Penn State prez offers unconditional support to AD

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If you were curious as to where Penn State’s top administrator stood on his athletic director’s impending arrest, wonder no longer.

In a statement, PSU president Graham Spanier expressed unconditional support for AD Tim Curley as well as another top school official, who have both been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor.  Former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky was indicted by a grand jury Friday on 40 counts involving alleged sexual activity with children; Curley and PSU vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz testified in front of the grand jury last January and, per the charges, perjured themselves as well as failed to report suspected sexual abuse to the authorities.

Despite the damning accusations contained in the grand jury’s indictment — which can be read in its entirety HERE if you feel like making yourself sick to your stomach — Spanier is unequivocal in his support of Curley and Schultz.

The allegations about a former coach are troubling, and it is appropriate that they be investigated thoroughly. Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance. 

With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee. 

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion. I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately.

Spanier’s name appears in the grand jury’s indictment of Sandusky, with it being determined that the president signed off on the course of action taken by Curley and Schultz in 2002 when they became aware of an alleged sexual encounter involving Sandusky and a minor male — in a shower of the school’s football building.  The course of action taken by the two administrators did not involve alerting authorities to the alleged sexual encounter that was witnessed by a football grad assistant.  Instead, Curley and Schultz told Sandusky that he was not to bring any more children from Second Mile — Sandusky’s charity — into the football building.

In other words, Curley, as well as Spanier to an extent, decided the best course of action was to sweep this incident under the rug instead of report it to authorities for a proper investigation.  Or, as Pennsylvania’s attorney general put it…

“The failure of top university officials to act on reports of Sandusky’s alleged sexual misconduct, even after it was reported to them in graphic detail by an eyewitness, allowed a predator to walk free for years – continuing to target new victims.”

Penn State, you should be embarrassed.  And not because one of your former assistant football coaches is allegedly a pedophile; rather, you should be ashamed that some of the top administrators of your institution of higher learning allegedly acted in such an unconscionable and reprehensible manner.  A housecleaning from top to bottom is in order, and should be demanded by any and every graduate of what is a university with a carefully-crafted and previously pristine image.

If the allegations involving PSU officials that are detailed in the grand jury’s indictment are proven true, both Curley and Spanier should step down immediately, as should anyone else in between them on the institutional food chain who played a role in what amounts to a coverup of the most heinous of alleged crimes.

There’s nothing more precious than a child — not even your university’s sterling reputation.

As for how all of this will affect Joe Paterno?  The coaching legend was lauded in the grand jury’s indictment, praised for learning of the 2002 incident and immediately reporting it to Curley.  We can’t help but wonder, however, if these deplorable incidents coming to the public light could be the impetus for JoePa to shuffle off into retirement.

If that turns out to be the case — and the chatter is already leaning in that direction — it will be a damn shame.  The man deserves to go out on his own terms and not under a cloud of controversy.

Thanks to the decisions made by his bosses as well as the alleged conduct of one his most trusted assistants, however, that may not be possible.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”