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GSC Offense Prevails Over Defense in Annual Blue & White Spring Game

The Free Press WV

The Glenville State Pioneer football team concluded spring practices with the Annual Blue & White Spring game Thursday evening at Morris Stadium.

The Pioneer offense outlasted the defense by one, 41-40.

Quarterback Jaylen McNair went 17 for 31 for 108 yards while fellow QB JT Keffer went 10 for 24 for 88 yards and two scores.

Daman Robinson hauled in both TD passes from Keffer on the evening. Fellow wideout Austin Ratliff had a nice game as he caught eight passes for 65 yards. Mike Williams hauled in 10 passes as he led the receiving core in the game. Another standout was Tre Crutcher as he made several nice catches.

On the ground Tre Smith carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards while Donovan Miller rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries.

For the Pioneer defense Wyatt Workman had a break out game as he was all over the field and racked up eight tackles. Defensive end John Mimes had a nice night as he had three tackles for loss while fellow defensive end Lamar Daniel had three tackles and three sacks. Mimes and Daniels both also combined for a safety.

Quintavius Twine also had a nice evening in the Pioneer secondary as he made several big hits.

At halftime the Pioneers honored the 2017 MEC Football All-Conference Team members while also donating the money raised at the spring game to the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department (GCVFD). Glenville State also announced the new Pioneer mascot for the Fall 2018 in Ronisha “Nish” Lawson, a freshman Music Education major from Beckley, West Virginia.

The Pioneers will open up the 2018 season on the road at UVa-Wise on Thursday, August 30 at 7:00 p.m.

Six years later, Penn State is still at war over the Sandusky scandal

The Free Press WV

In July, Penn State’s board of trustees met to discuss the most important issues facing a school system with 99,000 students and a $5.7 billion budget. It took about three hours before someone brought up Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno.

As the chairman tried to end the meeting, a hand rose from the back of the room. The chairman’s smile faded as he acknowledged an alumni-elected trustee.

Anthony Lubrano, a 57-year-old wealth management executive, launched into a lengthy statement assailing the board and administration. Lubrano’s criticism, as always, focused on the Freeh Report, the NCAA and the Penn State administration’s efforts to distance the university from the iconic coach.

“Hundreds of thousands of alumni who care about our past and our future have been deceived and, in the process, disenfranchised,“ Lubrano said. “We will never heal without truth and reconciliation.“

While some of the nine alumni-elected trustees nodded their heads in agreement, some of the remaining 29 trustees rolled their eyes or shook their heads in frustration. Some walked out. When Lubrano finished, the room was half-empty.

Six years after the Sandusky scandal rocked Penn State, university leadership is still fighting a civil war over the case, a conflict fueled, in part, by weaknesses that have developed in investigations that concluded top Penn State officials covered up for the convicted child molester.

While new evidence has not altered the public perception of Paterno’s culpability for Sandusky’s crimes, it has become fodder for conspiracy theories that have influenced state elections and incited feuds among Penn State trustees, some of whom hold deep suspicions about colleagues who quickly agreed to measures intended to end the crisis as quickly as possible.

Law enforcement officials, victims’ lawyers and private investigators - including Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who authored a damning 2012 report that asserted Paterno’s involvement in a coverup - say the dispute results from stubborn “Paterno-deniers,“ “Joebots” and “truthers,“ for whom no evidence will be strong enough to condemn the beloved former football coach.

“The tragedy of all of this is that it is self-perpetuated and self-inflicted,“ said Tom Kline, an attorney for one victim. “They have settled on an endless assault on anyone who dares suggest that there was something that happened that was wrong and that the fault lies at the doorstep of either Paterno or the football program.“

But alumni trustees and supporters insist Paterno and the school were victims of a rush to judgment that spared other, more culpable organizations - most notably the Second Mile, Sandusky’s charity for at-risk children - from public scorn. They point to conflicting accounts of the assault at the core of the coverup case, evidence the NCAA may have influenced Freeh’s report and doubts about claims Paterno ignored assaults as far back as the 1970s.

“The board has tried to cast us as a kook fringe. . . . We’re not a bunch of kooks. We’re not Joebots. We just see it for what it is,“ said Christian Marrone, a 1997 alum who has served as a senior presidential appointee in both the Bush and Obama administrations. “It’s a complex, complicated, emotional situation . . . and it’s not going to go away anytime soon.“

Penn State’s president, board chairman and alumni association president all declined interview requests and, in written statements, downplayed strife.

“The vast majority of our alumni are overwhelmingly supportive,“ board chairman Mark Dambly wrote.

Every time alumni vote, however, they elect trustees who vow to renounce Freeh’s report and reconcile with the Paternos.

At that July meeting, the newest alumni trustee - who received more votes than any other candidate - walked in early, with a backpack commemorating the 2009 Rose Bowl slung over his shoulder. He doesn’t have his father’s prominent nose and chin, but the resemblance is there, in the eyes.

He sat down in a corner with the other alumni trustees, behind a placard with his name: “JAY PATERNO.“

- - -

News cameras snapped as a publicist strode to the lectern the morning of July 12, 2012.

“In just a moment, Louis Freeh will take the podium,“ the man said with a thick British accent, “to discuss the independent investigation.“

A former federal judge who led the FBI from 1993 until 2001, Freeh had entered the lucrative world of leading internal investigations for troubled organizations. This assignment, which earned his firm $8.3 million, was his most high-profile case.

Sandusky had been convicted two weeks before, but Paterno’s role in his former assistant’s crimes was still an open question. Freeh answered it.

According to Freeh, in 2001, Paterno and three university administrators - president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz - decided to conceal a report of Sandusky assaulting a boy, to avoid bad publicity for the university and its football team. The men displayed a “callous and shocking disregard for child victims,“ Freeh said, as they “empowered Sandusky” to abuse boys for another decade.

Freeh’s verdict capped an unimaginable downfall for Paterno, who just eight months before seemed poised to retire as the winningest, most respected coach in the history of college football. In 46 years as head coach, he’d piled up 409 wins and two national championships while professing selflessness and education, fielding teams that wore simple jerseys with no names on the back, his players graduating at rates that outpaced competitors. In the venal world of college football, Paterno built a reputation as a coach who valued integrity over winning - “Success with Honor” was his motto - and now he stood accused of covering up for a pedophile to protect his public image.

In including Paterno, Freeh had gone further than prosecutors, who would charge the administrators with crimes but said they did not believe Paterno participated. In defending his conclusion, Freeh cited “the most important evidence in the case”: a chain of emails between the three administrators from 2001.

The emails showed the men planned to report Sandusky to child welfare authorities but changed course after Curley met with Paterno. Instead, they banned Sandusky from bringing children to Penn State and informed the Second Mile of the incident. Sandusky was convicted of assaulting four boys after this incident.

Regarding that pivotal conversation, Freeh did not interview Paterno, who had died that January, or Curley, who declined on the advice of his lawyer.

“We are basing this reasonable conclusion on the emails . . . but we do not know what the content of that conversation was,“ he said.

The reaction to Freeh’s report was swift, and immense. Rumors swirled the NCAA was considering imposing the “death penalty,“ the cancellation of an entire football season.

In an email, one trustee urged then-Penn State president Rod Erickson to tear down the statue of Paterno outside the stadium, if it would pacify the NCAA.

“Do whatever you need to do to keep the NCAA from giving us the ‘Death Penalty,‘ “ trustee Paul Suhey wrote. “I don’t care if you have to bring your own bulldozer over and drag it to your farm, do it!“

Erickson replied, “That’s precisely what I’m trying to do, Paul.“

Two days later, after the statue was gone, Erickson emailed several colleagues: “Just talked with [NCAA President] Mark Emmert. He thought statue removal was handled very well.“

Eleven days after Freeh’s news conference, the NCAA announced that Penn State had entered into a “consent decree,“ accepting a $60 million fine and the erasing of all of Paterno’s wins after 1998, the year Sandusky was investigated - but cleared - by Penn State police and a state child welfare agency. Freeh had concluded Paterno should have suspected then his assistant was a pedophile.

The NCAA traditionally didn’t venture into criminal matters at universities, instead dealing with rules violations within athletics. When asked why that changed, Emmert later testified, “If a university is involved in a coverup . . . that constitutes a kind of behavior that we . . . want to be involved in.“

In response to alumni outrage, Erickson explained that NCAA officials had made clear Penn State had no choice to avoid the death penalty.

“Emmert indicated that our only chance to avoid a death penalty along with sanctions might be to opt for a consent decree,“ Erickson explained at a board meeting. “It was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.“

The board’s leadership commended Erickson and urged alumni to move on. A few months later, board chairwoman Karen Peetz predicted, thanks to their aggressive response, that by 2014 the Sandusky case “will be just a distant memory.“

- - -

While Penn State leaders were relieved to avoid the death penalty, some alumni seethed. Two state lawmakers asked the NCAA to spend the $60 million fine in Pennsylvania. When the NCAA refused, the lawmakers sued.

“We had a problem with the NCAA, by fiat, deciding we’re going to take $60 million of taxpayer money and spend it wherever we please,“ said Matthew Haverstick, attorney for state Sen. Jake Corman, R.

The case produced evidence embarrassing for the NCAA. One staffer, in an email, wrote that NCAA punishments for Penn State would be unneeded and excessive, but “new NCAA leadership is extremely image conscious, and if they conclude that pursuing allegations against PSU would enhance the association’s standing with the public, then an infractions case could follow.“

Emails showed Oregon State President Ed Ray, NCAA executive committee chair, urged Emmert to act quickly on the Freeh Report, and Emmert expressed a desire to “leverage the moment.“ Ray acknowledged he never actually read the report because he was vacationing in Hawaii at the time.

Ray also testified that the NCAA’s executive committee never seriously considered the death penalty. Emmert approached them, according to Ray, and said Penn State suggested a consent decree.

“Our read of the evidence was that the NCAA board of directors and the Penn State board of trustees were being played off one another by the NCAA C-suite executives,“ Haverstick said. “They had wildly different understandings about what was happening around them at that time.“

Emmert testified the NCAA had seriously considered the death penalty and Penn State willingly agreed to the consent decree. “No one was saying this was take it or leave it,“ Emmert said.

In January 2015, the case settled. The NCAA agreed to spend the money in Pennsylvania and reduced other sanctions, including restoring Paterno’s win total to 409.

In a phone interview, NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy denied the organization tried to use the case to burnish its public image and said Penn State and the NCAA had agreed the consent decree “was the best way to allow the university to move forward.“

The lawsuit also produced communications between NCAA staffers and Freeh’s team that prompted some alumni to theorize Freeh catered his report - which, by including Paterno, put the case squarely in the NCAA’s crosshairs - to appeal to a desired client.

While the investigation was ongoing, NCAA staffers sent Freeh’s team a list of suggested interview subjects and questions. NCAA staffers gave a presentation to Freeh investigators, explaining how the NCAA determines when a university loses “institutional control” over athletics, one of the most serious offenses in the NCAA’s rule book. In a deposition, a Freeh investigator acknowledged the firm had identified the NCAA as a potential client.

“This isn’t and never should have been a sports story,“ said Maribeth Roman Schmidt, executive director of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a nonprofit that, since 2012, has worked to elect alumni trustees who promise to repudiate the Freeh Report.

In a statement, the Freeh firm rejected the suggestion that its interactions with the NCAA influenced its findings.

“Our investigation was our own. . . . We did not ask questions for others, or let others’ opinions affect our work,“ the firm wrote.

The NCAA is only a part of why some alumni feel the school and Paterno took a disproportionate share of the blame, Schmidt said, before explaining theories involving a former governor and the Second Mile.

“If you really want to understand this,“ Schmidt said, “you need to talk to Ray Blehar.“

- - -

Mementos of Penn State fandom - framed photos of Paterno, magazine covers featuring the coach and his team, and Nittany Lion-themed toy cars - line the shelves, along with an assortment of unusual reading material. An academic report entitled “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis,“ sits near an audit of Pennsylvania’s child welfare system and an accordion binder, filled with financial statements from the Second Mile.

“This is all Sandusky,“ said Blehar as he pointed at one shelf. On the desk sat two USB drives containing more than 300,000 pages of evidence and testimony from Sandusky-related litigation. “This, over here, this is all Sandusky, too.“

Blehar, 56, is a former intelligence analyst for the federal government who has devoted retirement to uncovering what he believes was a conspiracy, reaching to the highest ranks of Pennsylvania government, to have Penn State take the blame for Sandusky.

From his home outside Annapolis, Maryland, Blehar has written hundreds of posts over the years for notpsu.blogspot.com - a website devoted to “searching for the truth through a fog of deception” - analyzing new evidence from Sandusky-related cases.

“The Freeh Report was supposed to be the definitive account, and after reading it, I had more questions than answers,“ Blehar said. “I just want to know what the truth is.“

The Freeh Report, Blehar argues, is tainted with hindsight bias, written with the assumption football coaches and college administrators should have recognized warning signs that a child welfare agency and a charity for at-risk children missed.

Freeh chided Paterno and others at Penn State for not reacting with alarm to the sight of Sandusky showering with children. In 1998, however, Sandusky admitted to an investigator with a state child welfare agency that he showered with children, and the agency cleared Sandusky to work with children anyway. In 2001, when the Second Mile’s executive director learned Sandusky was showering with children, his response was to advise Sandusky, when showering with children in the future, to wear a swimsuit.

Blehar also has written several posts dissecting the testimony of Mike McQueary, the redheaded former Penn State football assistant who testified he witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in a Penn State shower and then told Paterno and the administrators.

First, McQueary testified the incident happened in March 2002, then records showed it was February 2001. Prosecutors, in charging documents, implied McQueary reported “anal intercourse” to Paterno; McQueary has testified he never would have used such explicit terms with Paterno, though he made clear he witnessed something sexual. In an email McQueary sent prosecutors, released years later, he wrote, “I feel my words were slightly twisted.“

Paterno testified that McQueary reported “fondling” and something of “a sexual nature,“ but Blehar thinks the coach, who was 84 at the time of his testimony, misremembered what his young assistant told him a decade before.

Blehar believes McQueary described a more ambiguous scene in 2001 and that, when he learned nine years later from detectives that Sandusky was under investigation for abusing children, he recalled something far more vivid. This would explain why McQueary and no one with whom he spoke in 2001 decided to contact authorities on their own, said Blehar, citing testimony of State College physician Jonathan Dranov, one of the first people McQueary spoke with that night.

Dranov, a mandatory reporter of abuse because he’s a doctor, has testified repeatedly that McQueary never said he witnessed a sex act. Instead, according to Dranov, McQueary described seeing a boy appear around a shower wall and an arm pull the boy back. McQueary described hearing “sexual sounds,“ Dranov said, and then saw Sandusky leave the shower.

When detectives came asking, Blehar theorizes, McQueary unwittingly became part of a conspiracy engineered by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, R. As Pennsylvania attorney general, Corbett oversaw the early stages of the Sandusky investigation, and as governor, Corbett was a member of the Penn State board that forced out Spanier, the school’s president. Blehar points out Corbett accepted campaign donations from Second Mile board members and had feuded with Spanier over state funding.

While outlandish, such theories gained currency in Pennsylvania. In 2013, newly elected Attorney General Kathleen Kane, D, who suggested on the campaign trail that Corbett slow-walked the Sandusky investigation and donations from Second Mile officials played a role, appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the state’s Sandusky investigation.

The inquiry concluded politics played no role in the Sandusky investigation but also uncovered the fact that attorney general staffers - including Frank Fina, the prosecutor who led the Sandusky case - shared pornography via office email. The ensuing scandal, known in Pennsylvania as “Porngate,“ tarnished several careers.

“No one involved with this case ever envisioned that taking a serial pedophile out of society was going to result in years’ worth of professional and personal attacks by people who are basically lunatics,“ Fina said in a recent phone interview.

In 2014, Corbett became the first incumbent Pennsylvania governor in 40 years to lose a bid for reelection. In a phone interview, Corbett said he believes the Sandusky case played a role.

“The Second Mile had no influence on that investigation whatsoever, and there’s no evidence that they did,“ Corbett said. “But they [Penn State alumni] won’t accept that, will they?“

About a year ago, Corbett said, a man in a Penn State jacket approached him in a supermarket and said, “You’re Tom Corbett, aren’t you? . . . We got even with you.“

Blehar plans to write a book about the Sandusky case but expects he’s years away from finishing his work.

Asked when alumni will move past the case, Blehar answered, without hesitation, “When we’re all dead.

“Either that or when the truth comes out,“ he said. “Whichever happens first.“

- - -

In March, the Penn State coverup case finally went to trial. The case had been delayed by years of appeals over the prosecution’s controversial decision to use Penn State’s former general counsel, Cynthia Baldwin, as a key witness.

When the administrators were called to testify to the grand jury investigating Sandusky, none of them hired their own lawyers. Instead, they identified Baldwin, who had no experience representing clients before grand juries, as their lawyer, and she accompanied them as they testified.

But after Sandusky’s arrest, when prosecutors started asking hard questions about difficulties getting records from Penn State, Baldwin decided to testify against the men, alleging they lied to her about whether they had records. New attorneys for the administrators appealed, arguing any problems law enforcement had getting records were Baldwin’s fault and she was violating attorney-client privilege by testifying against them.

An appeals court eventually agreed Baldwin couldn’t testify, and threw out most of the charges.

Days before the trial, in a surprise move, Curley and Schultz each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of child endangerment, prompting speculation they would finally admit to a coverup.

When Curley and Schultz appeared on the stand, however, they said the same things their lawyers had said for five years. Paterno had told them someone saw Sandusky “horsing around” with a boy. They didn’t think Sandusky was a pedophile, they thought he had “boundary issues.“ When they met with McQueary, he did not describe witnessing a sexual assault.

Curley, to the frustration of the prosecution, didn’t recall many important conversations from 2001, including his meeting with Paterno, after which Curley decided not to contact authorities.

As Spanier’s lawyer made his closing argument that there was no coverup at Penn State, he displayed for the jury the same email chain that, five years earlier, Freeh had declared “the most important evidence” proving a coverup.

“That’s basically all the [prosecution] has on its claim of a criminal conspiracy,“ attorney Sam Silver said. “. . . They did not talk about hiding anything. . . . They concluded that they would go outside of Penn State to an independent, nonprofit organization that was Jerry Sandusky’s employer and had as its mission the welfare of children.

“Is that a plan we would all make today knowing what we all know today? I don’t need to answer that question.“

Silver then listed 12 people who knew in 2001 that an assistant had been disturbed by something he saw in a shower involving Sandusky and a boy, none of whom said anyone at Penn State urged them not to contact authorities.

“That is a heck of a way to pull off a criminal conspiracy,“ Silver said.

Prosecutors alleged Penn State officials downplayed the incident when informing the Second Mile, in the hopes the charity wouldn’t make its own inquiry.

“These were smart men, and they were concerned about their image and the image of that school,“ lead prosecutor Laura Ditka said. “And their plan resulted in a sea of carnage left behind. . . . Find him guilty of everything.“

The jury acquitted Spanier of conspiracy and convicted him of misdemeanor child endangerment. A case that started with each man facing five felonies and 39 years in prison concluded with three misdemeanor convictions. Curley spent 2 1/2 months in jail. Schultz served two months. Spanier is appealing.

Prosecutors celebrated the verdict.

“The Office of Attorney General is 4-for-4 in the Penn State sexual abuse cases,“ a spokesperson said.

Freeh declared complete vindication. “For over 12 years, these men actively protected a notorious pedophile . . . they decided together to protect this monster rather than report him to the police,“ he wrote in a statement.

Alumni had a different perspective.

“No one was convicted of a conspiracy,“ said alumni trustee Alice Pope, a psychology professor at St. John’s University. “So there was no coverup.“

After the trial, alumni trustee Al Lord, former chief executive of Sallie Mae, emailed a reporter that he was “running out of sympathy for . . . so-called victims.“ When the comment was published, two board members called on Lord to resign.

Lord refused, releasing a statement apologizing while clarifying his remark was not directed at the eight men who testified at Sandusky’s trial, but at some of the others who reached private settlements with the university.

“It was certainly not intended to offend real victims,“ Lord wrote. “Real victims and alleged victims were among the 30 or so recipients of nearly $100 million distributed by Penn State.“

- - -

Last year, a court unsealed documents from litigation between Penn State and its insurance company that appeared damning for Paterno. One man testified in a deposition that Sandusky molested him on campus in 1976, when he was a teenage boy, and Paterno brushed him off when he told the coach about the incident a day later. The Paterno family responded with a public statement disputing the man’s account as “containing numerous specific elements . . . that defy all logic.“

Other men alleged Penn State officials ignored assaults in the 1980s. Penn State settled with all of them, paying six- and, in some cases, seven-figure amounts.

When the documents were released, Penn State President Eric Barron denounced news stories about them with a statement that, essentially, acknowledged the school’s board had spent tens of millions of dollars without making an effort to corroborate claims.

“None of these allegations . . . has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity,“ Barron wrote.

As part of the litigation, the insurance company brought in a lawyer with expertise in sex abuse cases to examine how Penn State vetted claims before paying alleged victims.

“It appears as though Penn State made little effort, if any, to verify the credibility of the claims,“ wrote the lawyer, who noted a surprising lack of documentation. The lawyer speculated “a concern about publicity and a desire to resolve the matters very quickly” influenced the process.

Among those Penn State paid was a former Second Mile participant who, before Sandusky’s trial, approached law enforcement and said he was the boy McQueary saw in the shower. Former prosecutor Fina said he didn’t believe the man’s claims, noting he was too old to match McQueary’s description and the man submitted a statement only after McQueary testified.

“It was like someone sat down with McQueary’s transcript and wrote the statement. It was absurd,“ Fina said.

One man alleged that in 1988, Penn State assistant Kevin O’Dea walked in while Sandusky was touching him improperly in a locker room and O’Dea did nothing. O’Dea, now an assistant with the New Orleans Saints, said in a statement through his attorney this was a “complete fabrication” and pointed out he didn’t work at Penn State until 1991. Penn State officials never contacted O’Dea before settling with the alleged victim, his attorney said.

A copy of the settlement agreement Penn State required alleged victims to sign - also made public last year - renewed controversy among alumni who believe the Second Mile dodged penalties for its role in Sandusky’s abuse.

The settlement agreements required victims to release several organizations, and anyone connected to them, from lawsuits, including the Second Mile.

“That’s not normal. Why would Penn State care about the Second Mile?“ said Jonathan Little, an Indianapolis lawyer who specializes in representing sex abuse victims. Little said he has never encountered a defendant requesting a liability release for a separate organization.

Kenneth Feinberg, a mediator Penn State hired to assist with the process, said the university structured the settlements to prevent a series of events in which a victim settled with Penn State, then sued the Second Mile, prompting the Second Mile to countersue Penn State, landing the university back in litigation.

Lord, the former alumni trustee, is skeptical of this explanation.

“That is 2,000 percent” nonsense, Lord said. “There’s only one reason [for the release], and that was to protect . . . members of the board who were involved at the Second Mile.“

The trustee who chaired the board committee that oversaw negotiations was Ira Lubert, a real estate and private equity executive. Lubert is a longtime friend of former Second Mile board chair Bob Poole; the two share a suite at Penn State football games. In the 2000s, state records show, Lubert was also part-owner of a summer camp the Second Mile visited. (Poole and former Second Mile executive director Jack Raykovitz did not respond to multiple requests to comment. In 2012, the Second Mile shuttered and another charity took over some of its programs and assets.)

In a phone interview, Lubert denied his Second Mile connections influenced negotiations. Penn State spokesperson Lawrence Lokman, in an email, termed it “an absurd stretch of reality” for anyone to consider Lubert had a conflict of interest.

Nicholas Mirkay, a University of Hawaii law school professor and nonprofit governance expert, said Lubert’s relationship with the Second Mile gave the appearance of a potential conflict and board members were right to question it. Mirkay found it surprising Penn State leadership allowed a board member with even a tangential connection to the Second Mile to lead settlement negotiations.

The lawyer for the man alleging abuse in 1976 and other alleged victims strongly disagreed Penn State made little effort to verify claims.

“My 13 clients were HEAVILY vetted,“ attorney Slade McLaughlin wrote in an email. “I think Penn State played it smart in resolving the cases and getting them into their rearview mirror as soon as possible.“

- - -

Last year, Penn State’s administration tried to discreetly commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paterno’s first game as coach. It was the first time the school had officially honored Paterno since he walked off the field Oct. 29, 2011, after a 10-7 win over Illinois that unexpectedly became his last.

National news outlets pilloried the school as tone-deaf. The student newspaper slammed the decision, writing, “This is our Penn State. It is a Penn State without Joe Paterno.“

Some alumni, meantime, praised the move while criticizing the university for not doing more, such as having a role in the ceremony for Sue Paterno, Joe’s widow, who still lives a few blocks away from campus.

In early September, Franco Harris - the former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers star and outspoken Paterno loyalist - returned to State College, to attend a game against Pitt. As he lumbered across campus, Harris couldn’t manage five steps without getting stopped by an alum wanting a picture.

“Thanks for sticking up for Joe,“ one alum from the 1960s told Harris.

Students, meanwhile, walked by, unaware of the NFL legend in their midst.

While references to Paterno have mostly disappeared from campus, Paterno was omnipresent in alumni tailgates the next day, in life-size cardboard cutouts and messages written on signs, hats and T-shirts: “409,“ “Honor Him,“ and “You Can’t Erase History.“

Students passed through in packs, many in shirts that said “Unrivaled,“ the motto Coach James Franklin introduced a few years ago to replace “Success with Honor.“

As Jay Paterno walked through, some alumni cheered and called out his name.

A 49-year-old father of five, Jay Paterno has been unable to find a coaching job since 2011. He still lives in State College, dividing his time between writing and several business interests, and ran for Penn State’s board, in part, to defend his father’s legacy. He adamantly maintains his father didn’t know the truth about Sandusky, pointing to the only piece of evidence he thinks matters: His father allowed his children, and his grandchildren, to spend time around Sandusky, until months before his arrest.

“At some point the administration needs to say, ‘We got it wrong,‘ “ Jay Paterno said. “The fact that my dad was unaware of what Jerry was, that shouldn’t be a scarlet letter.“

Paterno acknowledged his family’s relationship with Penn State administration is “strained,“ but he expressed hope that will change.

“My family’s love for this university has never wavered and never will,“ Paterno said. “The people in the current administration will be gone at some point, and Penn State will continue on.“

WVU vs. Utah Bowl Game

The Free Press WV

Early last week, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner challenged his friend and Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams to a friendly wager on the outcome of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl played last Saturday.  In that bowl game, the Marshall University Thundering Herd took on the Colorado State Rams in one of the first games of the 2017 bowl season and certainly one of the most exciting.

With a down-to-the-wire finish, Marshall beat the Colorado State 31-28. More information on that game can be found here: gildannewmexicobowl.com.

The Warner and Williams wager involved each man putting up $50.  After the game, each Secretary would donate his $50 to a local food bank in his state.  The catch, however, is that he donation would have to be made in the name of the winning team. Details on how that wager ended can be found at this link:
https://bartels-on.sos.state.co.us/index.php/2017/12/18/secretary-williams-pays-up-losing-football-wager/.

“Secretary Williams and I had fun texting each other during the game as the score went back and forth.  It was an exciting game, fun to watch and both teams did really well,” Warner said.

Now 1-0 in his 2017 bowl season wagers, Secretary Warner has his sights set on the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl scheduled for Tuesday, December 26th.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl pits the West Virginia University Mountaineers (7-5) against the Utah Utes (6-6). WVU is a member of the Big 12 Conference. Utah is a member of the Pac-12 Conference. For more information on that game click on this link: http://www.theheartofdallasbowl.com/.

Warner challenged Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox to friendly wager similar to the one he and Williams made last week. Utah doesn’t have a Secretary of State. Rather, that state has a Lt. Governor who also assumes the role and functions of a Secretary of State.

Cox immediately accepted the challenge.

Warner is a graduate of the WVU School of Law.  Both he and Lt. Governor Cox are attorneys.

“I’m confident that the Mountaineers will be victorious. Coach Dana Holgerson and our team will go to Dallas with one thing in mind – beating Utah,” Warner said.

“And just what is a Ute anyway,” Warner asked his friend and Lt. Governor in Utah.

Warner and Cox will each put up a $50 wager.  Each will donate to a local food bank in the name of the winning team.

College Football Playoff is an imperfect response to an unanswerable question

The Free Press WV

Setting aside for a moment the commotion of Sunday, the childish stridency of Mack Brown on ESPN, the runaway nonsense of Randy Edsall on Twitter, and other balderdash, let’s glimpse at how an eight-team 2017 playoff would look today, in bracket order, with comments added:

- No. 1 Clemson (12-1) vs. No. 8 Southern California (11-2): A high-flying doozy of divergent regions, the very kind of bout that jazzes up college football. A masterpiece of scheduling luck.

- No. 4 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2): Large volume.

- No. 3 Georgia (12-1) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1): Large bruises.

- No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 7 Auburn (10-3): It wouldn’t be an Auburn home game, so we wouldn’t have to worry about that eagle flying too close to Baker Mayfield.

Now, let’s view what would happen just after those pairings appeared: a certain fury. This fury would emanate from . . . wait . . . checking the map here . . . State College, Pennsylvania. Then this fury from the fans of No. 9 Penn State would widen, in concentric circles, covering at least parts, if not entireties, of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Then this fury would go beyond, to those outside Pennsylvania who might have lived or studied in Pennsylvania. It would fill airwaves, email inboxes, chats.

Here’s a fact of life: If Penn State fans suspect you have slighted their team, they do not mind advising you of this viewpoint.

So in this instance, Southern California would have hopped over Penn State, from No. 10 to No. 8, in the final rankings, and we would have a long discussion about how Notre Dame, before it got slaughtered in Miami, went through Southern California like a combine in a field, beating it by the approximate score of 127-0, while Penn State lost two games by four points on the road against top-16 teams, including one farcical weather delay. We might have discussed even whether Penn State’s omission constituted continuing bias from its early-decade scandal.

The eight-team solution might improve things, but it wouldn’t save us from our unsolvable puzzles in an uneven sport, such as the one last weekend between Alabama and Ohio State. Further, it would diminish things if it worked the way some envision it: Five conference champions, three at-large teams. Every once in a while in that scenario, you’d get a five-loss playoff team such as 2012 Big Ten champion Wisconsin (which ended up 8-6), or a four-loss playoff team such as 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech (which ended up 10-4), or a three-loss playoff teams such as 2011 ACC champion Clemson (which ended up 10-4).

A five-loss playoff team would sully the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, everyone still values conference championships. Everyone just values them to different degrees. Some value them to such degree that when a conference champion such as an 11-2 Ohio State finishes behind a conference non-champion such as an 11-1 Alabama, they - and this is hard to believe - opt for shrillness.

Thus did Brown, that former lobbyist for his Texas team in 2008, when it beat Oklahoma but missed the BCS Championship Game because Oklahoma (uh-oh) won the conference, conduct this nutty huff Sunday afternoon, in protest: “Conference championships don’t matter. So let’s stop talking about them.“ This was out-and-out, to borrow a word from the late Molly Ivins, horsepucky.

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams in four years for the playoff. Fourteen of those 16 won conference championships. Often, as with Michigan State in 2015 or Washington in 2016, those conference championships mattered heavily when set among the other-team factors of that particular season. (As committee chairman Kirby Hocutt reminded, “I would say there’s no college football seasons that are ever identical.“ Yes.) Everyone still weighs conference championships, among all the factors. Everyone still talks about conference championships. Everyone still prints T-shirts for conference championships, although Alabama might have stopped because its stores have no room left.

On a Sunday bound for a certain dopiness, Brown held the dopiness lead until Edsall, the former Maryland coach nowadays at Connecticut, chimed in on Twitter: “Why do they even recognize conference champions when they can’t even get into a playoff for a National Championship!“

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams . . . and 14 of those 16 . . .

Not finished yet when finishing would have helped, Edsall supplied a hashtag with this nugget: #AllAboutTheMoney.

The state of Ohio, the nation’s seventh-most populous, has a population of 11.6 million. The state of Alabama, the nation’s 24th-most populous, has a population of 4.9 million. The program of Ohio State, Ohio’s giant, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but hogs all the Power Five adoration. The program of Alabama, one of Alabama’s two giants, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but also with a fellow Power Five behemoth, Auburn.

It’s always puzzling when an exercise that’s #AllAboutTheMoney chooses the lesser amount of money.

Could Ohio State’s exclusion from the playoff wind up fueling the drive toward eight, the way the Alabama-LSU Bowl Championship Series game of 2011-12 spurred momentum toward four? It might. For now, let’s hear that most reasonable voice make reasonable suggestions for the reasonable meantime.

“Let’s have everyone have the same number of conference games, the same number of non-conference games, and it would be great to have some continuity about scheduling, which is what a lot of us on the West Coast have been asking for,“ Stanford Coach David Shaw said, after the Cardinal accepted an Alamo Bowl bid. “Because if you’re going to compare us to all these other conferences, let’s play by the same rules.“

At present, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference play eight conference games, while the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pacific-12 play nine. Let’s try to figure out how to listen to Shaw. After all, he’s the wise man who, despite his name being linked through the years to openings of seemingly half the NFL and the FBS, if not other acronyms, has remained at Stanford. If you have ever set eyes upon Stanford, you understand.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. Southern California
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. Notre Dame
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Oklahoma State
18. Michigan State
19. Memphis
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Boise State


Coaches Poll
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Southern California
8. Auburn
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. LSU
15. Notre Dame
16. Stanford
17. Oklahoma State
18. Memphis
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. South Florida
25. Boise State

Shake-up Atop College Football Playoff Rankings Has Alabama on Outside Looking in

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As Clemson leapt from No. 3 to No. 1, the expected turbulence hit the top of the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday evening, the bulk of it blowing in from the state of Alabama. Auburn’s 26-14 mastery of Alabama on Saturday at Auburn caused the Tigers to vault from No. 6 to No. 2, while the Crimson Tide plunged from No. 1 to No. 5.

Not only did it mark Alabama’s first absence from the coveted top four since Nov. 11, 2014, but it positioned Auburn (10-2) above five teams with fewer losses. Eye test-wise, Auburn’s two thumping victories over teams ranked No. 1 at the time – Georgia on Nov. 11 and Alabama – clearly impressed the 13 sets of eyes on the committee, which ranked teams for the fifth and penultimate time this season.

The final rankings, replete with the four teams that will play off Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, will appear at midday Sunday.

Behind Auburn sits No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1) and No. 4 Wisconsin (12-0), both up a notch, then No. 5 Alabama (11-1), No. 6 Georgia (11-1) and No. 7 Miami (10-1), which fell from No. 2 after its jarring 24-14 upset loss at Pitt (5-7).

It marked the first entry into the top four for Wisconsin, which started out at No. 9 on Oct. 28 before inching upward, budging past some losing teams while being overtaken by some winning teams, all while hauling the hard weight of its tepid schedule. In a system that prizes challenging wins, Wisconsin’s nine Power Five victims include only one ranked team (No. 21 Northwestern). Those nine are a combined 50-58 as the schedule offered no opportunity against anybody in the Big Ten East Division top three (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State).

Clemson’s Power Five victims are 67-39, with Auburn’s at 54-30 and Oklahoma’s at 57-51. Four teams with vague (at best) playoff hopes rested just beyond the top seven. Those were No. 8 Ohio State (10-2), No. 9 Penn State (10-2), No. 10 Southern California (10-2) and No. 11 TCU (10-2). All except Penn State get a chance to burnish their CVs this weekend, with Ohio State playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, Southern California playing Stanford in the Pacific-12 championship, and TCU playing Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.

Kirby Hocutt, the chairman of a committee that includes five men from coaching and five from athletic directing, said the margin between No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Ohio State remains small, raising the possibility of a royal argument between those two fan bases, should chaos butt in.

Stanford (9-3) held down No. 12, just ahead of Washington (10-2), which Stanford defeated Nov. 10. With the Pac-12 widely presumed the only Power Five conference without a viable chance at the four-team playoff, its three teams in spaces Nos. 10, 12 and 13 still outpaced No. 14 Central Florida, the top team from the second-tier Group of Five. The Knights’ much-lauded 49-42 win over South Florida pushed UCF to 11-0 but pushed it only a notch up the charts, but it does find the privilege of a ranked opponent for its American Athletic Conference Championship Game, and that will be No. 20 Memphis (10-1), which it throttled, 40-13, on Sept. 30.

Notre Dame (9-3) saw its 38-20 loss at Stanford dock it from No. 8 to No. 15.

Among the top 11, four heavy occasions this weekend will help sort out matters, or not so much. Clemson will play Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte, Auburn will play Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta, plus the bouts of Oklahoma and TCU, and Wisconsin and Ohio State.

With Alabama just outside the top four, Clemson’s streak of 17 consecutive rankings within the top four became the nation’s longest run. (The committee does not issue postseason rankings.)

Clemson spent the entire 2015 season at No. 1 in all six rankings, and has not departed the top four since. The No. 1 Tigers (Clemson) and the No. 2 Tigers (Auburn) played each other long ago Sept. 9, with the former Tigers hogging 11 sacks and winning, 14-6. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn stressed Saturday that he meant no disrespect to Clemson, but his Auburn team differs utterly from that Auburn team from early September.

While both sets of Tigers play this weekend, Alabama will rest and hope for unrest from above.

In so doing, the Crimson Tide will know that only one team so far in the four-season-old playoff era, Ohio State in 2016, has reached the playoff without reaching a conference championship game. Alabama did get a wee boost from the bottom of the rankings, when one of its semi-anonymous September victims, Fresno State (9-3), nudged in at No. 25, having reassembled itself mightily after starting off 1-2 with losses at Alabama (by 41-10) and Washington (by 48-16). Fresno State’s presence gave Alabama, whose stash of wins is less shiny than those of Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and even Ohio State, three wins over ranked teams, counting No. 17 LSU (9-3) and No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4).

At the top, Clemson caused itself to lose a ranked victim because it blasted No. 24 South Carolina 34-10 on Saturday and shooed that rival from the rankings, but it gained one when a previous Clemson victim, North Carolina State (8-4), replaced South Carolina at No. 24. Another Clemson victim, Virginia Tech (9-3), went from No. 25 to No. 22, meaning Clemson has beaten teams ranked Nos. 2, 22 and 24, plus four more wins over Power Five teams with winning records. In an unusual boon, none of its nine Power Five victims has gone worse than 5-6.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Wisconsin
4. Auburn
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami (Fla.)
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
10. TCU
11. Southern California
12. UCF
13. Washington
14. Stanford
15. Notre Dame
16. Memphis
17. LSU
18. Oklahoma State
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Fresno State

Coaches Poll

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Wisconsin
4. Auburn
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami (Fla.)
7. Ohio State
9. Southern California
10. Penn State
11. UCF
12. TCU
13. Washington
14. Memphis
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Notre Dame
18. Oklahoma State
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Virginia Tech
22. Washington State
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. San Diego State

Miami Gets Bump To No. 2 Behind Alabama In Playoff Rankings

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Miami made a small but potentially significant move up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four.

Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the top half of the selection committee’s rankings were mostly unchanged.

Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Southern California followed in the same order as they did last week. Over the next two weeks, every team in the top nine will play another team ranked in the committee’s top 25, including four games matching top playoff contenders.

The Crimson Tide will play at Auburn on Saturday to decide a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship on Dec. 2. The winner plays Georgia.

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship will match Clemson and Miami on Dec. 2, and Wisconsin and Ohio State play in the Big Ten championship.

Miami’s move comes after rallying to beat Virginia last Saturday. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Miami is showing characteristics of a championship team.

“When you get down the way Miami did to Virginia two times, once in each half, and you have the poise and the ability to come back and win in a convincing manner, that is special,” said Hocutt, the Texas Tech athletic director.

The Hurricanes (10-0) play at Pitt Friday and now seem better positioned to get into the playoff even with a loss to Clemson, depending on how things play out in other conferences.

Central Florida came in at No. 15 and Memphis is 20th, the highest ranked teams from outside the Power Five. The American Athletic Conference rivals could meet in the league title game in two weeks if UCF beats USF on Black Friday, setting up a game that would likely send the winner into a New Year’s Six bowl.

___

HOW DOES THIS PLAY OUT?

On championship Saturday, the selection committee gathers at the Dallas-area resort hotel where it holds its weekly meeting to watch games together. When the games are done, Hocutt and his crew of 12 experts dig into the results and put together their final, and only truly meaningful, top 25.

Will it be a late night at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine or will the committee members be able to uncork a bottle of wine during the second half of the ACC title game? A lot depends on Alabama.

The Crimson Tide could essentially eliminate two other playoff contenders in Auburn and Georgia. The Tigers have no shot if they don’t win the Iron Bowl and the SEC title. Georgia at 11-2 with a loss in the conference title game could still have a flicker of hope to be the second SEC team in the playoff, but would need a lot of help.

At 13-0, the Crimson Tide would be seeded No. 1 and heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. Easy.

If Alabama loses the Iron Bowl or wins that and loses the SEC championship game, it means the committee will likely be ordering up a couple extra pots of coffee instead of a nice pinot noir.

The SEC champion is pretty much a lock to get in. But what to do with Alabama at 11-1 or 12-1? The Crimson Tide has been the most dominant team all season, rarely challenged on the field. Nick Saban’s Tide, loaded with five-star recruits and future high draft picks, will always pass the eye test. Alabama’s best wins now are against LSU and Mississippi State, both 8-3.

Alabama is the only team to make the playoff all three seasons. Is the committee prepared to leave the Tide out?

The next team that can help clear things up for the committee is Wisconsin.

The committee is not thrilled with the Badgers’ schedule, but Wisconsin can get a marquee victory in the Big Ten title game — as long as Ohio State takes care of Michigan on Saturday. At 13-0 and with a conference championship, the committee can replace the ACC championship loser with Wisconsin in the top four.

Wisconsin can also eliminate Ohio State and its 31-point loss to Iowa. A Wisconsin loss to Ohio State — or Oklahoma losing to TCU in the Big 12 title game — opens to the door to consideration of two-loss teams that could bring Notre Dame and USC back into the discussion.

The committee could be weighing two-loss conference champions against one-loss teams with no titles. Last year Ohio State was the latter and got in on the strength of three victories against top-10 teams. No contender can match that without winning its conference this season, which could make the decision much tougher this time.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25
1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Oklahoma
4. Clemson
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. TCU
11. Southern California
12. Penn State
13. UCF
14. Washington State
15. Washington
16. Mississippi State
17. Memphis
18. Oklahoma State
19. LSU
20. Stanford
21. Michigan State
22. South Florida
23. Northwestern
24. Virginia Tech
25. Boise State


Coaches Poll
1. Alabama
2. Miami (Fla.)
3. Clemson
4. Wisconsin
5. Oklahoma
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
10. Southern California
11. Penn State
12. UCF
13. TCU
14. Washington
15. Washington State
16. Memphis
17. Mississippi State
18. LSU
19. South Florida
20. Stanford
21. Oklahoma State
22. Michigan State
23. Northwestern
24. Boise State
25. Virginia Tech

WVU 14   Texas 28

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Sam Ehlinger threw two touchdown passes and Texas became bowl eligible under first-year coach Tom Herman with a 28-14 win over No. 24 West Virginia on Saturday in a game in which the Mountaineers lost quarterback Will Grier to injury.

The Longhorns (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) qualified for a bowl for the first time since 2014, which was former coach Charlie Strong’s first season.

Texas entered the game with 13 touchdown passes all season, and Ehlinger got two in the second quarter. His 50-yard pass to Reggie Hemphill set up Ehlinger’s 4-yard TD toss to Kendall Moore.

Ehlinger did most of the work on the Longhorns’ next drive. He went from sideline to sideline for a 17-yard gain on third down, ran 23 yards after catching a pass from Jerrod Heard, then found Chris Warren for a 23-yard score just before halftime for a 14-0 lead.

Grier left the game in the first quarter with an injured throwing hand when he landed awkwardly as he dove for the end-zone pylon on a run. The middle finger of his right hand was bent backward and he did not return.

Backup Chris Chugunov couldn’t get much going. He threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Ka’Raun White early in the fourth quarter to pull West Virginia within 21-14. But the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3) didn’t score again.

THE TAKEAWAY:

Texas: Ehlinger looked comfortable mixing runs and passes on a damp day. He finished 12 of 19 for 136 yards and ran nine times for 68 yards. Shane Buechele started for the Longhorns but played only two series in the first quarter.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers struggled to get first downs without Grier. Chugunov, a sophomore who played in two previous games this season, finished 14 of 26 for 189 yards. West Virginia was held to a season-low 295 yards of offense.

UP NEXT:

Texas finishes the regular season at home next Friday against Texas Tech.

West Virginia plays at No. 10 Oklahoma next Saturday.

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