PSU's board authorizes Sandusky settlements


PSU's board authorizes Sandusky settlements

UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- Penn State could soon be paying out millions of dollars to victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after disclosing Friday it had tentative agreements with some of the young men who say he sexually abused them.

The school does not plan to comment on specifics until the deals are made final, which could happen in the coming weeks. University president Rodney Erickson called getting approval for settlement offers "another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky's victims."

"As we have previously said, the university intends to deal with these individuals in a fair and expeditious manner, with due regard to their privacy," Erickson said in a statement issued after the university's Board of Trustees approved a settlement resolution.

Sandusky, 69, was convicted a year ago of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including violent attacks on boys inside school facilities. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term and maintains he was wrongfully convicted. He is pursuing appeals.

More than 30 claimants have come forward with sexual abuse allegations involving the longtime assistant to late coach Joe Paterno. The deals will be limited to a range of dollar values and subject to final approval by a committee empowered by the board to handle the claims. A university spokesman said the school plans to release the total amount it pays to settle lawsuit but will not provide amounts for individual cases.

Sandusky's arrest in November 2011 touched off a massive scandal that led to the dismissal of Paterno, then Division I football's winningest coach, along with criminal charges against other high-ranking school officials and ultimately NCAA sanctions that included stripping Paterno of 111 victories.

Board chairman Keith Masser said it was part of getting past the scandal and the collateral damage it has done to the university.

"We're just chipping away at getting these issues behind us," Masser said.

Legal experts say the "value" of a child sexual abuse claims depends on several factors, including the victim's age and the nature and frequency of the abuse. Many details about the Sandusky abuse claims have not been made public, but other molestation cases suggest Penn State may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to several million, to reach settlements.

Ira Lubert, the trustee who chairs the Committee on Legal and Compliance, told the board that "tentative settlements have been reached on a number of existing claims" without detailing how many have settled, how many remain and how much money -- individually or in the aggregate -- might be involved.

Lubert said his committee was empowered to authorize the settlements itself, but thought it was important that the trustees approved the move in a public meeting. The trustees voted unanimously to make the settlement offers.

The committee was briefed in detail on the proposed settlements during a June 25 executive session and another such meeting Friday morning, before the trustees met publicly at Penn State-Fayette, a satellite campus near Uniontown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Harrisburg attorney Chuck Schmidt said his client was one who expects to finish a deal based on terms provided by the university over the past week. He said only confidentiality provisions remain to be ironed out.

"We have an offer, and we have, basically, an agreement with the client to accept the offer," Schmidt said.

Schmidt's client, who filed a lawsuit that has been on hold, was not among those who testified at Sandusky's trial.

The firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP has been helping the university reach the settlements. It brokered mass litigation settlements stemming from incidents as varied as the September 11 terrorist attacks to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre.

Friday marked one year since the release of a university-funded report about its handling of the Sandusky scandal that was highly critical of the actions by Paterno, former president Graham Spanier and former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz await a July 29 preliminary hearing on criminal charges over an alleged cover up of complaints about Sandusky. All three men deny the allegations.

Spanier remains a faculty member on leave, while athletic director Curley and vice president Schultz have retired. Paterno died last year of lung cancer.

Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa.

With promise fulfilled, Matt Rhule should stay at Temple

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With promise fulfilled, Matt Rhule should stay at Temple

Matt Rhule made promises to his senior class four years ago — and to the Temple community.

Rhule pledged a championship, and in Year 4, he fulfilled his promise. The Temple Owls are American Athletic Conference champions. The Owls dispatched No. 19 Navy, 34-10, in a game not many pundits would have scripted. Temple easily handled the Midshipmen, a team that entered the game scoring 141 points in its previous two games and scored just 10 against TU.

“For me, it means the promise has been fulfilled,” Rhule said. “[Athletics officials] were sitting there with me in the locker after we lost to Fordham our first year. And to bring it full circle, that to me, is almost a relief of a job well done."

It was a battle between one of the nation's top offenses (Navy) and a top-three defensive unit (Temple), and it was the defensive squad that proved too much. Temple's defense, while not as vaunted as the 2015 team in terms of player recognition, lived up to its name.

The Owls entered the game as the third-best defense in the country. Yes, better than No. 2 Ohio State. No, not as good as No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Michigan. No, Temple is not ranked.

There are no Tyler Matakevich, no Tavon Young, and no Matt Ioannidis. Instead, there are redshirt-seniors Haason Reddick and Avery Williams and junior Sean Chandler. Three months after a season-opening 28-13 loss to Army, a loss that may keep the Owls from competing in a New Year's Six bowl game, Rhule's group accomplished what it set out to achieve in camp.

Temple is the American champion. That has a sweet ring to it, doesn't it? It does. As a result, Rhule's name will be connected to bigger (and better) jobs. We've been here before. Hello, 2015. Rhule's name will come up (again) for openings with more allure.

Remember the rumblings about Missouri last season? Rhule is going to be an attractive name again going forward. That's what happens when you bring a football program on the brink of extinction to relevance, a team no one sneezed about to winning a conference championship in the sixth-best conference in the nation, to legitimize a program, to potentially have a stadium built because of the success in your name. There's so much for Temple to lose.

But there's also much to lose for Rhule, too. It's easy to sit back, look at the success Rhule has built on North Broad Street and proclaim he's destined for something bigger, something better. He very well may be, and we'll find out. But staying at Temple is a decision that would benefit both Temple and Rhule.

Let's not forget, Rhule is an Al Golden disciple. We all know the story written about Golden. He revitalized a dying Temple program and gave it purpose before spurning for a bigger (and better) job at Miami. We all knew Golden was destined for a bigger (and better) job, and he got it by working hard and building something out of nothing.

Golden's next endeavor after Temple brought South Beach. Golden was the head coach of the Hurricanes. Yes, the same school that produced NFL players year after year, and a little over a decade ago was competing for national championships.

From North Broad Street and the Mid-American Conference to Miami and the Atlantic Coast Conference, a natural development, a coach at a small program proving his worth to make the jump to a far bigger program and ultimately national glory.

Except the glory never came with Golden. He took over a Miami program in disarray, a program that issued university sanctions for violating rules. Some may say Golden never got a fair shake at Miami, and that may stand true.

But Golden didn't last with the Hurricanes. In five years, Golden compiled a 32-25 record with two bowl appearances — both losses. That's not going to cut it at a power program.

Golden is now coaching tight ends for the Detroit Lions.

"Al is an outstanding coach," Rhule said last season. "Sometimes, you're at the wrong pace at the wrong time, or it's just not a fit. I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunities Al gave me. I think Temple should be unbelievably grateful for what Al did when he came here. Al put the structure in place."

Rhule served on Golden's coaching staff at Temple from 2006 through 2010, when Golden departed. He then stayed on staff for one season during the underwhelming Steve Addazio era, before departing for the NFL for one season. Then Addazio left for Boston College and the door opened for Rhule's return.

What can Rhule learn from his previous mentors? Just because more money comes calling, or a bigger (and better) job shows up on his caller ID, it doesn't mean it's the right time to jump ship. Four years ago, no one knew what to think of Temple football.

Addazio had just left, and the Owls' future lay in the hands of Rhule, a Penn Stater who became a Temple guy under Golden. A coach who built enough of a résumé to land an NFL gig, yet returned to North Broad for a chance to be The Man.

The Owls are AAC champions. Rhule accomplished much of what he set out for. But there is unfinished business, both for Rhule and Temple program — like a football stadium.

Like more than four years of football relevance.

Rhule needs Temple as much as the Owls need Rhule.

His time to depart will come, but it just doesn't feel right.

Or, at least the Temple community can only hope.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”