Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

Finger: Was Writing on the Wall with Paterno, Penn State?

With our fearless leader, Enrico Campitelli Jr., on vacation in an undisclosed location—really, he won't tell us where he is—we may have some special contributors dropping by The700Level.

Today we're joined by CSNPhilly's John Finger. Reexamining multiple incidents involving the Penn State football team in 2007, Finger begs the question as to whether or not the writing was on the wall in regards to what we now know about how the university and its football coach collectively handle institutional crises...

Note: West of Philadelphia is a large land mass called Pennsylvania. To most, this region is called “Penn State Country.” To be more succinct, this is Penn State football country and non-citizens of this land act at their own peril.

I grew up in Penn State Country. I have family and friends who are and were Penn State alums, professors, boosters and supporters. As such, Penn State football dominated everyday life during the season. For many, football Saturday’s were the reason for existence. The same went for the annual spring practice game. Typically, Saturday afternoons in this part of the world consisted of women preparing mass quantities of food, drink all while dressed in the appropriate Penn State garb. The men would wear a tasteful Penn State shirt with a pressed pair of khakis and black shoes.

Just like Joe. Hey, it wasn’t just a football game or a happening. Penn State football was life.

And it drove me nuts.

More so, the man at the center of this universe, was impossible to ignore. Joe Paterno was the most well-known and revered man in the Commonwealth. He gave speeches to introduce presidents and he was the star. If he went to a basketball game, people watched him. People fought in bookstores in order to buy copies of his autobiography or life-sized poster cutouts.

Paterno was a moral arbiter for a lot of folks in Penn State Country and a compass of what was right and wrong. Paterno, in Penn State Country, was the cult of personality personified.

And it was all a lie.

As it has played out, Paterno is not very much different from the Jackie Sherrills or Barry Switzers he railed against. When push comes to shove, Paterno will always protect his own no matter what the cost.

The following story was written on Oct. 19, 2007 during a period where Paterno’s players were being arrested for sexual assault, fighting on campus and shooting a crossbow through the dorms. Plus, Paterno had been involved in a road-rage incident on campus.

Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes at Penn State with disgraced former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall? 

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Gotta Go, Joe
Oct. 19, 2007
There was time up there in the hinterlands of Happy Valley when a certain football coach could carry on his business in town with impunity. If there was a professor or another local pinheaded intellectual rolling through stops signs, then by golly, it was up to the football coach to restore order by making the necessary traffic stop.

Anarchy might be a concept that the intellectuals like to discuss and stroke their pointed beards over, but here in the real world anarchy doesn't get you to a Bowl Game, Poindexter!

After all, whose name is it on the library where they stash all those books the professors love to read and write? It ain't no philosopher... yeah, that's right; it’s the football coach, smarty pants.

Better yet, it used to be that the football coach ran that little college town in the same way that Porky used to in that eponymously titled movie from the 1980s. See, Ol’ Porky ran his backwoods town and even had the local law enforcement signed up for duty. In fact, when making the rounds about town, the sheriff and his boys would occasionally come across a few of Porky’s friends who may have had a little too much moonshine and were causing a “disturbance” or something like that.

But rather than take the miscreant to the lockup and run him through all that fingerprinting and photographing rigamarole, the local law would just take the deviant over to Porky’s house to let him deal with it.

Hey, no sense getting worked up over boys just being boys.

Once upon a time the “Porky's Model” was how it was done up there in Happy Valley. Say a footballer had one too many after practice (or study hall) and decided to fire a crossbow into the dorms. Or, say, he may have teetered over the edge into felony rape and sexual-assault charges ... well, the State College PD and the campus cops could have just turned it over to the football coach. No sense getting worked up over it. Let the boss handle it. That's what he's here for.

But there's a big problem nowadays. It seems as if the times have changed up at State. It also seems as if those pinheads in academia and those degenerates in the media have finally started to take that whole “accountability” and “discipline” malarkey the coach always talked about, to heart.

But this time, it just doesn’t apply to tailgating and rooting for Ol’ State to win the big game and letting the boys be boys. Nope, instead they want to know things. Like, for instance, why the football coach won’t tell the taxpayers in the Commonwealth how much his public-subsidized paycheck is for.

How gauche!

Then they want to know just who does the coach think he is when he “gently chided” a woman driver who may or may not have rolled through a stop sign. I mean come on, Coach... you know how those gals are behind the wheel. She was probably putting on her makeup and didn't see the sign. No wonder her husband was shouting. Cut him some slack, Coach — he has to live with her!

But oddly enough, those vultures want to know why the coach has not discussed the running back who will stand trial for felony rape and sexual-assault charges when the star player allegedly attempted to have sex with a woman sleeping in his apartment.

“What makes this assault different ... is that she was punched in the kidney in order to gain compliance,” assistant district attorney Lance Marshall said outside the courthouse. “This case is more unusual than our typical sex assault case” on campus.

Yes, and you want to know what else makes it different? In the first five games of this season, the running back rushed for 302 yards and six touchdowns. It’s a good thing that it's a star football player from Penn State that stands accused and not a lacrosse player from Duke. Otherwise, the school might cancel the rest of the season and suspend the program.

But something like that would never happen at Penn State, would it? Not with Mr. Clean, Joe Paterno running the show. After all, when asked about the charges levied on his running back, the football coach, understandably, got angry...

At the guy asking the question.

Here's an excerpt from last Wednesday's media teleconference:

Question: Bonnie Bernstein reported on ABC's telecast that you told her Austin Scott was off the team. He's no longer on the depth chart. What's his status?

Coach: You want to talk about anybody that we're playing? I'm not going to talk about it. Austin Scott's got to work some things out.

Yeah, like trying to stay out of jail,
right?

Meanwhile, when asked if four of his players, who were reportedly involved in an on-campus fight the night after the Iowa game, would see action this weekend, The Coach said: “It depends how well they practice.”

Come on... it was just a fight. It wasn't like they raped anyone. Sheesh!

Now here’s the thing that gets me: when I was a kid growing up in the so-called Penn State Country, I read the football coach's biography and was taken with certain aspects of it. Particularly, I was enchanted by parts where Paterno wrote about his youth in Brooklyn and his father’s insistence on education and a strong sense of morality be the focal point of his son’s life. These lessons were drilled into young Paterno everyday not just by his father, Angelo, but also a particular Jesuit Brother who used  to make young Paterno stay late after to school for special assignments in Latin and literature. In fact, it may have been the most interesting section in any jock lit book I have ever read.

It makes me wonder what that old Latin and literature student would think of the tired, old ball coach who hasn’t quite learned that things aren't the way they used to be.

What would the Jesuits say?

What would Angelo Paterno say?

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

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Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft, but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson tells Albert Breer for TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump, and while he was surrounded with a dominant defense and ground attack, likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on their aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the Eagles organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position …”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at the quarterback position this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).