PSU's board authorizes Sandusky settlements

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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.

Penn State season preview: Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Penn State season preview: Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

There are certain corners of the Interwebs where things are said and written just for effect.

Perhaps you’ve heard.

That being the case, it should come as no surprise that one scalding take heading into this college football season is that Penn State coach James Franklin is on the hot seat.

It’s understandable if you consider the fact that the Langhorne native has finished 7-6 each of his first two seasons, or that he is a combined 0-6 against Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan, the three teams he absolutely must beat to succeed in the rugged Big Ten East.

(Also to be taken into account is that the Lions lost to Maryland two years ago for the first time since 1961, and to Temple last year for the first time since 1941.)

Take a step back, though. Consider that he is still dealing with the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal — that, specifically, the draconian NCAA sanctions left him with a threadbare roster when he arrived from Vanderbilt.

Consider further that his own athletic director, Sandy Barbour, has his back, and that he is entering just the third year of a six-year contract.

Hot seat? Well, maybe a little toasty, but nothing more.

For the record, Franklin declined to play along when asked Tuesday afternoon about any noise pertaining to his job. He said during the Big Ten coaches’ conference call that he was concerned only with the task at hand — Saturday’s season opener against Kent State in Beaver Stadium and the day-to-day machinations of his team.

“Focus on that, not anything else,” he said. “Not any other conversations or anything else going on. Focus on the things we can control.”

He has said on other occasions that he considers this Year One of his program, since he finally has a full complement of 85 scholarship players (or thereabouts) at his disposal. He and his staff have consistently brought in top-notch recruits, something best reflected at the skill positions.

The Lions, however, are painfully young (12 players with senior eligibility) and have a new quarterback (redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley), questions along both lines and little depth on linebacker. They are also facing a tough schedule, especially early. September includes visits to Pitt and Michigan sandwiched around a home meeting with Temple, and later they not only face the Buckeyes and Spartans but an always-respectable Iowa club.

So if they tank — if, say, they go 4-8 (not an impossibility) — then it is safe to say that Franklin might be in jeopardy. If they again piddle along in the middle of the pack, which seems more likely, he will almost certainly get another year.

McSorley, a smallish run-pass threat (at 6 feet, 201 pounds), would appear to be a better fit for Franklin’s preferred offensive mode than the departed Christian Hackenberg, a classic dropback type — particularly since new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, formerly the head coach at Fordham, has brought his no-huddle spread attack to Happy Valley.

McSorley spelled an injured Hackenberg midway through last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia, going 14 for 27 for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and he certainly has a pedigree. He was a rare four-year starter at Briar Woods High School in Virginia, leading his team to four consecutive state finals and winning the first three of those.

“Trace just has that gene inside him that just makes him a competitor, and just a winner,” said Wake Forest tight end Cam Serigne, once McSorley’s high school teammate.

That is literally true. McSorley’s dad, Rick, played football at Richmond, and a paternal uncle, Jeff, played at Marshall. But McSorley has seemingly taken that DNA and run with it.

In his very first high school game he led his team, minus its top two running backs, on a game-winning 88-yard drive in the final minutes. And in his career he won 55 of 60 games.

“He was kind of smart beyond his years,” Briar Woods coach Charlie Pierce said. “I’ve been coaching for 27 years and a head coach for 17 years at a couple different high schools, and I’ve only experienced a couple players that had a football acumen like Trace. Trace had the best, by far, at an early age.”

Now he will be entrusted with a unit that promises to be heavy on run-pass options.

“I think that’s going to be one of the best things of our offense,” McSorley said, “because the defense can in one sense never be right.”

He has a guy who can run in sophomore Saquon Barkley (a school freshman-record 1,076 yards last year) and a bunch of guys who can catch, headed by Chris Godwin (69-1,101-5 TDs) and DaeSean Hamilton (45-580-6 TDs).

But the line remains a question, and only one projected starter — right tackle Andrew Nelson — will open in the same position he filled a year ago. (The new left guard is Ryan Bates, a redshirt freshman from Archbishop Wood.)

The defensive line, which lost three NFL players in Austin Johnson (Titans), Anthony Zettel (Lions) and Carl Nassib (Browns), is likewise unsettled. Only end Garrett Sickels returns.

Linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, a Philadelphia native, was lost for the season with a knee injury sustained in the 2015 opener against Temple. The fifth-year senior is back and will man the weak side, after playing the middle last year.

Jason Cabinda slid over from the weak side to fill the breach when Wartman-White was injured, and led the team with 100 tackles. He’s also back. So too is Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest High) on the strong side. He made 65 tackles last year despite “playing with two bad wheels” and “a shoulder that kept popping out,” according to Brent Pry, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Bob Shoop left for Tennessee.

The secondary is likewise well-fortified, and includes cornerback John Reid, a sophomore from St. Joe’s Prep.

Bottom line: There are too many questions surrounding the Lions to believe they can challenge Ohio State and Michigan atop the division, and (perhaps) enough to drop them below the .500 mark for the first time since 2004. Split the difference, then. Figure that they remain a middle-of-the-road club, and that Franklin’s seat doesn’t become too hot to the touch.

Not yet, anyway.

Freelance writer Gordie Jones is a regular contributor to CSNPhilly.com.

Temple still searching for identity with perception changed

Temple still searching for identity with perception changed

Temple head coach Matt Rhule understands the outside perception surrounding his football team this season has changed after the Owls’ historic 2015 campaign.

That’s expected following the laundry list of accomplishments TU achieved last season, its second-ever 10-win season and its first AAC Eastern Division title among them.

From a perception point of view, Rhule hopes those outside Edberg-Olson Hall see Temple as a team that can win 10 games and could be ranked again in 2016.

“Perception’s different to me than expectations,” Rhule said last week at TU's media day. “So I think the perception is different, but our players … they understand that we can play at that level.”

With expectations higher — both on the inside and outside — Temple still faces challenges as its season kicks off Friday night against Army at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I don’t know if we’re a tough team yet,” Rhule said. “We’ll find out. We’ll found out if we understand what our identity is, but we are deep, talented.

“It’ll come down to whether or not we are going to be a physical, hard-nosed competitive team week in and week out. That’s the question that we have going forward.”

Rhule recently dismissed his first-team offense from a practice during training camp because he was displeased with its effort and it didn’t live up to the standard he sets.

That day, he didn't see what he wanted out of the group he's asking to lead his team, with seniors Phillip Walker and Jahad Thomas being elevated into the core leadership group.

Toughness was a characteristic the Temple teams before had. This is Rhule's team now, as he's heading into his fourth season as head coach. Everyone here is a Rhule recruit.

Is toughness something a team can see grow over time?

"I think you can see toughness every day, I really do," Rhule said. "I don't know if we're there yet. I don't know if we really, truly embrace being a really tough team.

"We like to win — we don't always like to compete. The really, really great competitors, when they're losing, they rally. Losing is when you see the lion inside them emerge.

"There are some guys out here that are doing that. When P.J. starts losing, he just let's go. When Jahad starts losing, Avery Williams, they want to come back and win."

By the same token, Rhule said he’s pleased with Temple’s development and attitude, but it still finds itself searching for its identity heading into its Week 1 tilt.

Army deploys a triple-option offense and an all-attack defense. It’s a unique challenge for a traditional team to get ready for, which is why Rhule’s highlighting the negatives now.

“We’re further away because we’re playing Army,” he said. “You’re trying to progress your team versus each other and then these last five days, you see a major jump usually. Well now, we have to now stop playing versus this defense and face a whole new offense and a whole new defense.

"So even when you get yourself ready for Army, then you're a little further behind the following game and then the following game and the following game. That’s just what it is. I’m not here to complain about it. That’s why I have a sense of urgency I haven’t had before because I can sense that.”

The Owls have holes to fill on defense with Matt Ioannidis, Tyler Matakevich and Tavon Young graduating to the NFL, both from production and leadership viewpoints.

Rhule doesn’t believe Temple can replace what those three brought to the table, especially Matakevich, who was the voice and face of a tough Owls defense.

Matakevich, a seventh-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, left North Broad Street as the program’s all-time leading tackler at 493, among several other notable achievements.

In many ways, Matakevich represented Temple’s identity: tough, gritty and competitive. Now that he’s gone, the Owls’ identity sings a different tune, one Rhule still has to adapt to.

“We’re probably a quieter team on defense,” he said. “I was talking about that (the other day), sometimes I think practice is dead and then I turn the film on and we’re flying around.

“Last year, Ioannidis was standing right next to me, screaming at the defense. Nate D. Smith was saying off the wall things at practice like, ‘We’re going to kill you offense.’

“It was just a much different vibe. They were so competitive verbally. These kids are just quieter on defense, but on offense now, real leadership has emerged.”

One of the players Rhule expects to help shape the Owls’ identity is senior linebacker Avery Williams, who the head coach said has been a go-to guy for TU at practice.

Williams, who had a productive junior year with 49 tackles and an interception, wears No. 2, which is of significance because TU hands single digits to its toughest players.

The Baltimore native doesn't expect any more responsibility in his final season in the cherry and white because Matakevich is gone. For him, that leadership has always been here.

At Temple, Williams said, no one is on a pedestal and the players take equal responsibility. So now that Matakevich is gone …

“You got to replace a great, amazing player like him," Williams said. "You don’t replace him, but another guy just got to step up. All of us are great players. …

“We’ve never looked at one guy and been like, ‘Bro, you got to make all the plays because the rest of us suck.' If that hat on your head, you got to make a play.”

With two days until kickoff, what exactly is toughness?

“I define toughness to our kids all the time,” Rhule said. “Toughness is physical and emotional strength to handle adverse conditions and do hard tasks.

“So strength is something you develop, it’s not something you’re born with. You don’t ever see a baby and say, ‘Boy, that’s a tough baby.’

“You don’t say that’s a tough baby, you have to develop toughness, so we’re trying to develop it in the young players. It’s not an easy process.”

St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

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St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

Picked to finish seventh in the 2015-16 Atlantic 10 preseason poll, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks were all but written off before their season even began. 

Fast forward a year or so later, those same Hawks gathered on the first day of school on Monday in the Ramsay Basketball Center for a special ring ceremony to commemorate their A-10 championship. 

To help give out the rings, head coach Phil Martelli was able to gather members of past St. Joe’s A-10 championship teams: Rodney Blake and Bruiser Flint from the 1986 team, Pat Carroll from the 2004 team, and most recently Daryus Quarles from the 2014 team. 

Notably missing from the ceremony was A-10 and Big 5 Player of the Year DeAndre' Bembry, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks, and Isaiah Miles, who has begun his professional career in France with JDA Dijon. 

Aaron Brown, the team’s third graduated senior and another key cog of that championship run, was able to attend before heading off to start his pro career in Iceland. 

Martelli, addressing a room full of players, coaches, family and friends, made it clear just what it means to wear that ring and represent St. Joe’s as A-10 champions. 

“Championships last with you for a long time, if not forever, and we’re getting the opportunity to share that with these players, their families and some really special people in the room,” Martelli said. “People are going to have some tough times; they’re going to lose loved ones, they’re going to lose possessions, they’re going to lose jobs, but forever this group of players is going to be the 2016 Atlantic 10 champions.”

The 2015-16 Hawks finished the regular season with a 28-8 record, good enough for second-best in school history. They won their fourth A-10 championship, made their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years and came a few points shy of a Sweet 16 appearance. 

A simply remarkable season for a team that won just 13 games the year before. However, as with any sport, when one season ends the focus is already on next year. 

"We knew in the beginning, since I’ve had this job, that each year is a separate entity and each team is a separate group," Martelli said. "Obviously the talent changes, we had a first-round draft pick, we had a great player in Isaiah Miles, so we had all-league players. Now it’s really the question of who's next and what expectations do they have for carrying the ball. Everybody gets a chance, and this group now has that opportunity."

Lamarr Kimble, a 2015-16 A-10 All-Rookie selection, is one player who will be counted on following the recent departures of Bembry, Miles and Brown. Despite being just a sophomore, Kimble knows he’s ready for a more expanded role this season.
 
"I've always been a leader, but I definitely see a bigger role this year in terms of scoring and facilitating," Kimble said. "I'm definitely ready to [have a bigger role], I’m looking to have more goals than last year rather than just All-Rookie, so there’s definitely big dreams for me."

Regardless of the success that St. Joe’s saw last year, both the players and coaches recognize that a new season has begun. Prior to the ceremony and reception, the Hawks went through a routine summer practice. Players realize the work and effort that must be put in if they want to replicate last season’s run. 

“It just starts from the older guys, you know, letting the younger guys know that what we did last year doesn’t fold over to the next year, we still have to work as hard as possible to get to where we need to get to,” Kimble said. “I think that’s the mind set we had this whole summer, going into the year now we have that same mind set where we want to get back to where we were at, that’s the position we want to be in.”

Martelli, entering his 22nd year on Hawk hill, looked out and addressed the crowd one last time after sliding his fifth championship ring (four A-10 titles and one from the 2004 undefeated regular season) onto his finger. 

“Championships are won and championships are lost,” he said, “but the Hawk will never die.”