AD says PSU program 'holding up well'


AD says PSU program 'holding up well'

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State athletes answered questions about how they're dealing with the fallout from the crisis that enveloped the school with statements on the field or in the gym.
This spring alone, the embattled athletic program won a second straight NCAA wrestling title; advanced to the NCAA women's basketball tournament regional finals; and advanced to a 14th straight NCAA men's volleyball Final Four.
"In the last six months, our athletic program has been as successful as we've ever been," Acting Athletic Director David Joyner, who took the job in November, said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. The athletes are "holding up together really well."
Separately, donations to the athletic booster club are also ahead of last year's pace.
Football season-ticket sales are slightly off, Joyner said. Still, four months remain until the season opener, and the athletic department is still actively promoting the availability of tickets.
It's all part of a challenging period for Joyner, charged with leading a department at the center of one of the biggest scandals in college athletics.
Joyner replaced Tim Curley, who was placed on administrative leave. Curley and former school administrator Gary Schultz are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report suspected child sexual abuse allegations against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Joyner also headed the committee that selected New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien to succeed the late Joe Paterno as head football coach after Paterno was ousted by school trustees days after Sandusky was charged in November.
Joyner was part of the board at the time, then left to take the acting AD post.
On Wednesday, Joyner gave his first extensive comments since his hiring in a series of interviews. He told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that he has not talked to a grand jury investigating Sandusky, but has spoken to investigators for former FBI director Louis Freeh, who is spearheading the school's internal probe.
Joyner told the AP inquiries by the NCAA and Big Ten related to the scandal continue to be in a holding pattern as the university awaits the results of the Freeh report, which is expected to be released around the start of the next academic year in late August.
Freeh and his team have interviewed more than 400 current or former Penn State employees
"Tough times give you, sometimes, great focus," Joyner said in his Jordan Center office. "I've said to our department from Day 1, the way we go forward is to do what you do well.
"What we need to do is pay attention to our mission here. Our mission is integrity, academics and winning national championships," he added. "Our 31 coaching staffs, our administration and people here have grabbed hold of this and are really pushing us forward."
This would have been a unique time for Penn State athletics even if the scandal never occurred.
Across the street from the Jordan Center, construction crews are busily working on a new ice hockey arena scheduled to be completed by 2013. Penn State is upgrading its men's and women's hockey programs to Division I, with the elevation of the men's program the crux to the formation of a Big Ten hockey league, also scheduled to start next year.
But for every bright spot is another question about the scandal and the various investigations trying to sort out the past.
As Joyner spoke to reporters in four separate interviews Wednesday, the Centre County courthouse in Bellefonte prepared for another pre-trial hearing in the Sandusky case. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in a month.
Sandusky has maintained his innocence, as have Curley and Schultz in their separate case.
Joyner said the vision for the program he outlined in his introductory news conference on Nov. 18 remains the same -- with the focus squarely on "integrity, academics and athletic success." Though "Acting" is part of his job title, Joyner said he'll serve his alma mater as AD as long as he's wanted.
Some changes have been instituted, including tighter security in athletic facilities. The Jordan Center, for instance, now requires swipe card access for entry for employees.
The university has also already said it has strengthened policies on the supervision and treatment of minors taking part in programs on campus, including summer sports camps
Football season-ticket sales, Joyner said, "are accelerating and moving in the right direction, but we haven't caught up pace yet." He suspected that could in part be due to fans' feelings about the scandal, along with changes implemented last season to the season-ticket policy that angered some fans.
About 76 percent of tickets sold in 2010 were renewed in 2011, according to associate athletic director Greg Myford. To date, about 64,500 season tickets have been sold for the upcoming season, including 2,500 new season-ticket holders. About 69,000 season tickets were sold for all of last season.
While football games typically fill up 108,000-seat Beaver Stadium, Myford said the school continually faces a challenge of letting people who previously have not had season tickets know they are available.
A department spokesman said contributions to the Nittany Lion Club's annual fund already amount to 17 million in a fiscal year that ends in June. That amount matches the total for the entire 2010-11 fiscal year.
The donation increase could be a precursor to improving season ticket sales, Joyner suggested, since a booster club donation is required to purchase tickets.
Joyner is also hopeful the introduction of O'Brien to fans this month in an extensive series of appearances before alumni groups from Connecticut to Washington, D.C., will help generate more excitement. O'Brien appears to have already won over Penn State's massive fan base just four months into the job.
When asked about potential changes to the BCS, Joyner said he preferred scenarios that involved four teams, but also favored preserving the bowl system. Like Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Joyner said he would also prefer to "preserve the integrity of the Rose Bowl," which has historic tie-ins to the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences.
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Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

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Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

WACO, Texas -- Baylor University's board of regents said Thursday that it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr amid questions over the school's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.

The nation's largest Baptist university said in a statement Thursday that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but the school says he will serve as chancellor.

The university also placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Baylor asked a law firm last year to conduct a review of its handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the football program mishandled several cases of players attacking women.

The university's statement said the review revealed "a fundamental failure."

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

Starr ordered an investigation last year but has been mostly silent amid mounting criticism over the school's handling of the complaints, which erupted under his leadership. He took over as the university's president in 2010, about a decade after the former prosecutor investigated former President Clinton's sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewisnky.

The football team, whose players were at the center of the upheaval, enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles' tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles' program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr rode the waves of the program's success, and often ran on the football field with Baylor students in pregame ceremonies. But as investigations began into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations against players, Starr provided only brief comments, even as criticism of the school mounted.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said "our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence." And at a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake."

Baylor's Board of Regents was recently briefed by a law firm hired to investigate how the school responded to assault incidents, and the school on Thursday released a summary of its findings. Starr initiated the review in 2015, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted in 2015, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu's former coach, Chris Peterson, now the coach at Washington, said he "thoroughly apprised" Briles about the circumstances of Ukuwachu's dismissal. Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Peterson and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

The uproar following Ukwuachu's conviction caused Baylor to initiate the review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, and to announce a $5 million effort to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with little or no repercussions. At least seven other woman have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

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Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova


Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

Josh Hart said the decision wasn’t easy.

But he’s happy with it.

After withdrawing his name from the NBA draft to return to school (see story), Hart is excited to focus on Villanova, graduation and then the NBA dream.

“I love the school, I love the teachers, the student body, the support, my teammates that we have coming back,” the 6-foot-5 guard said Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. “So it was a tough one and I just thought at the end of the day, I think going back for my senior year would be in the best interest of my parents and myself.”

As a junior, Hart helped Villanova win its second national championship in program history by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 15.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Hart received plenty of feedback from NBA teams. He said shooting and ball handling are what he hopes to improve.

As far as his draft stock …

“There were teams interested maybe in the first [round], and then there were teams that said they would take me in the second,” Hart said. “But there’s a whole month before the draft, a lot of teams didn’t know exactly what they were doing with their picks — whether they were trying to trade up for a pick, trying to trade down, trying to trade a pick for a player. Several teams said that they would take me.”

For more from Hart on the draft and Villanova, watch the video above.

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

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Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

Delaware has its new head basketball coach in Martin Ingelsby.

Ingelsby, a native of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, comes from Notre Dame, where he played from 1997-2001 and coached for 13 seasons, seven as an assistant.

Ingelsby played his high school ball at Archbishop Carroll and is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who played for Villanova from 1970-73.

Delaware is coming off a 7-23 season and 2-16 mark in CAA play, which led to the firing of head coach Monte Ross.

The Blue Hens, who announced the hire Tuesday, will formally introduce Ingelsby in a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Bob Carpenter Center Auditorium.