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.

Villanova keeps No. 2 ranking despite another loss to Butler

Villanova keeps No. 2 ranking despite another loss to Butler

Villanova remained the No. 2 team in the nation in Monday's AP poll after a 1-1 week.

'Nova split its two games against a pair of ranked teams, losing by eight points at home to No. 22 Butler on Wednesday before rebounding for a 16-point win over No. 23 Creighton Saturday.

The Wildcats are 27-3 and 14-3 in the Big East, losing to Butler two times by eight points apiece and to Marquette by two.

Butler moved up from 22 to 13.

Villanova kept its No. 2 ranking because of a loss by previous No. 1 Gonzaga. The Zags moved down to fourth, while Kansas jumped up from No. 3 to No. 1.

Kansas received 58 first-place votes. Villanova and Gonzaga received two apiece, with the remaining three going to No. 3 UCLA.

Villanova has just one regular season game remaining Saturday at Georgetown.

La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

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La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

AMHERST, Mass. -- Zach Lewis scored a career-high 37 points, including six three-pointers, and Massachusetts pulled away from La Salle 84-71 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.

Lewis, whose 37-point effort was the best for any player in the Atlantic 10 this season, hit nine of his 16 field goal attempts overall and was a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Dejon Jarreau added 20 points and four three-ponters for UMass (14-15, 4-12).

Pookie Powell hit five 3-pointers and scored 24 points, and B.J. Johnson added 20 points to lead La Salle (14-13, 8-8).

Both teams shot similar percentages and had similar three-point totals, but the Minutemen finished with a plus-14 advantage at the free throw line.

La Salle remained within striking distance but a 13-4 stretch for UMass midway through the second half pushed its lead to 63-51. The Minutemen kept the Explorers at arm's length the rest of the way.