call) a “representative democracy”. That is, the members, consisting mainly of public universities, make the rules.

With today’s ruling and the complete lack of due process, it is no longer clear whether the NCAA is a representative democracy. To quote Staples again, “not if its executive branch has decided that the best way to punish an abuse of absolute power is by granting more absolute power.”

Stewart Mandel writes today on SI.com about the implications of the NCAA’s actions.

“Children were raped. Lives were destroyed. High-level administrators stood back and enabled the crimes. A once-revered coach betrayed his followers.

But the legacy of the Penn State scandal will no longer be Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes or the courageous victims who stood up to him. Thanks to a brazen power play and a carefully orchestrated p.r. extravaganza, this human tragedy will take a backseat over the next four years (or longer) to a more trivial narrative: Whether Penn State football can recover from crippling NCAA sanctions.

“Justice has been served, assuming your idea of justice for rape victims is to deprive a school of its next four Outback Bowl invitations.

“And so, Emmert made sure his organization responded accordingly — even if that meant revoking the traditional due process afforded every other school that’s ever been punished by the NCAA; invoking a nebulous, generalized bylaw about promoting integrity that could easily apply to hundreds of lawbreaking players, coaches and staffers across the country every year; and creating a precedent for dictatorial-like intervention that must now be considered every time a scandal of any proportion arises in college athletics.

Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues.

He better. Otherwise, this will instead prove to be a crowning moment in NCAA hypocrisy.

“‘We don’t see this opening a Pandora’s box at all,’ said Emmert. ‘This was a very distinct and very unique set of circumstances.’

That’s easy to say now. Nothing in the history of NCAA scandals has come close to the level of allowing a serial pedophile free reign to a school’s football facility, and basic faith in humanity makes us inclined to believe that it will never happen again.

But there will undoubtedly be another high-profile college scandal, involving yet another unthinkable scenario, whether it’s three months from now or three years from now. And the precedent has now been set. Will Emmert send that program back to the stone ages, too? Or was this a one-time-only, made-for-TV display of power?

Monday’s one truly punitive action against one of the figures implicated in the Freeh Report was vacating Penn State’s victories from 1998-2011, thus stripping Paterno of 111 wins and demoting him from the sport’s alltime leader to 12th place. It seems fair and just, but here again, the NCAA seemingly rewrote its rulebook on the fly. Traditionally victories are vacated when schools are found to have used ineligible players. Nothing of the sort happened here.

But of course, that didn’t fit Emmert’s message.”

SB Nation adds this – “And please — please — don’t think the public zeal for specifically hurting Nittany Lion football does anything to change the perception that football is more important than everything else. Otherwise, why aren’t the prospect of jail time and/or ruined careers for all living, responsible parties to this debacle, the pending loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in civil litigation and the looming specter of punishment from the Feds not enough?

So what will these punishments accomplish? Yeah, let’s talk about that…

Giving Emmert the power to unilaterally punish Penn State is a step toward making investigations irrelevant. And I mean that in the most frightening, totalitarian sense possible. If the semblance of due process can be thrown out to conveniently hammer a cash cow program — and cripple its surrounding community and its non-revenue sports with a hefty fine — what might happen to a player on the wrong side of Emmert and the NCAA’s agenda?”

I am sure I lost many of those who belong to the angry, bloodthirsty mob, but anyone who truly cares about NCAA athletics should consider this situation critically.

On the other side of all of this is of course, my purely emotional response.

To the leaders of Penn State:

I am gravely disappointed by your leadership and its continuing to fail its community – turning blind eyes on the horrors being committed by Jerry Sandusky then, and not standing up to support all of those who were not involved with what happened now. You and your peers (especially those still sitting on the Board of Directors) are at fault, and yet the entire Penn State community will suffer (for many years) on your behalf. I am glad that at least the $60 million fine will go toward foundations to support/prevent victims of child sexual abuse, because that is at least connected to the real victims in this whole mess (those victims that so many have seem to have forgotten).

Mr. Erickson, in your official statement today you write that “the NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.

It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.”

I understand fully well that we are entering a new chapter at Penn State. What I do not understand is why the University has not stood up for those who were and are not responsible, instead of lumping us in with your lot. You call for a culture wherein people aren’t afraid to speak up, so please explain the disconnect. With a sweeping hand, you include all of us in something terrible because that is easier for you. Not making sure Sandusky was immediately held responsible for his heinous acts was (somehow) easier for you. I don’t see any evolution, and this is something I am truly distraught over as an alumnus.

I support the acceptance of the sanctions, as there is really no other course of action for Penn State. Those men can never get back what was stolen from them. End of story. But I implore you as leaders to be better. As time inevitably moves forward, strive to earn the trust of your community, and more importantly, your fellow man. At the very, very least, you owe that to every single one of the victims. Where you and your predecessors failed out of weakness, you must never do so again. We expect so much more from our leaders. As we should.

And finally, to my friends:

I woke up this morning knowing what was coming. I wore a Penn State shirt to work. I will continue to be proud of the student body, alumni, and the fact that in that small town, I met the best people I have ever known (all of you). I am proud of who we became there, are now, and will continue to be…what we all stand for, how we handle ourselves at work and in our communities (always striving to be the absolute best), and how we are extremely passionate about what we believe in.

WE (and I use this loosely to include our comrades across the world) are what made and what continues to make Penn State great. From one of my best friends and fellow alum Pat Carr, “as a Penn Stater I know who the real victims were and are. They are not football fans having to deal with a devastated football program. Penn Staters always remember who the victims are. We are remorseful. We are embarrassed but still proud.”

It is up to us to represent our alma mater with the utmost respect, professionalism and very importantly – heart. We Are.

Love you all.

Cait

Goodbye, Joe.

I have been struggling mightily as to what I want to say about Joe Paterno. He passed away due to complications from lung cancer one week ago (January 22, 2012).

Most people, I feel, are still chewing on the former coach’s role in the Jerry Sandusky horror story, the fact that Paterno didn’t go to the police when a confession of witnessing an act of child abuse was brought to his attention. I am still chewing on it myself. I am chewing on the fact that Mike McQueary, the aforementioned direct witness, did not call the police himself, passing the information to Paterno instead. I am chewing on the fact that had Paterno reported what McQueary told him to the (State College) police, Paterno would have been giving the police hearsay information. I am chewing on the fact that Paterno did report McQueary’s confession to Gary Schultz, the head of University Police, which has jurisdiction over all crimes committed on campus. I am chewing on the fact that when Schultz failed in his duty to investigate, Joe never followed up.

There are so many foggy, intertwined emotions swirling in my gut regarding Joe Paterno’s connection to his undoing as a coach. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to find a place to land, or if I ever will. But apart from these unresolved feelings, I do know that Paterno was a man who so deeply loved Penn State, and more importantly, the people who passed through it. He cared about people. He valued academics in a culture that quite often puts athletics first, and on a pedestal. He and Sue, his wife, donated over $4 million to the university, which included funding for the library on campus as well as for the erection of a non-denominational spiritual center. He was part of one of the first major college programs in the US to embrace black players, a program that fought for all of its players to be on the field in segregation-era games. He left this program with the number one academic ranking among the top 25 teams in the country in 2011, as graded by the New America Foundation (which also showed no achievement gap between black and white Penn State players – a rare feat in Division I-A football).

And he wanted all of that to be his legacy. Joe was not a hero, but Joe wasn’t a villain either. He was a human.

Goodbye, Joe.

...

 

 

 

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 2 Edition

Wow, are the Philadelphia Eagles imploding or what? I could also say the same about the Washington Capitals. Rough night for two struggling teams that should be playing a lot better than they are.

The Good

It's been rough.

Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning (who is sorely missed this season by the 0-11 Colts) has been cleared for more intense rehabilitative workouts. Manning’s doctor, Dr. Robert Watkins, said Manning’s neck has, for all intents and purposes (unless those intents and purposes currently include full-speed pro football), healed.

“X-ray and CT examination of the surgical area shows that the fusion performed in September has achieved firm fixation. Peyton will now be allowed to increase the intensity and breadth of his workouts as tolerated. There remains every indication that his recovery will continue,” Watkins said.

Manning, 35, hasn’t practiced since a September 8 spinal fusion, which was meant to repair a damaged nerve in the quarterback’s neck, which affected his throwing arm. Manning has had three neck surgeries in 19 months.

As alluded to above, the Manning-less Colts have broken team streaks of success established in recent years – throw nine straight playoff appearances and nine consecutive 10-win seasons out the door. The Colts, currently in line to pick up Stanford QB Andrew Luck in the first round of the NFL Draft, are 0-11 for the first time in 25 years. Damn.

The Bad
Indiana state high school basketball stand-out Austin Hatch will not be on the basketball court this season. Hatch was involved in a plane crash that killed his father and step-mother, in which Hatch sustained a head injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and a broken collarbone. Hatch’s father was flying the plane at the time of the crash. The 6-foot-6 junior had made an early commitment to play for the University of Michigan in 2013. His family has reported that Hatch’s rehabilitation is going very well, but that he needs time and requests privacy in his recovery. The tragedy was the second plane crash that Hatch survived, the first in 2003, during which Hatch’s mother and two siblings were killed. Hatch’s father was flying the plane in the 2003 crash as well.

The Fugly
After years of respect and loyalty to ESPN, I have some major issues connected to the way the network and its commentators & writers have handled the Bernie Fine case juxtaposed against the coverage and scrutiny of dismissed Penn State coach Joe Paterno (in connection to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case). On November 4, the Jerry Sandusky grand jury report was released, and the media (but I’m honing in on ESPN) was whipped into a feeding frenzy involving Joe Paterno’s role in the scandal. A slew of ESPN commentators wrote op-eds and went on-air to vehemently and publicly voice their disapproval of Joe Paterno, saying he failed in his moral obligations, that he just didn’t do enough.

As the Sandusky storm was (briefly) coming off a coverage peak, another child-molestation-accusation-at-a-major-university story broke. (Now former) Syracuse men’s basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine allegedly molested team ball boys over the course of several years. Fine was fired on Sunday (11/27), after ESPN released a recorded phone conversation between first accuser Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife, Laurie Fine, during which Laure Fine admits to Davis that she was aware of the molestation and/or abuse Davis is now accusing her husband of.

Syracuse University officials stated that the tape was never made available to the university, or they would have fired Fine a lot sooner.

In a letter published by USA Today, chancellor Nancy Cantor writes “Mr. Davis didn’t give [the audiotape] to us in 2005, nor did the media, which have acknowledged having it since 2003. Had that tape surfaced in 2003, Fine would have been fired. Had we been given the tape in 2005, we would have gone straight to the authorities.”

ESPN has stated that they did not release the tape when they received it because they could not get anyone to corroborate the story, and they weren’t sure that the female voice in the recording was actually Laurie Fine. The network did not go any further until LAST WEEK, when they turned to a voice-recognition expert to confirm whether the female voice was in fact Laurie Fine (it was).

But for eight years, no one that heard the tape did ANYTHING with it. The network held onto damning evidence for eight years. Yes, there is an argument for the role of the “objective journalist”, that the journalist is obligated to stay out of the story itself. But journalists are also human. And this is not black and white. This is grey. And this had to do with sexualized crimes against children. Why didn’t anyone at ESPN share the recording with police or Syracuse officials?

ESPN commentators were vicious in their scrutiny of Joe Paterno, rightfully so or not. The problem is that the network was guilty of the same thing it was damning Paterno for. Except that Paterno actually did report the alleged abuse to his superior (which he was legally obligated to do). ESPN just didn’t do anything.

The Penn State (Jerry Sandusky) and Syracuse (Bernie Fine) situations are not the same, but I cannot ignore or stay silent about the incredible hypocrisy displayed by ESPN in its coverage and handling of both, especially because the network is now directly tied to the Fine firing. Failed moral obligation by those that preach it. It’s depressing as hell. And mostly because the victims have to suffer more, and longer, because of those moral failings.

Pigskin Review – No Big Surprises

Not a “rumor” anymore.

The biggest (college football) news of right-this-minute is that Urban Meyer is returning to football as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (officially hired Monday). Meyer, a native of Ohio, left the helm of the Florida Gators after last season due to health concerns. Apparently he’s feeling up to the task – which spells even tougher games for the other schools in the Big Ten. Yeesh.

The biggest personal news of right-this-minute is that Dirt in the Skirt is FINALLY located at a real domain. Look up at your URL bar. Snazzy as hell.

NOTABLE WEEK 13 GAMES

  • #1 LSU throttled #3 Arkansas 41-17. With the win, LSU stays undefeated (12-0 for the first time), stays at #1, and looks to its final test next weekend (the SEC Championship game) against #13 Georgia. A win in Atlanta means another trip to the BCS title game. Arkansas falls to #8.
  • #2 Alabama rolled over #23 Auburn, 42-14. Heisman candidate (and frontrunner) Trent Richardson (Alabama RB) rushed for a career high of 203 yards, Bama QB AJ McCarron threw 3 TDs, and the Cam Newton-less Auburn Tigers couldn’t stage a comeback. Alabama has its eyes on a rematch with LSU, and that will almost assuredly happen if LSU wins next week. Auburn drops out of the top 25 with the loss.
  • #9 Oklahoma found a bit of redemption (and a trip to the Big 12 Championship game) with a win over Iowa State, 26-6. This sets up a rivalry championship game – Oklahoma vs. #3 Oklahoma State (who were helped back up to #3 with the Arkansas loss). Oklahoma comes in as current champion and Big 12 championship record-holder (12).
  • #5 Virginia Tech locked up a shut-out against state-mate #24 Virginia, 36-0. Coming into the game, Virginia was working with a four-game winning streak, but the Hokies snapped that with authority (and claimed the ACC Coastal Division title). Virginia Tech holds steady at #5, and Virginia drops out of the rankings.
  • #6 Stanford dropped #22 Notre Dame, 28-14. Tossing 233 yards in the air and connecting for 4 TDs, Heisman hopeful Cardinal QB Andrew Luck set a Stanford record for most career TD passes and passed his own best-season mark. Stanford climbs up to #4 in the BCS rankings (hoping for a BCS bowl bid), and the Fighting Irish slide out of the top 25.
  • In a fight to face now-#9 Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, #16 Wisconsin dismantled #19 Penn State, 45-7. Badger RB Montee Ball (and should-be top Heisman candidate) ran for 156 yards and 4 TDs, while Penn State ended its emotionally-tumultous season with a loss (any many questions about what will shift for next year). Wisconsin edges up to #12, and Penn State slips to #22.

Pigskin Review – The Mighty are Falling

nnnnnotttttt quite. bummer.

#2 Oklahoma State losing on Friday night (to Iowa State) set the tone for the toppling trend in the BCS top ten (holy alliteration). LSU, Alabama, Arkansas – that’s your new top three. Here’s what went down.

-#1 LSU continued to roll, throttling Ole Miss 52-3. #3 Alabama made their BCS title game case with a big win over Georgia South, 45-21. #6 Arkansas didn’t have much trouble with Mississippi State, winning 44-17. LSU holds onto the top spot, Alabama moves up to #2, and Arkansas jumps three spots to #3.
-#4 Oregon couldn’t get past visiting USC, losing 38-35. The Ducks booted a 37-yard field goal wide left with little time left in the game, giving the Trojans the win and quashing Oregon’s hopes of moving up the NCAA ranks and entering a second consecutive BCS championship game. Oregon drops to #10.
-#5 Oklahoma now has two losses this season (and crushed national title hopes) after being upset by #22 Baylor, 45-38. Historically, Baylor had been 0-20 against the Sooners, but Bears QB Robert Griffin III found a receiver in the back of the endzone with 8 seconds left to lift Baylor to the school’s first versus-Oklahoma win. Baylor creeps up to #18, Oklahoma drops to #9, and the Sooners find themselves with new end-of-season goals – vying for another Big 12 championship, and getting into (and winning) a bowl game.
-North Carolina State turned it ON against #7 Clemson, beating the favored Tigers 37-13. Four Clemson turnovers did not help matters, and they drop to #17 overall.
-#13 Kansas State eeks one out against #23 Texas, 17-13. Kansas State edges up to #11, and Texas moves to #25.
-#21 Penn State held on against Ohio State in Buckeyes territory, winning 20-14. A surprising amount of offense for both teams early, but the defenses hunkered down in the second half to allow no scoring on either side of the field. Penn State goes into a game against Wisconsin next weekend with the Big Ten Leaders Division on the line.
-#17 Wisconsin held on to beat Illinois this weekend, which booted Ohio State from a shot at the Leaders division because the Buckeyes had already fallen three times in conference play (prior to the loss against PSU). On the Legends side of things, though #18 Michigan beat up on #16 Nebraska 45-17, #15 Michigan State was able to clinch the division with a 55-3 victory over Indiana. The inaugural Big Ten Conference Championship game will pit newly-numbered #14 Michigan State against either #19 Penn State or #16 Wisconsin.

Pigskin Preview – Saturday Style Football with Friday Crazy.

College football provides a Thursday night match-up (or two), as well as a Friday game at this point in the season, but I generally wait until Saturday morning to talk about the day’s game slate. I should’ve updated yesterday.

upset city.

Last night, #2 Oklahoma State fell to unranked Iowa State. The National Championship and Heisman races just got all scrambly. Again. I watched Oklahoma State struggle to find its rhythm early, but soon the score was 24-7 (in their favor), early in the third. I switched over to a sweet PBS doc on Women Who Rock. When I checked back in later – two OT’s had brought the Iowa State Cyclones a giant upset victory.

With the first loss of the season last night, Oklahoma State’s hopes of playing in a National Championship game have been dashed and the Heisman trophy has (most likely) slipped out of sight for 28-year-old QB Brandon Weeden, who threw 3 INT. LSU remains the only unbeaten top-10 team (#11 Houston is also undefeated this season) and can hold onto the top spot with a win over Ole Miss tonight at 7 PM. Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Alabama RB Trent Richardson are now in tight competition for the Heisman trophy at season’s end.

On a very sad note – it has a been an incredibly tough week for the Oklahoma State community, as they lost Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna (women’s basketball coach and assistant coach, respectively) Thursday night in a plane crash in Arkansas. This tragedy comes a decade after two Cowboy men’s players, along with eight others, were lost in a plane crash near Denver.

NOTABLE SATURDAY MATCH-UPS
-The #21 Penn State Nittany Lions visit the Ohio State Buckeyes for a 3:30 PM kick-off. Both programs have experienced and are still weathering off-field messes and tragedy (the scale isn’t the same, but both programs have been deeply affected. Think – last year Jim Tressel was squaring up against Joe Paterno). With a win (and a Wisconsin loss), Penn State can secure the Big Ten Leaders Division title, but the Nittany Lions historically struggle mightily in Columbus – they have won only once at Ohio State since joining the Big Ten. If anyone is looking for offensive excitement, don’t bother tuning in. Penn State and Ohio State are statistically at the bottom of the Big Ten in terms of passing and scoring.
-USC heads north to take on #4 Oregon in an 8 PM Pac-12 match-up. Oregon is slowly making its way to (and argument for playing in) the National Championship game, while USC is still under a post-season ban. Without any pressure, the Trojans could have dream killing in their game plan.
-#16 Nebraska visits #18 Michigan for a 12 PM game (IN PROGRESS). Nebraska is coming off a win at Penn State, and Michigan logged their own W last week against Illinois. Both of these programs started hot then faltered, sharing 8-2 records overall and 4-2 records in the Big Ten, but today’s game has Big Ten Legends Division implications. Nebraska and Michigan sit one game behind #15 Michigan State (facing struggling Indiana today), and if the Spartans win, Michigan is out no matter what. For Nebraska, today’s game is a must-win while still hoping for a Spartan loss (which would tie things up and give Nebraska the tiebreaker edge over the Spartans). JUICY.
-#5 Oklahoma takes on #22 Baylor on Baylor turf. Kick-off at 8 PM.
-#13 Kansas State goes after #23 Texas at Texas. Kick-off at 8 PM.

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – November 16 Edition

...

I’ve been silent for long enough. As a Penn State alumna, surrounded by Penn State friends all over New York City and digitally connected to many others, I’ve struggled to know what to say publicly about everything surrounding the Jerry Sandusky affair. From the bottom of my being, I have felt so sickened by everything I’ve read and come to understand about the case – from the alleged sexual abuse of minors by Jerry Sandusky to the moral failings of many of Penn State’s faculty, most notably Joe Paterno. I, along with all of my Nittany Lion closest, have been wildly ashamed, angry, confused, distraught, heartbroken.. there aren’t enough potent words. After the extremist media flurry (sound reporting was very nearly nonexistent), in which the victims and the alleged perpetrator were pushed out of the spotlight (when I started reading Facebook posts about Joe Paterno, not Jerry Sandusky, molesting young boys, I nearly lost it), I finally feel like I have regained some footing. I have a mite of perspective. This horrible time is not over, but there are some bits of light in all the darkness. If I could name one, it would be the outpouring of support by the Penn State community for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. This is the kind of thing that Penn State needs to focus on. For the thousands upon thousands of us who were not involved in any way with what happened, we can do something to help educate and, more importantly, help prevent sexual assault.

THE GOOD
– In a unanimous vote, Detroit Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander was declared the AL Cy Young Award winner on Tuesday and is in consideration for the AL MVP (which will be announced next Monday). Verlander, with an MLB-leading record of 24-5 this season, struck out 250 batters and carried an ERA of just 2.40. Verlander also tossed his second career no-hitter and was an integral part of the Tigers winning the AL Central.
THE BAD
-On Tuesday, the Associated Press was granted access to an email sent last week to an unidentified source by Penn State Wide Receivers Coach Mike McQueary (who the grand jury report identifies as the then-graduate assistant who walked in on Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a young boy in a locker room shower). In contradiction with the grand jury report, McQueary writes in the email that he made sure what was happening in the shower was stopped and also that he spoke with police about what he witnessed. Speaking to the police was never part of the original statement, which was part of what fed the public fury. Per McQueary’s testimony, he spoke with his father about what happened, then spoke with Paterno, and finally spoke with AD Tim Curley and senior VP Gary Schultz – but never went to the police. This awful story continues to get murkier.
THE FUGLY
-It’s very possible there isn’t going to be an NBA season this year. On Monday, NBA players rejected the league’s latest offer, which boils down most importantly to a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. NBA players also began disbanding the union and are reportedly preparing to file an antitrust suit against the NBA. Does it seem like anything but greedy at this point? Does anyone even care if there isn’t a season? This is a HOT mess.

Pigskin Preview – A Weekend Without Nittany Lions (kind of).

SIGH. It’s always nice to get a break from a gut-twisting season like this one (SEE ALL OF THE PAST REVIEWS OF PENN STATE GAMES I’VE POSTED), but it does feel a little weird not to have a game to plan my day around. Penn State is unfortunately in the news for a terrible off-field reason, though, which would have been my Fugly had the headlines come up a few days earlier. Jerry Sandusky, a former PSU assistant coach, has been formally indicted on felony sex abuse charges AGAINST MINORS. I think I might vomit. I think when problem times for Penn State come into the news, it’s triple-disheartening for those of us who hold Penn State to a higher standard. I hope the university handles this in the appropriate ways, out of respect to any victims and their families, and out of a passion for making things right.

NOTABLE GAMES THIS WEEKEND
-This is the big one (and you have to wait till 8 PM tonight) – #1 LSU visits #2 Alabama. Both teams are undefeated, both 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. This is huge. I don’t know how else to describe this game. Can’t wait.
-Another 8 PM kick-off – #14 Kansas State visits #3 Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State is putting up insane numbers this year, and Kansas State is coming off a rough loss to Oklahoma last week that pushed their ranking down. Can they bounce back? Or does another team from Oklahoma spoil their day?
-#9 South Carolina at #7 Arkansas, kick-off at 7:15 PM. This is a tough SEC match-up, and one that the Gamecocks have struggled with in recent years, having lost four of the last five match-ups. Arkansas only squeaked by Vanderbilt last week, so this is a prove-yourself game for both teams.

Finding a Way.

Sweet God. The Penn State-Illinois game was making me nauseous in a way only sports can. I clenched consciously and unconsciously as neither offense could do ANYTHING (the first points on the board came in the third quarter on an Illinois TD), and both defenses forced turnovers and three-and-outs like crazy. It was frustrating and painful, and I fully felt that Penn State was going to face its first loss since Alabama, and first conference loss altogether. Somehow, they didn’t, giving Joe Paterno his 409th win (now the Division I all-time leader) with an ugly final score of 10-7.

Everything came down to the final minutes of the game. Nittany Lion WR Derek Moye trotted onto the field (likely because despite broken foot, he was tired of seeing the offense look pathetic) and QB Matt McGloin got the ball to him multiple times, moving the chains (for what seemed like the first time all day) and marching the PSU offense down the field to allow for a 3-yard Silas Redd TD run with 1:08 left in regulation. The score was 10-7 Penn State. The Illini offense woke up for its final drive as well, moving all the way from the Illinois 17 yard line to the Penn State 25 to attempt a 42 yard tying field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Illinois K Derek Dimke’s kick was high enough and long enough – and then thwacked the right upright as the clock hit 0:00.

Nope.

Penn State again, eeks out a win and again, the defense carries the team. AGAIN, the quarterbacks looked very bad (Rob Bolden has no vision and his internal time clock is warped. I think he’s done; Matt McGloin can occasionally complete a pass but is not much better – I was shouting at him/my TV for most of the game). Each and every member of the offense (minus Silas Redd, who had ANOTHER +100 yard rushing game) should personally thank the defensive squad for keeping their asses in the game and giving them chance after chance to score. NO style points awarded, but somehow Penn State sits alone at the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division and remains the only unbeaten-in-conference-play Big Ten team.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
-Speaking of Big Ten teams, #11 Michigan State, fresh off their big-time win against Wisconsin last week, falls hard to #14 Nebraska, 24-3.
-#15 Wisconsin, looking to regain its footing after losing to Michigan State on an end-of-game Hail Mary last week (see above), lost for the second straight week on a late TD, but this time to Ohio State, 33-29.
-#9 Oklahoma played with a chip on its collective shoulder after falling from the top spot in the NCAA last week after losing to Texas Tech. They rolled over #8 Kansas State, 58-17.
-Texas Tech must have been all out of juice after that primetime win over Oklahoma last week. They couldn’t do much of anything against Iowa State, losing 41-7.
-Unranked Georgia Tech upset visiting #5 Clemson (who had previously been upsetting teams all over the place and climbing the rankings) 31-17.
-Unranked Missouri took #16 Texas A&M to OT and beat them, 38-31.