Sunday, January 26, 2014

State of the University of Address


With the State of the Union Address coming up Tuesday, I thought I'd create my own [Penn] State of the University Address.

Many people have asked me what I thought of Bill O'Brien leaving, of James Franklin being anointed the next head coach, and of Larry Johnson leaving.  My loyal readers probably already know the answers to those questions, but I will address them herein since the recruiting front is shifting too fast and furious to keep up with right now and there is no other football issues to talk about.

I embraced Bill O'Brien.  The aftermath of Paterno's wrongful termination and then his subsequent death to cancer left a power void-and a morality void--at Penn State the likes that had not been seen certainly since before Rip Engle was head coach, if ever.  That void is still evident today.  Fans and loyalists took up the torch for Tom Bradley, but the reality was such that the situation was never in Tom's favor.  In likewise fashion, Larry Johnson, Sr. may have been the right person too, but alas found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I'm sorry to see Larry go, but in the words of someone else . . .next man up!

I agreed that the administration was right and justified to look elsewhere outside the program for a replacement for Joe Paterno.  Had Paterno wanted Tom Bradley to succeed him, then that succession plan would have been in place.  Looking back on it, as much as we all wanted Paterno to come up with a succession plan, his lack of planning was probably a good thing given the circumstances under which his tenure ended.

But that left a big question . . . WHO?

We [the fans] all fretted the decision.  And I will be the first to admit that when word came down that Bill O'Brien was to be our next leader, my first reaction was, Bill Who?

Honestly.  I was a Steeler fan and never knew that O'Brien was on the New England staff.  Wouldn't have recognized him if he walked right up to me and introduced himself.

But to his credit, he stepped up at a critical time in Penn State's illustrious football history--a time that was far from illustrious and darker than the losing seasons of 2003-4.  He, along with a core of dedicated players led by Matt McGloin and Michael Mauti, kept Penn State's football program alive when it could have gone flat line. 

Sanctions came.  Players left.  Opposing coaches swept down on University Park like vultures on a dying man in the desert.  Remember this scene when I give you my thoughts on the current recruiting situation.

Was Bill O'Brien the best man for the job?  Who the hell knows?  He did his job and he did it well.  He recruited players like Christian Hackenberg and Adam Brenneman.  He made Matt McGloin into a starting NFL quarterback.  He made Penn State football relevant again, even despite not being able to win championships or play in bowl games.  His teams were exciting to watch, even if they didn't always win.

I still embraced him.  I still don't agree with his decision to leave.  I will never know exactly what he said to recruits, and how he broke the news to those he had made promises to, but I will always be a little bit bitter about it.  I am, however, coming to terms with it and realizing that it may be the best thing to happen to Penn State since all this began in 2011.

So why am I so bitter?  Why do I wish to see him fail at Houston?  After thinking about this over and over, and trying to answer it to people who asked, I think I have finally figured it out.

Because Joe Paterno would never have done that to his student athletes.

Read it again, and you know it is true.  I have read Paterno's books about his turmoil when offered an NFL job, ironically enough, with the New England Patriots.

The first chapter of Paterno:  By the Book talks about his back and forth ordeal and how he almost left Penn State.  Joe is quoted:

Those rumors, which certainly hadn't started with me, were the last things I wanted my players to fret about.  Some of my most promising kids, favorites as both players and people--John Cappelletti (on his way to a Heisman Trophy the following year), Mark Markovich, Eddie O'Neil, others on that good team--had another year to play at Penn State.  I couldn't send them into a major bowl game on national television with feelings of uncertainty about their coach and his future--about their future.  For some kids, that's like worrying about their father walking out on the family. . . .

And look what I was about to give up for money:  Suddenly I saw like a circle around me, the life I was selling out for it.  I saw the students, the granite statue of the Nittany Lion, the Blue Band, the eager, sweaty tryouts for the squad.  I saw squads of the past, gone, and graduated, grown men who write to me, who call on the phone, who come back and tell me what it was for them.

In the end, I guess I'm just disappointed in Bill O'Brien.

And I'm disappointed in myself.  For believing that there will ever be another one like Joe.  For expecting someone like O'Brien to live up to that standard.

Joe would have wished O'Brien well and cheered for him.  But I'm not Joe Paterno either, and I don't see myself ever hoping to see O'Brien succeed.  Neither of us can live up to the ideals of Joe Paterno.  I guess I have that much in common with O'Brien.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about O'Brien leaving, the reality is that he has left.

And once again, Penn State fans are left with a void, and the hope that we can fill this position with the next best thing to Joe Paterno.  It's a lofty goal, and one which cannot and will not be met.  But in James Franklin, I think we have found a promising replacement to O'Brien, if not a pretty darn good replacement for Joe.

It remains to be seen if Penn State will continue to have high graduation rates.  I think we will.  It remains to be seen if Franklin truly has found his dream job and will stay for the foreseeable future.  I think he will.  And it remains to be seen if Franklin's teams will be as successful on the field as Paterno's.  I think they will.

Some have lamented about how Vanderbilt must feel.  Some are concerned that former commits to Vanderbilt have switched to Penn State.  And I have seen it typed on a message board that Paterno would not have done that.

Well, we don't really know, since Joe never coached anywhere else.  But these complainers are treating these recruits like property to be bought and traded.  Is it really wrong for a kid who committed to Vanderbilt because he believed in Coach Franklin to not want to follow Coach Franklin?  And if Coach Franklin wasn't happy where he was, was it wrong for him to leave?

No one came to Penn State's aid when recruits left and players transferred.  No one shot the vultures.  While I do feel bad for Vanderbilt, it ultimately is not Penn State's fault that James Franklin left.

Paterno stayed at Penn State ultimately because he loved Penn State, not because it was wrong for him to leave.  Bill O'Brien left Penn State because he didn't love Penn State. 

I have been very impressed with Coach Franklin so far and agree with everything he has said.  I like the reasons he wants to come here.  I like his choice of staff.  I will embrace this new era at Penn State until he gives me cause to do otherwise.

Because I love Penn State.

For the Glory . . .

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A New Era Begins


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lions of the Pennsylvanian


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Welcome to Penn State!

The NLC has sent out a welcoming proclamation . . .


Welcome Coach! James Franklin, one of the nation’s most successful and dynamic coaches, becomes the 16th Head Coach in Penn State History

The Nittany Lion Club is excited to welcome our new football head coach James Franklin and his family to Penn State.  He is the former head coach of Vanderbilt University and assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at the University of Maryland.
                       
 
Coach Franklin will be introduced on the Penn State campus today at 4:15 p.m. The press conference will be streamed live at BTN.com and at 6:30 p.m., BTN will air a 30-minute special on Coach Franklin coming to Penn State.

“I can't tell you how excited I am to come home,” Franklin stated.  “I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor.  It's important to me to be a part of a University that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition. 

“I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the University as a whole and to the football program in particular,” Franklin added. “I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!”

The Sun IS Rising!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Got Franklin?

A few days ago, the Internet would have you believe that Al Golden to PSU was a done deal.  But apparently, there was no offer.  Apparently, Al Golden is not interested.

Today, the speculation on Penn State's next head coach turned in a new direction, as "sources" began tweeting, twittering and constipating that James Franklin has been made and offer an accepted.

Here is the scoop from Fox Sports . . .
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has agreed to terms with Penn State to become the school’s head football coach. 
As I tweeted two days ago, James Franklin to Penn State would be official as soon as offer was official. It’s official now.

If Clay Travis tweets it, it must be true right?

So where's the contract?  Where's the PC? 

The whole search has taken on a life of it's own as people are sitting in airports watching to see who gets off what planes and where those planes have travelled.

Seriously?

I am oddly disinterested at this point.  I think the reason is that I'm not sure who I would want as head coach if I could pick anyone out there right now and they accepted the position.  I don't know which horse to bet on.

Al Golden?  Penn Stater.  Joe supporter.  Turned Temple around until Addazio undid what he had built before jumping to BC.  Has not impressed me at Miami but they have their own sanction issues going on, so it might not be fair to judge him.  I wouldn't be disappointed with a Golden hire, but I'm not sold he's the best.

James Franklin?  Turned Vanderbilt (think Northwestern of the SEC) around in three years.  Back to back bowl wins.  Music City and Compass Bowl.  Lost the Liberty Bowl his first year.  But you know what--he's coached Vandy to three bowls--and the school has only been to SEVEN total.  Born in PA.  Worked under Vanderlinden at Maryland.  Interesting ties.  Young and energetic.  Good at recruiting.  Probably a great hire, but how long will he stay?  Is PSU a stepping stone to the NFL?

Larry Johnson, Sr.  Sentimental favorite.  Loyal to PSU.  Unfortunately, loyalty is no longer the currency of the realm.  Currency is the currency of the realm.  Would probably retire as PSU Head Coach if given the chance.  But LJ is 61?  Can he coach to 71?  84?  Still would probably get more years than Franklin, but maybe I'm over analyzing Franklin's interest in the NFL.  Still a little gun shy after the OB thing.  Downside of LJ--no other collegiate experience.  Upside--great recruiter.  Would probably look to put the Linebacker back in LBU.  If he picked an OC that Hack and Co. would be happy with, could be a great hire.  But I fear the powers that be want to distance themselves from the Paterno era.  I just don't see this happening.  I do hope he stays on as an assistant, though.

Munchak?  Not real successful in the NFL.  Available.  Paterno supporter.  Old school.  No collegiate coaching experience (even OB had some assistant experience at the college level before the Patriots.)  Too many unknowns, but would I be upset if he is named?  Probably not.

Prior to OB, when the last search was searching, I hoped for Chris Peterson from Boise State.  He is now headed to Washington.  Cross him off the list.

What about Vanderlinden?  He had head coaching experience.  The last season notwithstanding, he's done great work with the LBs at PSU.  He left because of Butler, who is gone.  Was he even considered?

You may laugh, but I would really love to see Bill Cowher come out of retirement and give college coaching a chance at Penn State.  He might fail, but I think he'd fill the leadership void at Penn State.  Stop laughing!  I'm trying to be serious now.  But I think his coaching days are over and he's content to sit behind a desk and talk about football.

I guess only time will tell.

I wonder who's at the airport now?

Do you know where your Joyner is???

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

*SIGH*

Adapted from THE BORN LOSER . . .

Saturday, January 4, 2014

OB Gone Completely

This post, with a title playing on Obi Wan Kenobi, is a day or two late, and more than a few dollars short.  But alas, I was away in Phoenix when the bad news broke, just another cracked brick in the wall of a rather regrettable 2013 year.
O'Brien on his way to Texas.

I honestly don't know how I feel about Bill O'Brien leaving the Penn State program, but like grief, my emotions are going through a five stage process.

Denial.

They are just rumors.  There were rumors last year.  Had he stayed, there would have been rumors next year. 

Maybe this is just a chess game to get more money, better facilities, a different AD--the rumors were nearly endless as the talks heated up between OB and Houston.

In the end, they weren't just rumors.

Anger.

Who wouldn't be angry?  OB was the best thing that happened to Penn State since the fall of Joe Paterno and the whole Sandusky Scandal surfaced.  While it would minimize the efforts of players like Mauti to say that Bill saved the program, it would certainly have been more difficult for the players to remain united if the coaching vacancy hadn't been adequately filled.

But OB was just on the cusp of greatness.  Hackenberg was progressing.  There was hope that Allen Robinson would stay as part of the revitalized Penn State offense (and hopefully he still will!)  There were rumors that perhaps even more sanctions might be reduced in the off-season, such as the bowl ban--already OB was armed with more scholarships than originally decreed.

The future was looking bright and there appeared to be some stability to a program that had more instability in the past two years than in the previous century.

Bargaining.

This is a stage of grief and has nothing to do with this situation at this point, so let's move on.  We will probably never know what went on behind the scenes and who did or said what.  OB apparently told David Jones of the Patriot News this:
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a ---- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.
“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”
This talk with Jones apparently occurred on December 4th.  Reading that now, is it any surprise that O'Brien left?  With road rage like that, who would stay in a job that created such adverse emotion?

It does beg the question of WHO these Paterno people are that he refers to?  Sue Paterno?  Bloggers?  Fans?  Coaches?  PSU administrators?  BOT?  Again, we will never know for sure who pissed him off, but Bob was apparently a ticking time bomb with some anger management issues.

Depression.

The sky has fallen!  Woe is me!  The end is near!  Oh, the inhumanity!

Acceptance.

The dude has done moved on.  Let's get to work on a replacement before we lose any recruits.

Seriously, though, I'm not sure just how I feel about this.  I am obviously disappointed, but not surprised.  In an era where the average coaching tenure is 3.9 seasons, one would be blissfully ignorant to expect O'Brien to be coaching at Penn State 10+ years from now (and that article is from 2010 and Joe Paterno's years skew that number higher than it would be if recalculated today--and those numbers might include Tressel and Bobby Bowden as well, depending on their endpoints.)  It sure would have been nice for him to hang around another 2-3 years for Hack and the guys he convinced to stay with him, but then what can you say?  The NFL was HIS DREAM!  Isn't that what this is all about?

This is unfortunately the message being taught to our young people today.  It is OK to screw others if the self-benefit is above a certain level.  There is a price above which loyalty and courtesy have no currency.  It is OK for O'Brien to chase HIS dreams, even if in so doing, he may harm the dreams of others.  And the reality is this:  unless Penn State hires an unemployed coach, whoever replaces OB will be doing the same thing to the team they leave behind.  And Penn State fans, if we like the choice, will all be down with that, right?  Hypocrisy is often no further than the nearest mirror.

There are at least interesting choices available at this point (perhaps moreso than two years ago when O'Brien was named). . . Al Golden appears to be the front runner if you believe the Internet rumors.  James Franklin just guided his Vanderbilt team to a victory over Houston in their bowl game, so he has not even had the opportunity to interview yet, if he is even interested.  Mike Munchak was fired today as coach of the Titans.  Is that good/bad timing or what?  I have not even gotten over OB leaving yet, let alone started to worry about who the next coach should be.

But time is a valuable commodity and cannot be wasted.  We don't want to lose any players or recruits at this point, so there is some need for haste.  But haste makes waste, and we don't want to make a hasty choice we might later regret.

I would love to know if there have been inquiries from other coaches/agents around the country, but again, we will never be privy to that information as no current coach will want it known that they are pursuing a job opportunity elsewhere.  But it makes me feel better believing that a few great coaches out there would be interested enough in the job to reach out and touch someone, even if that someone is Joyner.

As an aside, I found it refreshing to hear that Mark D'Antonio doesn't have an agent--you need to call his wife.  I don't think we need to call her, but I wonder if she called Joyner and Co.?  It's fun to fantasize about things like that, and we could certainly do worse than him with whoever ends up with the job.

For O'Brien . . . None of this was his fault.  He took the job BEFORE the sanctions were announced, and I believe he did make the best of what he had to work with given the circumstances.  But he is being decidedly obtuse if he thought he would follow a legend like Paterno without there being loyalists who would criticize his actions. 

I do not wish him well, though.  I must admit that if he fails at Houston, I will feel a certain amount of pleasure, retribution, and justice.  I still cling precariously to the hope that good people will win out over evil or greedy people.  Maybe this is part of God's plan.  And perhaps wishing ill will is not a very Christian way to think, but my Ten Commandments don't have a Thou Shall Not Wish Ill on Thy Enemies commandment.  There is that whole Do Unto Others Golden Rule, but I'm okay with that.  Bill is certainly welcome to wish ill on me and take pleasure in my failings any time he wants.  It can work both ways.

In the long run, I think Penn State will be better off.  Things are certainly more stable now and while we might lose a few recruits, it will be more difficult for players to transfer, as the usual transfer rules will now apply, which they did not when Silas fled with others.  O'Brien said he considered the NFL the ultimate job, so in that respect, he has kept his word.  If he doesn't want to be a Penn Stater, and if people who support Joe Paterno annoy him, then good riddance.  We can do better than that.

After all. . . WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!

Was O'Brien here too?
The above picture apparently was taken in the Buckeye locker room after their loss to Clemson.  An angry player, Bill O'Brien, or the ghost of Woody Hayes?  You decide.

BUCKEYES GO DOWN AGAIN!

How sweet it is!

Urbie's win streak at THE ohio state went down to MSU and tonight, his undefeated record in BCS games went down as well.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy and fan base!



Of course, Urban showed remarkable restraint in not punching out any Clemson players.

Clemson wins the Orange Bowl 40-35 with #5 throwing a pick to seal the deal.  Fine job!  well played, sir!

THANK YOU CLEMSON!