Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Penn State Way

I recently linked a post written on AOL Fanhouse about college football fans’, specifically Penn State college football fans’, apparent hypocrisy. Writer Brian Grummell attempts to paint Penn State in the same light as USC or Florida State when it comes to recruiting. This is an old argument brought up nearly every time a school gets caught with their pants down, the “everybody does it” defense. Penn State fans can’t be critical of Pete Carroll and his teleconferencing call to Reggie Bush with potential recruit Joe McKnight because “everybody does it.” As evidence, Grummell brings up the fact that during Broderick Green’s official visit he met at least two former Nittany Lion players: Larry Johnson Jr. and Tamba Hali. Brian says the following:
Exsqueeze me? Whistle blowing time here. Based on what we've learned from the Joe McKnight situation this sounds like a similar recruiting violation.
Unfortunately for Grummell’s argument, Penn State did in fact follow NCAA regulations, something many angry Penn State fans point out in the comment section. Brian begrudgingly admits his mistake but further goes on the offensive.
Ethically Penn State is also dubious at best here according to at least one standard: recruiting players who are verbally committed to another school.
Not every player on the Penn State roster is an angel, either. Former defensive lineman LaVon Chisley was arrested last month and arraigned on murder charges

And finally there's sweet old JoePa himself. He's a nice enough guy and all but he can also be a real jerk. Several years ago with no solicitation he accused USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett of being unfit for college. "There is a great wideout in the country now playing for one of the best football teams in the country, if not the best football team in the country, New Jersey, we never even looked at because of the academics and things like that," said Paterno, according to Penn State's transcript of his news conference. "We could take a step backwards, but that is not what I wanted to do for Penn State and I am not going to do for Penn State." The comment was lacking in tact, substance and class and was shocking coming from Paterno. He never apologized nor backed down from the comment. Classy, Joe, classy.

In the original post Brian names Dan Connor and Rashard Casey as other examples of “bad apples” but they mysteriously disappeared in his update when commenters pointed out that Connor was guilty of stupidity and nothing more and the charges against Casey were not only dropped, but Rashard won a settlement against the police that charged him.

I’m generally not one to question the character of other school’s players, because Penn State has had it’s share of bad kids or kids that have done bad things but I would have used Curtis Enis as a much better example then Casey or Connor. Yes he has a point with Lavon Chisley’s actions but he was removed from the team long before any of the events took place, hence the “former” part of the sentence. I agree Paterno shouldn’t have made the comment about Jarrett, specifically, but it wasn’t an unsolicited backhanded jab by Paterno, he was answering a question, asked in 2004, about why his program has “slipped” (at the time Penn State had two losing seasons in a row). His point is not moot, he was trying to get across that Penn State limits itself in recruiting because they eliminate certain kids because of academic or character reasons; he wasn’t being a “jerk.” I love when reporters ask Paterno difficult or nearly impossible questions to answer and then get bent out of shape by his answers, but I digress.

While it is true that Penn State fans should be careful when being critical of other school’s players, trying to lump Penn State into the same category as every other school is unfair to what the athletic department and Paterno have built. Like it or not, Penn State IS different when it comes to rules & regulations, maybe not unique but most definitely better then most. If that comes across as arrogant or haughty, I apologize, but I feel it’s necessary to defend the Nittany Lions when someone accuses them of shady practices like other schools. “Success With Honor” isn’t just a slogan at Penn State, it’s a way of life.

Pete Carroll knowingly broke a recruiting rule, albeit a small one, to try and get Knight to commit. It was wrong, plain and simple. Penn State broke no such rule when Green visited. Now if you want to argue the hypocrisy of NCAA rules, you would have a valid point, but that’s not the discussion. Penn State broke no rule when contacting a verbally committed player, especially one that showed great interest in coming to Happy Valley. In fact if you look at the NCAA database for Major rule violations you won’t find any for Penn State (go here and select PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV in the Institution field). While you are there, feel free to put your favorite school’s name in, I’ll bet you find something. Remember: these are MAJOR rule violations, not secondary. There’s a reason why NCAA President Myles Brand said "Penn State is the poster child for doing it right in college sports,” back in 2004: they are.

While it is impossible to know how an 18 year old kid will turn out in 4 or 5 years, Penn State makes sure that athletes fully understand what is expected of them before they are offered. You go to class and graduate or you don’t play, period. Some kids can handle it some can’t, and if Paterno doesn’t think a kid is ready for the responsibility he won’t even waste his time. If you look at the graduation rate of Penn State football players and, more importantly, all of PSU student-athletes you will find that Penn State’s rates are at or near the top and well above the national average every year.

Penn State fans should be careful of branding other school’s players “bad apples” or “thugs” because there is always a Lavon Chisley hanging around to make you look bad, but fans can be proud of what Paterno and the administration have built over the years. Penn State may have the same admission standards as everyone else but their adherence to NCAA regulations and unyielding drive to put the student first before the athlete is second to none.


Black Shoe Diaries said...

Great post. I couldn't believe he was comparing Connor's prank phone calls and a former players run in with the law to Pete Carroll blatantly breaking the rules along with a former player who has been caught red handed taking money from agents during his playing days. Talk about throwing stones inside your glass house.

Galen said...

The amazing thing about the original article is it's on the Penn State blog of AOL, I would have thought he would have done a better job of backing up his case. I understand the point he was trying to make but boy did that train derail in a hurry.

Run Up The Score! said...

It's written by a USCinsider.com guy. I had a brief discussion on EDSBS about this a few days ago.

That article is nothing more than a very sloppy hit job.

Galen said...

Ahhh, now that makes sense.

Thank you Run, I wondered why his examples were so weak, it seemed like it was written by an "outsider" for the lack of a better term.

BSD said...

AOL has actually fired a bunch of their bloggers. Todd Sponsler used to do the PSU blog there, but I think he got let go since I haven't seen him post there in a while. Now they just have a few bloggers trying to cover the entire country. So get used to seeing guys that usually cover other teams take an occassional crack at PSU. I think Brian Cook of mgoblog does most of the blogging for the Big Ten.