Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Penn State player with the biggest impact isn't even on the team

Football recruiting has become highly publicized, reported and influential. Last summer the perception of Penn State football had become dire. At that intersection of time, place and opportunity, Christian Hackenberg stepped to the forefront

A telling newspaper comic strip showed someone looking at the TV, and the TV anchor was saying, "The stock market declined today over fears the stock market would decline."

The players who transferred or de-committed from Penn State after the NCAA sanctions hit in July didn't leave because they might not get to play in a bowl game. They mostly left because of fears the program would decline, precipitously.

Christian Hackenberg is still almost two weeks from signing his letter of intent, but his impact on the Penn State football program already is historic.

Heck, he's right up there with Michael Mauti, everybody's current favorite Lion.

Woah! Mauti?


If that seems ridiculous to say about a kid who hasn't graduated high school, and won't practice with PSU or take a class in Happy Valley until the summer, and who we really don't know much about, well, it isn't.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Donald Fitzpatrick is Jerry Sandusky - so how come no one knows about him?

The stories are revoltingly similar in so many ways, yet Jerry Sandusky triggered an eruption in the national media, while Donald Fitzpatrick is virtually unknown - except of course to his legions of victims, and the Boston Red Sox

The Sandusky scandal has yielded a seemingly endless string of jolting aftershocks.
From the PSU Board of Trustees' dereliction to the fraudulent Freeh Report. From the brutal NCAA sanctions to the revelation of the Second Mile's never-ending supply of victims for Sandusky.
But perhaps nothing has been more disturbing than discovering, during the continuous process of monitoring the Sandusky scandal, so many other child sex abusers connected to sports. And how strikingly underpublicized some of them are.
The most remarkable example: Former longtime Boston Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick's child sexual abuse reign of terror is startlingly Sandusky-esque. And even though he has been dead more than seven years, Fitzpatrick's legacy of abuse is still expanding today.
However, while Sandusky ignited a Big Bang-like explosion in the media universe, Fitzpatrick, inexplicably, has been a ripple in a distant pond.
You've likely never heard of Fitzpatrick or his sickening actions. Much of his story was laid out in Nov. 2011, in this amazing piece by Jeff Passan, published shortly after the Sandusky scandal broke.
For more than two decades, Fitzpatrick was sexually abusing boys inside baseball stadiums and clubhouses. Almost all of Fitzpatrick's victims are African-Americans. In 1991, after a lifetime working for the Red Sox, Fitzpatrick stopped showing up for work - four days after one of his victims stepped forward. A man at a Red Sox-Angels game in Anaheim had worn a sign saying "Donald Fitzpatrick sexually assaulted me."

Initially, in '91, the Red Sox gave the first victim $100,000. Several more victims came forward in the ensuing years. Charges were brought in Polk County, Fla., where Fitzpatrick had abused boys at the Red Sox' Winter Haven spring training home.
Fitzpatrick pled guilty in 2002 (though his plea, somehow, did not include jail time), and in 2003 the Red Sox paid $3.15 million to seven victims.
More alleged victims have emerged since Fitzpatrick's 2005 death. And in 2012, astonishingly, more accusers emerged of Fitzpatrick than Sandusky.
Twenty alleged Fitzpatrick abuse victims - 20! - are now seeking a whopping total of $100 million from the Red Sox - $100 million! -  claiming Fitzpatrick made Fenway Park his personal playpen for abusing teenaged and pre-teen boys.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On Tom Corbett, the NCAA lawsuit and Bill O'Brien

What took the Pennsylvania Governor so long to challenge the NCAA? And what consequences could it have for Penn State and Bill O'Brien?

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, for all his faults as a human being, is a genius at redirecting everyone's focus away from his own egregious misdeeds.

And with his bombshell lawsuit against the NCAA announced Wednesday, Corbett has exercised another master stroke to save his own booty.

The bug is staying one step ahead of the shoe.

If this lawsuit wasn't the product of Corbett - whose gift for survival rivals Keith Richards - then all Penn Staters could wrap their arms around it.

This lawsuit rightly and deftly shreds the NCAA's pathetic and pernicious argument for brutally sanctioning Penn State into confetti. No impartial, rational judge could see otherwise.

But, but, but ... that's not the main purpose of the suit.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Big Ten and the bowls: Turning the tables?

Without NCAA-sanctioned Ohio State and Penn State, which have been replaced in the Big Ten's bowl lineup by underwhelming Minnesota and Purdue, the odds are stacked against the Big Ten this bowl season. How can the league score some upsets?

It’s holiday season and bowl season, which means the national media and college football fans are frothing at the opportunity to jam down another helping of honey ham, and then slam the Big Ten for bowl game failings.

And this season, Big Ten haters have an additional advantage: Two of the top teams in the league are ineligible for bowl play.

The usual disadvantages usually are enough to bury the Big Ten: Bowls frequently are played in the backyard of the Big Ten’s opponent (such as the Rose Bowl, against the Pac-12 champ), and most of the Big Ten’s matchups are against the two best conferences, the SEC and Big 12. Six of seven matchups this year are against the SEC or Big 12. Not a cupcake in the lot.

With the Big Ten’s top team, undefeated Ohio State, as well as Leaders Division runner-up Penn State, under NCAA sanctions and out of the bowl picture, several league teams thus moved up a slot or two in the bowl pecking order - and into more challenging games. Heck, it’s a little surprising the Big Ten even managed to get seven teams bowl-eligible considering OSU and PSU were a combined 14-2 in league play.

The end result: Every Big Ten bowl team - a perfect 7-for-7 - is a betting underdog this week.

The lineup of fearsome foes includes the No. 6 (Georgia), No. 8 (Stanford) and No. 11 (South Carolina) AP-ranked teams. The Big Ten’s bowl teams are walking a tightrope on a windy day over a pit of alligators.

The odds are stacked against the conference. But not quite as much as the experts think. The Big Ten’s recent history of bowl shortcomings has led to exaggerated point spreads this season.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An open letter to Sports Illustrated about its continued failings re Penn State

Dear Sports Illustrated editors:

How wonderful to see the the amazing Dec. 17 cover story by Gary Smith, titled "Stand Up Speak Out," about Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, which is helping bring the sickening scourge of child sex abuse to the forefront.

Their stories are distinct, yet they both incurred immense, incalculable suffering, due in part to society's failure to recognize and address the severity of this ubiquitous, vicious plague.

Throughout their lives even those closest to them did not recognize it. In fact no one ever stepped forward to help them - they had to do it on their own. They are two incredible people who, after years of agony, fear, confusion and despair, are somehow overcoming the most horrible of personal experiences.

And at the same time, shame on Sports Illustrated for perpetuating the myths, exaggerations, half-truths and lies in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. This has been a disgusting, irresponsible pattern of behavior from SI since the Sandusky story broke in Nov. 2011.

In Smith’s lengthy, riveting story on Dickey and Harrison, there are only two relatively brief references to the Sandusky scandal. They both perpetuate the false media narrative that SI has helped maintain since the scandal broke.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bret Bielema and Bill O'Brien: So similar, so different

Bret Bielema is the quintessential, totally self-absorbed big-time college football coach, while Bill O'Brien is cut from a different cloth.

Wisconsin is a generally likeable football program by nature, but the Badgers became insufferable several years ago.

Because Wisconsin football was inextricably linked to its new head coach.

The smarmy, unctuous, squinty phony on their sideline was just too much to take. So Wisconsin became unavoidably unlikeable.

And this week, Mr. Disingenuous, Bret Bielema, verified for everyone that, yes, the Bielema critics are indeed correct in their assessment of the noxious, self-absorbed blowhard.

(Nonetheless, Bielema shares the "Mr. Disingenuous" moniker with Lane Kiffin and perhaps a few others.)

In September, Bielema sent a handwritten letter to the Arkansas AD, Jeff Long, praising him for the way he handled the firing of the Razorbacks' scandal-ridden football coach, Bobby Petrino.

And oh-by-the-way, Bielema also used the opportunity to detail for Long his philosophy on coaching. And, Jeff (wink, coy smile), did you notice how successful I've been at Wisconsin (twirl of the finger in the hair)? And Jeff, this is crazy, but call me, maybe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The very early sneak peek at Penn State football 2013: Defense and special teams

With no bowl to prepare for despite a winning season, Penn State can get a head start on 2013. What might the Lions look like on the field next season? A post last week examined the offense, this one takes a look at the defense and special teams.

Penn State moves into the next phase of the post-Sandusky world in 2013.

The shock of the sanctions is behind, and the scholarship limits begin. The Lions are allowed to sign just 15 in February. It is the first of four years with such a restriction (2013-16).

The 65 total scholarship limit doesn't start until 2014 and lasts through 2017, but PSU almost was under that mark this past season. The Lions had 67 scholarship players for most of 2012. So the 65 total won't have much of an impact since PSU can add just 15 scholarships each year anyway.

Also, all transfer restrictions on PSU players are lifted again by the NCAA from the end of the 2012 season until the start of the 2013 season, so PSU might incur more offseason attrition than usual, as college coaches can actively recruit the Nittany Lion players. Yes, it's a ridiculous sanction.

So what will PSU look like on the field next season? Who will be in the lineup when the Lions take the field against Syracuse at the Meadowlands on Aug. 31? A sneak peek at the defense and special teams, with some best-guesses - and assuming no one transfers:

Projected 2013 Penn State depth chart
(all stats from 2012 unless otherwise indicated; key departures listed in italics)


Defensive End
1. Deion Barnes (So.)
1. C.J. Olaniyan (Jr.)
2. Anthony Zettel (So.)
2. Brad Bars (Jr.)
3. Garrett Sickels (true Fr.)
3. Evan Schwan (Rs Fr.)
4. Jordan Kerner (So.)
4. Curtis Cothran (true Fr.)
4. Tanner Hartman (true Fr.)
starter Sean Stanley and reserve Pete Massaro graduated
  • The skinny:  Barnes (6-4, 246) was a revelation in 2012, leading PSU in tackles for loss (10) and sacks (6). He is arguably PSU's most promising player. Olaniyan, Zettel and Bars (6-3, 254) make plays happen with hustle, and Olaniyan (6-3, 248) and Zettel (4 sacks) will compete for a starting spot after both made 15 tackles in spot duty in 2012. Zettel might end up at DT. Sickels is a highly regarded recruit, but at 6-4, 230 likely needs a year of college weight training before making an impact on Saturdays; same with the 6-5, 230-pound Cothran. The lanky Schwan (6-6, 223) has had that year under his belt and could push for playing time, perhaps as a passing-down specialist; he racked up the tackles for loss in HS. Hartman (6-4, 255) might get a look at OL and TE. RS So. Jordan Kerner's career came to a premature close in January due to a chronic back injury; he never played for the Lions.