Ex-Penn State players support Paterno lawsuit

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Ex-Penn State players support Paterno lawsuit

STATE COLLEGE -- About 325 former Penn State players and coaches have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno and other former players seeking to overturn NCAA sanctions against the football program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Former player Brian Masella released the letter Monday in support of the lawsuit, which was also filed last month by some coaches, trustees and faculty. Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, and former NFL quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Todd Blackledge are among the notable names who signed on to the statement.

Masella said he and a few other former players organized the statement on their own after some of the plaintiffs explained their position in a letter to former players and sought their support.

He stressed the statement had no connection to the official football alumni group, the Football Letterman's Club -- which has roughly 1,100 members -- though some individual members have signed on their own.

The former players in the statement said they stood with the others in the case in demanding "fairness, due process, truth, and a just outcome. Everyone -- Sandusky's victims, Penn Staters, and the public at large -- deserves to know the complete truth."

As in the lawsuit, the former players in the statement took issue with the NCAA basing its strict sanctions on what they called the flawed report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal for the school.

Freeh concluded that Paterno and three former school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator found guilty in June 2012 on dozens of criminal counts covering allegations on and off campus. Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to 30-to-60 years in prison.

Paterno died in January 2012. Freeh's report was released the following July, and the NCAA issued its sanctions less than two weeks later. The landmark penalties included a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts.

Paterno's family and the school officials have firmly denied there was a cover-up. The family earlier this year commissioned a critique which called Freeh's report a "rush to injustice."

Family attorney Wick Sollers praised the former players for a "powerful statement of support ... The purpose of the litigation is to have the issues reviewed in a forum where due process and facts matter."

The lawsuit filed several weeks ago argues the NCAA sidestepped its own rules with uncharacteristic speed in levying sanctions, and sought to raise fresh questions about Freeh's report.

"In speaking with a couple former players, we wanted to do something to support the (others) involved in the lawsuit," Masella, a 1975 graduate who played tight end and punter, said in a phone interview. "We had to start somewhere. It basically started to snowball."

When asked, Masella also said their actions don't take away from the full support that former players have for coach Bill O'Brien and the current team.

They backed O'Brien "100 percent," and wanted what was best for the current players in hoping to reverse the sanctions, he said.

The NCAA has not filed a response yet to the lawsuit. NCAA president Mark Emmert -- named as a defendant -- declined comment on individual cases last month.

"I'm perfectly fine to have an opportunity for us to state our case and have it heard in a court of law, then we'll let a legal system do its work," Emmert said in Irving, Texas, at a Big 12 meeting on May 30.

Earlier this month, two trustees said in an interview with The Associated Press that they hoped Penn State's focus on reforms in the aftermath of the scandal might eventually persuade the NCAA to reconsider the severe penalties.

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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USA Today Images

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.