Sanctions Against Penn State Makes Way for New Winningest Coach
Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com Monday, 23 July 2012 11:23
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The NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State’s football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal now makes Grambling State University’s Eddie Robinson the winningest coach in Division I college football.
On Monday, the NCAA announced it would vacate all 111 wins accumulated by Penn State team from 1998, when university officials first heard allegations of Sandusky’s child abuse, through 2011, when legendary football coach Joe Paterno was fired.
That moved Robinson, with 408 total career wins, to the No. 1 spot overall. Florida State’s Bobby Bowden is considered No. 1 with 377 wins in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
In addition, the NCAA imposed a $60 million fine against Penn State University (PSU), a four-year postseason ban and the loss of 10 scholarships per year for the next four years, with a limit of 65 total scholarship players on the roster, as opposed to the typical 85, by the 2014 season.
It was a debilitating air strike that not only punished Penn State, and Paterno posthumously, after officials covered up for Sandusky, who was convicted last month of 45 counts of child sex abuse, but spread collateral damage on an elite football program that was recognized for one of the highest graduation rates in the country for student athletes.
The fallout basically prevents Penn State from being competitive in the Big Ten play and sets up the possibility of mass defections by players who will be allowed to transfer to other universities where they can play immediately.
From 1941, until his retirement in 1997, Robinson led Grambling and sent hundreds of players to the NFL, including the first player from a historically black college, Paul "Tank" Younger.
Last season marked the 25 anniversary of the Eddie Robinson Award which honors the outstanding head coach in the Football Championship Subdivision. Robinson died in 2007 at age 88 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
"We are proud that Coach Eddie Robinson remains the winningest football coach in the history of college football,” Grambling President Frank G. Pogue said in a statement, noting that none of this would be happening except for the tragic, unfortunate incidents at Penn State.
Still, Pogue said, “As the Grambling family has said all along, regardless of the action of the NCAA, Eddie G. Robinson will forever be remembered as the coach with more football victories than anyone else."
Last week, Grambling city attorney Pamela Breedlove Mayor Edward Jones sent a 3-pageletter to the NCAA asking it to vacate some of Paterno's wins in order to restore the Division I football victories record to Robinson, citing the independent investigation of the PSU’s actions by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, according to The Shreveport Times.
“Even though it was done by outside counsel, the Freeh Report was the university’s report,” Breedlove told the newspaper. “It said what their employees, including coach Paterno, did wrong. We’re hoping the end result of this is coach Robinson will get his record back so everyone will think a great man holds this record.”
UGA Tailback Crowell Dismissed Following Arrest
Written by The Associated Press Friday, 29 June 2012 15:24
Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell has been dismissed from the team by coach Mark Richt following his arrest on felony weapons charges.
Richt announced the dismissal of Crowell on Friday. Police found a gun in Crowell's vehicle early Friday morning.
Crowell was arrested at a vehicle checkpoint on the Georgia campus at around 2:20 a.m., according to Athens-Clarke Police Department spokeswoman Hilda Sorrow. Among the charges he faces are carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a weapon on school property.
Crowell consented to a search after officers smelled marijuana in the vehicle. Police found a 9-millimeter Luger pistol under the driver's seat with an altered serial number.
Crowell was released on bond Friday afternoon.
As a freshman in 2011, Crowell led Georgia with 850 yards rushing.
HBCU Players a Rarity in NFL Draft
Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Friday, 04 May 2012 03:18
HBCUs are stuck in reverse when it comes to the NFL Draft.
South Carolina State safety Christian Thompson, the Baltimore Raven’s fourth-round pick, was the only athlete from an HBCU selected in the 2012 draft. It is the lowest number of black college draft picks since 1994, and it continues a recent trend that has seen NFL teams snub athletes from HBCUs during the draft and then quickly sign them to free agent contracts.
HBCUs haven’t had double-digit draft picks since 13 athletes were selected in 2000. Eighty-four athletes from HBCUs were drafted from 1994-2000; the highpoint was in 1996 when 17 black college athletes were picked. Forty-nine black college athletes have been drafted since 2001, and 2012 was the 12th consecutive year that HBCUs have had fewer than 10 players drafted.
“That’s alarming,’’ Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor says of the low number of athletes from HBCUs in the 2012 NFL Draft. “I just can’t believe that.’’
On the other hand, NFL teams had signed 24 undrafted free agents as of May 3.
At 6-0, 211 pounds, Thompson played three seasons at South Carolina State after transferring from Auburn, has exceptional size and speed. He was a 2011 first-team All-MEAC pick after making 66 tackles and intercepting two passes for the Bulldogs. Draft analysts ranked him in the top 10 at his position going into the draft. He solidified his ranking with his performance at the NFL Combine in February. He had the best time in the 40-yard dash (4.50 seconds) among safeties and the third best time in the 60-yard shuttle.
The Ravens have Thompson penciled in as a backup at free safety behind All-Pro Ed Reed and strong safety behind Bernard Pollard. Thompson and Reed both live in South Florida and the two worked out together leading up to the draft after a chance meeting at a restaurant. Reed endorsed the Ravens selecting him.
“This is a blessing in disguise,’’ Thompson said after learning the Ravens had picked him. “It's like a dream come true. Myself and plenty of other football players idolize Ed Reed. To be a part of the same defense as him and being able to learn from him is going to be a great experience. I'm just very excited. All the hard work and dedication paid off.’’
“It’s a perfect fit,’’ South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough says. “Reed will take him under his wing. They have similar ability. He reminds me of the guy (Reed) he’s going to back up – very physical and hard-nosed. He’s a legitimate guy. (Being drafted in the fourth round) didn’t happen just because he was blessed with talent. He’s a hard worker.’’
The Ravens selected Thompson based on need. Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski, the teams’ backup safeties last season, signed free agent contracts with the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
“Christian is in the mold of the guys we like on defense," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees told the media following the draft. “He's hard-nosed, tough and physical and smart. We like his versatility.
“We don't really consider guys box safeties or whatever. We don't want a one-dimensional safety that can only play down or play up. Christian can help us in a lot of ways.”
Thompson is expected to be a special teams starter immediately, and draft analysts project that in time he will be a starter on defense as well.
Thompson was the 130th player picked overall, and the second of two fourth-round picks for the Ravens. He isn’t a lock to make the Ravens’ roster, but the odds are in his favor. The same can’t be said for the crop of HBCU free agent signees, however.
“It’s unfortunate,’’ says Grambling State coach Doug Williams, a former personnel executive for the Tampa Buccaneers. “It’s hard for me to imagine that only one kid deserved to be drafted. I know better than that. A lot of teams draft kids (from major colleges) because they’re on a team. That’s a little disrespect (for HBCUs). I’m not saying it should be like it was in the ’70s. But it should be better than it is. I can live with three or four (HBCU athletes being drafted). One is hard to live with.’’
During the ’70s, HBCUs were the mother lode for talent for the NFL. Year in and year out NFL teams loaded up their rosters by drafting athletes from HBCUs. That trend continued well into the ’80s. It tapered off as schools in the Deep South – and not just schools from BCS conferences – started to recruit black athletes more heavily. As a result schools such as Troy State, North Alabama, Valdosta State, Nicholls State, Georgia Southern and James Madison began to produce NFL-caliber athletes.
“You can see the trend,’’ says ESPN College Football Analyst Jay Walker, who was picked in the seventh round of the 1994 NFL Draft after playing quarterback at Howard. “HBCUs don’t have a lock on guys at the FCS level going to the NFL.’’
That said, Walker still says that having just one athlete from an HBCU is mindboggling. Prairie View defensive Adrian Hamilton led the FCS with 20.5, and defensive ends Donovan Richardson of Jackson State, Corey Hart of Alabama A&M and linebacker Ryan Davis of Bethune-Cookman were in the top 10 in sacks. Yet none of them were drafted. Neither was Grambling wideout Mario Louis averaged 22.1 yards per catch and caught 18 touchdown passes.
“That was shocking,’’ Walker says. “Those guys can play.’’
All except Hart signed free agent contracts shortly after the draft ended.
“You can’t tell me Mario Louis shouldn’t be drafted,’’ Williams. “It’s not biased on part. If I was working in the league, I would have felt he should have been drafted.’’
Williams has compared Louis to former NFL standout Terrell Owens in terms of talent. He says receivers coaches from a number of NFL teams called him and said how much they liked what they saw in Louis.
Williams’ response: “Sell the coach on drafting him.’’
“I think scouts are afraid to put a grade on black college players,’’ Williams says. “They don’t want their supervisors talking down to them. I know how it is in that room. You have to have someone (in the draft room) who believes in what they stand up for. They have to have the guts to stand up. They write a kid up as draftable but they won’t put a grade on him.’’
Include USA TODAY’s veteran NFL writer Jarrett Bell among those who are baffled by the absence of black college athletes in this year’s NFL Draft. Bell acknowledges that the talent pool at HBCUs isn’t what it was 30 years ago, primarily because black athletes have more options. Also, Bell says, the increased number of juniors in the draft had an adverse impact on black college athletes’ chances of being drafted.
Still Bell doesn’t get why only one athlete from an HBCU was drafted.
“It would be a surprise that the talent dropped to the point of one guy being drafted,’’ he says. “With all the technology and the way the world is smaller – and you see it the football world – scouts say you don’t have sleepers like you used to. Everybody is plugged in. There is a bias toward bigger schools. A guy at Texas or Oklahoma who’s a backup linebacker or complementary guy, he’s going to get looked at so many more times than a guy at an HBCU who may be a starter, the leading tackler and the whole thing. That’s an interesting dynamic. It shouldn’t be the case. We’ve seen enough players (from HBCUs) in recent years come into the league and stay. I just have to say they’re getting overlooked.’’
The scarcity of athletes from HBCUs in recent NFL drafts may not be a case of them simply being overlooked. Teams reap economic benefits when undrafted free agents make their rosters. NFL contracts are not guaranteed, unlike in the NBA. The only money NFL players are assured of receiving is their signing bonus.
Signing bonuses for undrafted rookies in 2011, the first year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players, ranged from $500-$30,000. The signee bonus for seventh-round picks ranged from $40,000-$70,000; sixth-round picks’ bonuses averaged $78,000-$128,000.
When teams are high on athletes from an HBCU who they believe will make their roster but other teams aren’t likely to draft, they pass on them. Soon after the draft, teams sign those players to free agent contracts. That means a savings for them since they pay free agents a smaller bonus than they pay drafted players. That practice reduces HBCUs to being a source of cheap labor for NFL teams.
“That’s on the low,’’ Williams says. “They look at as if a kid makes it as free agent that’s a value pick. It’s unfortunate. It happens. It’s smart of them.’’
“It’s about getting the best player you can as cheap as you can,’’ Walker says. “It means when you get into camp you have to work a little bit harder than players from other schools. That trend hasn’t changed. That’s how it was even in the decades when (black college athletes) were being drafted.’’
The absence of athletes from HBCUs in the draft is taking a toll on black colleges’ recruiting efforts. Athletes tend to favor schools that they believe give them an opportunity to reach the NFL.
“Other schools, whether it’s (FCS) or Division II can sell the fact that Grambling players aren’t being drafted,’’ Williams says. “We have to take some of the blame. We have to prepare kids little better than have, and sell them a little netter. Black college administrators don’t understand the impact on the University for one of these kids to get drafted. They have to understand the importance of spreading the word. Some of it is at the SID (Sports Information Department) position. You can hardly find our scores. Forget about stats.’’
The result: athletes from HBCUs being chosen in the NFL Draft are becoming about as rare as a rose in winter.
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“The thing used to be that if you were good enough to play (at an HBCU) and good enough to play in the NFL, they’ll find you. You can’t say that now,’’ Walker says.
Penn State Shaken After Firing of Paterno
Written by Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:29
After nearly a half-century on the job, Joe Paterno says he is still getting used to the idea of not being Penn State's football coach. So is the rest of the shaken campus, after one of the most tumultuous days in its history.
In less than 24 hours Wednesday, the winningest coach in major college football announced his retirement at the end of the season — then was abruptly fired by the board of trustees.
Also ousted was Penn State President Graham Spanier — one of the longest-serving college presidents in the nation — as the university's board of trustees tried to limit the damage to the school's reputation from a child sex abuse scandal involving one of Paterno's former assistant coaches.
Paterno's firing sent angry students into the streets, where they shouted support for the 84-year-old coach and tipped over a news van.
In less than a week since former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period, the scandal has claimed Penn State's storied coach, its president, its athletic director and a vice president.
"Right now, I'm not the football coach. And I've got to get used to that. After 61 years, I've got to get used to it," Paterno said outside his house late Wednesday night. "Let me think it through."
Paterno had wanted to finish out his 46th season — Saturday's game against Nebraska is the last at home — but the board of trustees was clearly fed up with the scandal's fallout.
"In our view, we thought change now was necessary," board vice chairman John Surma said at a packed news conference where he announced the unanimous decision to oust Paterno and Spanier.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach, and the university scheduled a news conference with him for later Thursday. Provost Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.
"I take this job with very mixed emotions due to the situation," Bradley said at a news conference Thursday morning. "I have been asked by the board of trustees to handle this. I told them I would do it last night. I will proceed in a matter that Penn State expects."
He also said: "I have no reservations about taking this job."
Bradley said he called Paterno after the firings last night but declined to divulge what was said.
"I think that's personal in nature," he said.
However, when asked, he was clear about his admiration of and devotion to the man he is replacing for the time being.
"Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody except my father. I don't want to get emotional talking about that," Bradley said. "Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach. I've had the privilege and the honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such dynamic impact on so many, so many, I'll say it again, so many people and players' lives."
He added: "It's with great respect that I speak of him and I'm proud to say that I worked for him."
As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out.
State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests.
Paterno had come under increasing criticism — including from within the community known as Happy Valley — for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by Sandusky. Some of the assaults took place at the Penn State football complex, including a 2002 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary.
McQueary went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has not ruled out charges against Spanier.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in "moral responsibility."
Paterno said in his statement earlier Wednesday that he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.
"This is a tragedy," Paterno said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
The Penn State trustees had already said they would appoint a committee to investigate the "circumstances" that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of Curley and Schultz. The committee will be appointed Friday at the board's regular meeting, which Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine "what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure" similar mistakes aren't made in the future.
In Washington, the U.S. Department of Education said it has launched an investigation into whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law.
Surma said it was "in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing."
"The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place," he added.
Sandusky, who announced his retirement from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a temporary leave and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent.
Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity in 1977, working with at-risk youths. It now raises and spends several million dollars each year for its programs. Paterno is listed on The Second Mile's website as a member of its honorary board of directors, a group that includes business executives, golfing great Arnold Palmer and several NFL Hall of Famers and coaches, including retired Pittsburgh Steelers stars Jack Ham and Franco Harris.
The ouster of the man affectionately known as "JoePa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers — not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories — a record for major college football — won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.
After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
Paterno has raised millions of dollars for Penn State in his career, and elevated the stature of what was once a sleepy land-grant school. Asked why he was fired over the phone, Surma said, "We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction."
At Paterno's house, his wife, Sue, was teary-eyed as she blew kisses to the 100 or so students who gathered on the lawn in a show of support.
"You're all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there," she said. "We love you all. Go Penn State."Add a comment
Black QB in Utah Shows Poise Beyond His Years
Written by Melvin Jones, special to Blackamericaweb.com Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:47
A normal true freshman quarterback doesn't go to Auburn and burn the defending national champions for two touchdowns.
A normal true freshman quarterback would usually have an interception or three to his credit by the fourth game of the season.
So far, however, Chuckie Keeton has proven to be anything but usual.
Keeton, the starter for Utah State University (USU), and a rookie out of Houston, has been a revelation this year. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Keeton has shredded secondaries with his feet and his arm. He's thrown four touchdowns, hasn't tossed an interception, and has led a resurgent USU program.
Keeton is currently the only African-American starting quarterback in the state of Utah, which includes major college programs at Brigham Young (BYU), the University of Utah, Weber State and Southern Utah.
The Aggies are currently 1-3. But they've let three fourth-quarter leads slip away, yet Keeton is a big reason that Utah State's been in position to win games.
“He has a chance to be special,” USU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. “He's mature, and he has all the tools.”
With Keeton battling junior college transfer Adam Kennedy for the starting spot throughout fall camp, the Utah State coaching staff had every intention of playing both guys in USU’s season-opening 42-38 loss at Auburn. Gary Andersen had every intention of letting the quarterback competition play out in Week 1 against real competition.
Instead, Keeton stole the show and locked up the starting role.
“We have one quarterback,” Andersen said.
Keeton, from Houston, led his offense up and down the field against the Tigers. He ran twice on fourth down, scoring once and gaining a first down on a quarterback keeper. And going against Andersen’s mantra of simply having a “game manager” to direct his offense, Keeton looked like a star.
And for his exploits, Keeton was named the Rivals.com national freshman of the week.
“I really wasn’t too nervous,” Keeton said. “I knew that guys around me had my back. I just came in as focused as I could be and tried to get the ball into the hands of our receivers. Ultimately, we just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Through no fault of Keeton’s, USU blew a 10-point lead in the final stages of what would’ve been one of the biggest wins in school history. Still, while not many saw Keeton bursting onto the college football platform the way he did, the signs were there.
In July, at the Western Athletic Conference media day, Robert Turbin named Keeton when he was asked which quarterback had stood out over the summer between Keeton, Kennedy and Alex Hart.
Before July, the talk among the Aggies centered on how quickly Keeton came in and successfully learned the playbook.
Learning the playbook quickly and effectively, when it was thought he would need time to grasp the system, put Keeton in position to compete from the outset of preseason practice. Being physical in scrimmages and practice threw the spotlight on how aggressive, confident and competitive Keeton has turned out to be.
Indeed, his best trait thus far has turned out to be his calm in the face of pressure. Against the Tigers, Keeton consistently made the right reads for first downs in the face of the Auburn blitz. He showed the ability to escape the pocket, to find the hot route and to make throws on the run.
During one preseason practice, Andersen had his defense blitz Keeton on 22 consecutive plays, just to test the rookie. Baldwin was harsh with Keeton in public, but privately gushed about his freshman, saying that he was going to be “special.””
As it turns out, Keeton may have arrived, sooner rather than later.
“We kept waiting for Chuckie to hit a wall, but he never did,” Andersen said. “While most freshmen plateau a bit as camp goes on, Chuckie just got better.”Add a comment
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