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IBG: Struggling to focus on football

Nov 10, 2011, 4:03 PM EDT

Joe Paterno Penn State

It’s been a weird week. Apologies for maybe coming up a little short on columns this week, but I’ve just been transfixed to the situation evolving in Happy Valley. What a sad state of affairs, and it makes it pretty difficult to get excited about a football game when you’re watching a horrific scandal that’s unfolding like this.

Luckily, we’ve got the Irish Blogger Gathering forcing my hand here, with our friends at We Never Graduate putting the questions out there. It’s a good mix of water cooler topics, hypotheticals, football talk and what’s going on in State College.

Here we go:

This year more than most, there seems to be an inordinate amount of attention spent on peripheral topics like the jumbotron, field turf, and apparel. Kelly is responsible in large part because he’s so candid about his take on them during his press conferences, making it perfectly clear his preferences that stoke the NDNation’s ever-burning fire. Do you think he’s going too far to push for these “enhancements” or do you think he’s doing what’s necessary to push Notre Dame’s program into the modern age?

I think a big reason these topics are holding such traction is because we all assumed we’d have a BCS run to talk about. Now, with three early losses, we’ve lost the number one conversation topic thanks to fluky self-inflicted wounds that have taken this season out of the enjoyable place it started.

That said, Brian Kelly certainly is a progressive, something people probably didn’t see coming when the early narrative on Kelly was being written. But if I’m a head coach at a major college program, I’m fighting for everything that’ll get me up to speed — a video board, a playing surface that doesn’t stink, and uniforms that appeal to players and recruits.

Do I think he enjoys tweaking the hard core traditionalists? Not really. I think he understands it doesn’t matter what he says as long as he wins. It’s like the old Crash Davis quote in Bull Durham.

“You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win twenty in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win twnety in the show however, it means you’re a slob.”

Coach Kelly made it clear today in his press conference that he couldn’t care less what you think about the helmets and uniforms…but I care what you think. Give the world your take on the helmets we’ll be wearing this weekend.

I’ve hit this topic pretty hard this week. I’m glad he said what he did, and while it might have come off as a little too definitive, he’s 100 percent right.

Do I like the helmet? Not especially, at least not when it’s by itself looking like a disco ball with a shamrock on it. But could it look cool under the lights with green jerseys? Probably.

That said, I think the process of hiring a world class helmet designer from a different sport makes this cool regardless, just because it shows that Notre Dame has made a decision using a forward-thinking perspective.

That will be all from me on helmets. I promise.

The Irish are starting to incur some injuries that are forcing new players to emerge and contribute. Identify one guy who hasn’t made a big contribution thus far that will show up big over the next three games.

I’m not quite sure what you call a big contribution so I’ll answer this question twice. First and foremost, I think the injuries along the defensive line, and his development over nine games, has freshman Stephon Tuitt primed for a monster home stretch. (I already consider his contribution sizable, but I’m not sure if he’s done enough to qualify for this question.)

While Aaron Lynch was the story of last year’s spring game, I sounded smarter than usual when I  mentioned Tuitt then as a guy that might have a bigger impact this year, and I think we’ll see that come to fruition as November rolls along. (I also pegged George Atkinson as the guy on the offensive side of the ball. So partial credit there, I guess. Just saying.)

Otherwise, I’m expecting Robby Toma to start making a push and getting involved. Toma is the kind of guy that just seems perfect for late season football. He may not have the skillset Theo Riddick does, but there’s just something about him that has me thinking he’ll put up some numbers in these final three regular season games.

There was a short time during the Notre Dame coaching search when it appeared current Maryland head coach Randy Edsall was the front runner. How different would things be for the Irish program right now if he was chosen in front of Kelly?

I think Randy Edsall’s agent would have you believe that there was a time when Randy Edsall was the frontrunner for the Notre Dame job. That said, I don’t think it was ever really that close, and if you stack Edsall’s resume up with Brian Kelly’s, it’s really no comparison.

That said, Edsall is a good football coach, but he’s also the type of hire that would’ve been absolutely crushed by the Notre Dame faithful as not being sexy enough. This is a group that was looking at Hall of Fame coaches as the bar. (A group that earlier today, had someone on a prominent board saying Tom Coughlin should leave the New York Giants and coach the Irish.)

As for trying to guess how things would be if it was Edsall and not Kelly taking the reins? That’s a tough game that I’m not all that comfortable playing, but you’ve got to think that Edsall’s struggles at Maryland after losing some good talent would’ve been a sign for how things would’ve gone with the Irish losing Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, etc.

Let’s briefly step away from South Bend and address the talk of college football right now: the mind-boggling Penn State scandal. What’s your take on the entire situation and what do you think needs to happen moving forward in Happy Valley?

This story haunts me. After reading the Grand Jury findings, I don’t think it can be covered enough. It’s one of the most reprehensible stories that I can think of and I know it’s going to get a whole lot worse, as reporters track this all the way back to 1999, when Jerry Sandusky, then a 54-year-old defensive coordinator coming off being named assistant coach of the year, slipped into “retirement.” That Sandusky decided to walk away during the prime of his coaching career is going to be cross-checked pretty seriously, and I fully expect documents to come out that all but point to the fact that Penn State and Paterno got rid of the coach because of questionable behavior surrounding the initial investigation into his wrongdoings with underage children all the way back then.

If that’s the case, well — this is bad. Really bad. Blow up the program bad. That the leadership of Penn State thought they did enough just to remove him as a coach is egregious. It’s akin to the Catholic Church pulling a child-molesting priest from a parish, slapping him on the wrist,  then reassigning him to somewhere else. That Sandusky brought kids around the program and had unfettered access to facilities and the ability to still run youth camps and profit off his past Penn State glory is just disgusting.

I’ve heard an Albert Einstein quote referenced that’s been pretty appropriate for this situation:

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Jerry Sandusky isn’t guilty of anything yet, but it’s very likely that he’s an evil monster. That said, he’s far from the only one that failed people here. It was the good people at Penn State — something we all thought Paterno was — that brushed this evil under the carpet, and for that, they deserve every bit of hell coming to them, and it won’t be close to enough to make up for the terrible things that happened to those defenseless children.

Lastly, the State College community reaction, at least the vocal portion that shouted questions during last night’s press conference,  the students that cheered in the Paterno’s yard and flipped a news van, was pathetic. It’ll be something that embarrasses that mob for years to come. I don’t think I could ever be so bold while doing it, but Craig Carton said what a lot of people wanted to when undressing a student-journalist from Penn State this morning.

I’ve spent a better part of the week digging into this story, and it’s taken me an hour just to put together 400 words on the subject. It’s just a horrific horrific mess and something that will forever plague Happy Valley.




  1. schuey73 - Nov 10, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Keith, I couldn’t agree more about Penn State. I just can’t wrap my head around why Paterno, a father, and THE most revered and respected man there, didn’t do more. How does Mcqueary still have a job there? How did he not run into the shower and knock Sandusky senseless when he witnessed it? Or at least run straight to a phone to call police. He went to his dad who told him to go to Paterno. He was 28 at the time!

    I’m embarrassed for those students who rioted. I hope someday they gain some perspective on this situation, and are at least a little ashamed of their behavior.

  2. jomilly - Nov 10, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    I may be wrong, but I truly believe it would of been the right move for Paterno to lead his team out on Saturday for senior day and the last home game of the year. I understand that he could of done more, but what he has given the university he deserves a little better. But I am not condoning any of his lack of action. I completely agree with schuey.

    • bernhtp - Nov 10, 2011 at 6:24 PM

      You are wrong. I can’t imagine knowing about that unspeakable evil and not seeing it stopped immediately. Sadly, this will become the lasting memory of an otherwise great career, but the immediate firing was appropriate and necessary. Ugh! I hope people learn a lesson from this.

    • 9irish - Nov 10, 2011 at 7:17 PM

      I think he would’ve been better off to have left his team about 5-10 years ago. His only real defense right now is that he seems totally unaware of almost everything. I hope that’s the case, if not, I think as this thing unravels they are all in alot of deep, deep trouble.

    • cameronemclaughlin - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:42 PM

      You should click the link that that interview at the bottom of Keith’s post.

      • 9irish - Nov 11, 2011 at 6:35 AM

        I got that, what I’m saying is that he seems like even if you told him something it would not register at all. He probably should have retired 15 years ago! I have no idea, but he doesn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed. Not trying to give anyone an easy out, just an observation. Maybe he’s just pulling the Uncle Leo excuse about shoplifting.

      • 9irish - Nov 11, 2011 at 6:45 AM

        No matter the cause, something of this magnitude pulls the ejection handle automatically..I can’t believe the PSU students were raising hell about “crazy Uncle JoePa”, not continuing to coach. I keep thinking about how somebody that was informed of this the day after it happened did not go batsh*t crazy about it. McQuery, too…

    • borromini - Nov 11, 2011 at 1:08 AM

      Wrong jomilly…wrong.

      Whatever number of good things he did or the millions donated, Paterno neutralized it all by not doing the right thing on one occassion. He deserves what he is getting and doesn’t deserve better.

  3. newyorknd - Nov 10, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Say a prayer for the victims of this crime and may those who either committed it or allowed it to happen be brought to justice.

  4. nudeman - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    There is NO justification for PSU letting Paterno lead the team out of the tunnel; or for them to let an Asst Coach to take the reins.

    Unconscionable. Really, were they counselled by Herman Cain on how to deal with scandal?

    Pedophilia is one of those hot button issues like Nazism that you have to completely disassociate yourself from. PERIOD

    Paterno is by all accounts a great man (not just a great coach), He’s donated millions to the university; makes his kids go to class; and if there’s ever been a PSU scandal that involved paying athletes, I missed it. Having said that, I think JoePa knows a lot more than he’s let on, and unfortunately I think we only know the tip of the iceberg about this mess.

    I went to Catholic schools all my life; my daughter goes to a Catholic school. I cringe when I hear about this PSU situation. And it’s very sad. The victims are scarred for life. And I think JoePa is culpable in the coverup.

  5. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 11, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    Somebody on ESPN said it best last night: As a coach, Paterno has spent a career telling players and students that you must excel in school, in athletics and in life. To do the bare minimum is never good enough and he has undoubtedly preached this lesson every day of his life. Yet, when it came time for him to take action, he did the bare minimum….ironic isn’t it? I have never liked Paterno since he ran it up on Cincy 81-0 years ago. Karma is a bitch you big nosed bastard. Your legacy is now this….it will totally overshadow the gazillion years you spent as head coach. I hope you are haunted by the screams of the child victims whose torment you could have prevented.

  6. norcalirish - Nov 11, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Mcqueary is the real story IMO. How in the world (if what I’ve heard is true) is this guy still employed? This guy apparently WITNESSED A RAPE and didn’t tell anybody at work for a day? Then comes back and tells JoePa about it the following day? I’m sorry, but, if this is true (and I’m informed correctly) this guy should have been the FIRST to go. What sort of “man” is this? You would’ve had to rinse Sandusky’s blood off of my body after I was through with him. Insanity.

    But Mcqueary’s still there, and the only reason (according to PSU) he’s not coaching on the sidelines this week because of “threats on his life”. Incredible.

    Rumor has it that his testimony will be used against Sandusky, and therefore Mcqueary is protected from punishment.

    Then again, I could be misinformed, or details could have changed. The one thing I CAN say is that there are ALLEGATIONS, and we should all (myself certainly included) try and keep that in mind.

    • 9irish - Nov 11, 2011 at 8:25 AM

      He is the real center of this thing (other than Sandusky, of course, who should be drawn and quartered if this is true)….not only not DOING something at the immediate moment, but then just sitting on it. I would’ve been going right to the state police or whoever if this thing was just looming out there.

      I don’t buy this “chain of command” crap either…we’re not talking NCAA violations here, but a serious crime IN PROGRESS! What, do you call your boss when somebody is breaking into your house?

      Could’ve been a bad thing that got taken care of really it’s a 10 year (Plus) scandal.

  7. norcalirish - Nov 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    *these are allegations.

    This site needs an edit function lol

  8. newyorknd - Nov 11, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    The big question is what did Paterno know and when did he know it. Did McQuery give him a sanitized version of events ( still bad ) or tell him what McQuery testified to in the grand jury report. What did Paterno then report to the higher ups? If everyone was fully informed to the extent of the crimes committed, it would be hard not to see Paterno and PSU in the worst possible light. At best, Paterno acted poorly, at worst he acted criminally.

  9. andy44teg - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Ok..don’t get me wrong…When McQuery saw what he saw he should’ve done more. That’s obvious. But for the people who say that he should’ve went in there and beat the crap out of Sandusky, there’s no way, unless you’ve been in that exact situation before, that you can say ” You would’ve had to rinse Sandusky’s blood off of my body after I was through with him.” Sure, it’s what you would like to think that’s what you would do. Hell, I’m 6’2″ and 240Lbs. I know what I would like TO THINK I would do. But you never know unless you’ve been there and done that. I think the only thing we should really be upset with McQuery over is the fact that he called his dad instead of calling the police.

    • 9irish - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      You just hit it right there….I could say what I WOULD’VE done, but he knew this guy forever (this whole thing is like linked together for 30 years)…I just can’t figure out why he and “they” didn’t figure this out the next day and bring this guy down (Not to mention the fact nobody still knows who the kid was…that’s the troubling part)

      • 9irish - Nov 11, 2011 at 11:52 AM

        That would be the “at the very least” situation, by the way….beat the hell out of the guy and call the police, run away and call the police, go call your dad and see Paterno the next day and call the police. Anything beyond that, sounds like some serious “keep your mouth shut” stuff.

  10. norcalirish - Nov 12, 2011 at 6:55 AM

    andy44teg: I get what you’re trying to say, but I’m pretty confident in my words. Mcqueary is a big guy, and, if memory serves, he was 28 at the time when he witnessed the alleged rape of a 10 year old. Sandusky was a middle aged man.

    This is black and white.

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