The Right Way Challenge

Today should really stoke some comments. Throughout today the sports world and well beyond will be churning through a news cycle that will be primarily about Penn State and what Joe Paterno did and didn’t do.  It will certainly beg bigger picture questions about the state of college football, the out-of-whack perspective that comes with revenue sports and a host of commentary on subjects like legacy, entitlement and a host of other things. You’ll get better coverage, insights and commentary on that at places not named LTP. However, I thought today it would be appropriate to talk about the Northwestern head coaching positions for football and basketball. What better day to discuss the age-old bar room debate about balancing winning with doing things the “right way”.

First, let’s kick the leg out of the arrogance and elitist stool.  Northwestern is not perfect. Less than 20 years ago our starting RB and three key basketball players were at the center of a reverse point-shaving scandal, which aside from Penn State-like news, is one of those cuts to the core of the sanctity of the sport illegalities. Yet, Northwestern, and until last year Penn State, seemed to be running mates for football’s unwritten “got the priorities right (aka squeaky clean)” award. Both programs were technically NCAA violation free (admittedly for NU by a technicality) and were perennial powers atop the APR scorecard. Joe Paterno and Fitz were seemingly linked as mentor/mentees as the exuberant young Fitz was positioned as the most likely coach in America to coach the next 30 years at one school.  Penn State fans were mounting serious interest in Fitz as recently as a year ago. And we know what happened since then.

Today, however, we’re going to talk about why I believe this crossroads of winning “the right way” has increased the focus on places like Northwestern. The extreme nature of both the football and basketball histories offer an all-too-easy case study to contrast the Wildcat ideology with the bottom-line results associated with most college teams. Before the Penn State tragedy I argued that the seemingly never-ending littany of NCAA violations would create a tipping point for the sport. Could NU stay the course of being the perennial APR champion, stay out of trouble, not cheat AND win?  Morty, Jim Phillips, Fitz and Bill Carmody will tell you, emphatically, that winning and succeeding in the classroom while playing by the rules are not mutually exclusive.

This entire post was inspired by Adam Rittenberg’s recent ranking of the B1G head coaching jobs. Northwestern came in at # 11 and you got the sense if our facilities weren’t dead last (AR ranked Ryan Field 10 of 12) the job would be ranked higher. Here is the key point – Fitz has elevated the Northwestern head coaching job significantly. We can all point to the W-L scorecard and be frustrated by the decreasing “W” total each of the past four seasons. However, while managing to have NU as the #1 academic football team in the country (using APR as the report card) he has brought a level of consistency to the program that hasn’t existed – period. He has taken the perceived challenges – stringent admissions, inferior stadium, smallest fan base in the B1G, second-to-worst gameday atmosphere (if you use crowd noise for the home team as a metric) – and managed to flip them in to recruiting advantages.  He’s used character of players, academic success and career networking (including the envy of most colleges – a dynamic mentorship program) to authentically attract what the “experts” tell me is a huge uptick in talent in the past couple of years. Oh yeah, and he has a contract through 2020 which will most likely but him in the 99th percentile for tenure among CFB coaches.  He has made the Northwestern head coaching position much more attractive for his eventual successor.  That’s my main point.   If there was a metric for improving the perception of quality of the job, he’d be leading the country. Once the facilities overhaul is complete (stop it, I know) NU will be at a different stratosphere, but they must continue to stay the course with the academics and character of player difference makers.

Northwestern fans get torn. Just look at the comments section that emerged when we discussed the time for a change for Bill Carmody (kudos to Bill for having his best off-season recruiting-wise in his tenure). If you lauded the program for doing things the right way you were pinned as having a “loser mentality”.  If you took the bottom-line win/loss approach you were pegged as being delusional for not having a solution for why anyone would take the NU job. I continue to stick up for the NU administration because they authentically want to win. You may not believe me, but they want it worse than you do. They lose sleep at night over tough losses. President Morty Schapiro believes NU Athletics is the front porch to the university and he’s out there watering the flowers, mowing the lawn and ensuring the deck is being redone. Yet, some fans don’t believe this.

One of the most agreed upon voices of reason in college football among this readership is Paul Myerberg of Presnap Read. He ranked NU 59th heading in to this season and we all shrugged after reading his analysis and said “seems spot on to me.” However, he captured the essence of the “how far we’ve come” factor, that if you as a fan use it is seen as a crutch:

“This is Northwestern football as run by Pat Fitzgerald, the legendary middle linebacker who has lifted N.U. into a position where a postseason run isn’t merely a nice surprise but a designated expectation. Unfortunately, those who have seemingly forgotten the Wildcats’ dire past — you wouldn’t think it was possible — are no longer satisfied with six or seven wins; to this slice of the fan base, six or seven wins should have already been used as a springboard to Rose Bowl contention. I can think of three things wrong with that point of view: Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska — and that’s just in the Legends division. It pays to be pragmatic, especially when your pragmatism involves Northwestern football.”

Pragmatic we are not. I’m simply amazed at the talent level we’ve been able to secure in football and even this year in basketball, based on the simple fact that if I were a recruit (unless I came to a marquee soldout game) I’d be hard-pressed to have the gameday atmosphere, say, relative to Wisconsin not play a role in my decision. Yes, I get Fitz’s speech about you spend only 12 days in your four years in that stadium (half day per home game) and the decision is about the rest of your life. But, you’re forgetting that decisions like this are often made with intangibles like emotion, or uniform colors or whether or not you saw a cute girl on your trip. Yet, we convince ourselves “why WOULDN’T you be able to get the best players at NU?”.

I grew up a Providence College basketball fan. Everyone I knew expected, almost felt entitled to get the best players in the country. “Why wouldn’t he come to PC over Syracuse, Georgetown or Arizona?” That probably seems insane to you basketball fans, but it was real and it was palatable. This plays out in most programs’ fan bases. Conversely, I didn’t care one iota about what the players’ grades were or what the APR was (didn’t exist then). I cared about wins and losses. Period. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want and expect to be competitive for Big Ten championships in football. As for basketball, well, it’s even more gray. I have several friends in the college basketball coaching ranks. It’s ugly. The pervasiveness of cheating is pretty rampant. Cash in envelopes to gatekeepers. AAU coaches STILL getting kickbacks for guiding players to certain schools (I was aghast at this when I read Raw Recruits in the late 1980s, but from my small focus group, it is as prevalent as ever, people are just more discreet). I’m told that Northwestern doesn’t play this game. Not all do, but some big time programs very much do. So, just like a business facing a headwind due to economic conditions, commotized product offerings or technological changes, you adapt or die.

Fitz and the staff have surely caused frustration among the fan base for finding a way to lose games we have no business losing and continue to find a win that we have no business winning. Coach Carmody has used up about eight lives. For all of the challenges that exist that they’ll never, ever complain about, they both know and you know that because the “right way” is a key metric in evaluation of their job, and thus they enjoy an extremely rare upside – longevity. Fitz is the second longest tenured coach in the B1G. Odds are pretty darn good by the time his contract expiration date approaches (2020) he’ll be one of the top handful of tenured coaches in the country. Bill Carmody started in 2000-2001 and there are very few coaches in BCS conferences that have a longer tenure. Only Tom Izzo (’95-’96) beats him in the Big Ten and when you look at ALL of the BCS conferences it is a thin and prestigious list – Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Billy Donovan at Florida (my hero), Jim Calhoun at UConn, Coach K at Duke, Kevin Stallings at Vandy (by one year) and Rick Barnes at Texas. That’s it.

You can say what you want, but try finding revenue sport coaches that are each seven seasons in respectively. Put this in the context of BCS conferences and good luck. Fitz and Carmody have both elevated the head coaching positions to future coaches at Northwestern. Granted, Fitz has done more to improve the role than Carmody, but should he actually break through the March Madness drought, it will have huge implications for the next in line. Again, Jim Phillips, in my opinion gets unfairly pegged as “promoting mediocrity” by keeping Carmody on board, but I get the perspective of “we’ve never been this close and we’ve done it back-to-back close”. Fitz is 10 wins away (50) from becoming the all-time wins leader in the 120-plus year of football at NU. He’s over .500 after six years in the program. Find me the last time that was done. I went on the record advocating change in basketball, however, every single time I referenced this I was the one saying “thank you” to Bill for having raised the bar and the profile of the position. Fitz accomplished that two years ago.

The bottom-line is that Northwestern is not a bottom-line “win or else” place. This does NOT mean it accepts mediocrity, but rather is committed to winning the “right way”.  Now, we can argue, and I have, that the winning metric should have a higher emphasis (see Bill Carmody) as getting the program from one level to the next does not mean the coach is the guy to get it to the next level.  But, to simply say that the administration doesn’t care about winning or accepts mediocrity isn’t correct.  The criteria are different at Northwestern.  It’s not a crutch, it is an intentional approach.

On a day like today when the news continues to hurt, it’s always good for a dose of perspective. Wanting to win AND do it the right way is not advocating medicority. It’s hopefully called a reminder about perspective.

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  • cece

    “Joe Paterno and Fitz were seemingly linked as mentor/mentees as the exuberant young Fitz was positioned as the most likely coach in America to coach the next 30 years at one school. ”

    Please stop writing any link with Fitz to that enabler. The report today is shocking and Fitz does not deserve mention near that decades long enabler. You want a discussion that is about us, don’t mention the enabler or the place he coached.

    • Lake The Posts

      Point taken. This post was written before today’s report was released. However, the point was to show just how much things can change based on not doing things the right way. That was all.

    • db

      cece – i typically i agree with your posts, but ltp isnt linking the 2 together. Fitz wanted nothing more than to be linked with him. Both before all of this (who wouldn’t?) and after (how could he?).

      There is almost nothing new in today’s report, other than Paterno officially perjured himself in his grand jury testimony. The facts are almost the same as in Nov and Jan, and Fitz did not mind linking himself up with the Paternos.

      I am waiting for his Nike mea culpa, though doubt we will get it

      • db

        I stand corrected:

        I have been deeply saddened by the news coming out of this investigation at Penn State. It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes. With the findings released today, I have decided to change the name of our child care center at our World Headquarters. My thoughts are with the victims and the Penn State community.

        – Mark Parker, President & CEO, NIKE, Inc.

        Other than my parents, my college coach, Bill Bowerman, was the biggest influence in my life. Bill Bowerman and Joe Paterno shared some great qualities. Throughout Joe Paterno’s career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life. Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands.

        According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.

        – Phil Knight, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, NIKE, Inc.

      • cece

        well, I think the lie to the grand jury is huge. as in it’s not since 2001 or 2002, but from the beginning, 1998, the first incident brought to the attention of PSU, the enabler was the enabler. swept it under the rug. let children get assaulted because he was not a good person and did nothing.

        that’s big. and that is not someone to be near in any way, words on a building, statue, or remembering his legacy. oh, and if the truth is not enough, the wall of anger at Paterno today on sports radio is enough to make his name radioactive.

        • Db

          I agree. Hope our coach does.

          Just meant you could have reasonably assumed all of this stuff to be true in November.

  • LGIPurple

    I’d add to that point that while you can’t put anyone on a pedastal like JoePa… you also similarly can’t paint an institution with a wide brush. Take a guy like Kirk Cousins. With as much problem-children as Michigan State, you can find a truly remarkable individual with a value system that your kids can look up to.

  • cece

    you know a coach, or don’t know a coach. what everyone should say, and do, is follow the rules, follow laws, refer criminal conduct to police, do the right thing. that is what we hope all coaches say and do. things could not be more Clery.

    what to say about the past, whatever the good comments made in the past by someone about someone else…see that Sun Times bit. how about, “the safety of children should never be compromised. all rules must be followed. those who did not follow rules are not an example we want to follow.” in the wake of, well, a wake, comments about the good of the dead are one thing. in the wake of the report, well, that’s another thing. do the right thing.

    • Chasmo

      Perhaps one overlooked factor that may have influenced Paterno’s decision to engineer a coverup was what dictates the behavior of all coaches at big time programs: wins and losses.
      Penn State was 5-7 in 2000, 5-6 in 2001, 3-9 in 2003, and 4-7 in 2004 which corresponds to the time when Joe Pa was getting reports of Sandusky’s behavior. Could it be that Joe Pa, who was hearing calls for him to be fired despite all he had done for the University, feared informing the authorities about Sandusky would increase the pressure to fire him?
      We’ll never know. Paterno had the good fortune to die so he will not be required to face the consequences or explain his actions.
      What was most interesting in the report was this:
      “The athletic department in particular was permitted to become a closed culture for the past several decades. There was little personnel turnover or hiring from outside the University and strong internal loyalty. The football program, in particular, opted out of most of the University’s Clery Act, sexual abuse awareness and summer camp procedures training. The Athletic Department was perceived by many in the Penn State community as ‘an island’ where staff members lived by their own rules.”

  • DarkSide

    I find the psychology of our fan base to be interesting and germane to your discussion. Those of us who lived through the ‘Dark Ages’ did not ‘Expect Victory’. We could not even fathom ‘Accept Mediocrity’. We lost. We lost badly. The strange thing was/is we were/are winners in life. Like David Byrne says: “You may find yourself with a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” We graduated and we did well in life. We are winners. Then all of a sudden Gary Barnett came along. Randy Walker came along. Bill Carmody came along. We started to win. The on the field/court reality mirrored our lives off of the field/court. The problem became when the team reached a ceiling we could not deal with it. In our real lives our competitive fire would propel us to the next level. We could often control things in that arena to reach the next level. On the field/court, we cannot. So we grouse. We moan. We complain. When we do those things, we are still incredibly grateful and proud of how well our teams are performing on and off the field. In my opinion, we should look channel our competitive fire into things we as alumni can control. Pack Ryan Field at Dyche Stadium. Donate to the Wildcat Athletic Fund. Wear the purple proudly. ” Spread far the fame of our fair name,Go! Northwestern win that game.” As long as we have good people in the athletic department, coaching staff and players as we do now, everything else will work out. We can and we will reach the next level.

    • cece


      what else can we do besides encourage buying season tickets for football?

  • LTP, good post, I agree with your general premise (as shown in my column following Fitz’s visit to DC in May) that NU is all about doing things the right way. (Basically the only thing I disagree with you on is Carmody, though I can certainly understand your viewpoint.)

    I agree with the other commenters that we should not put Fitz on a pedestal and hopefully we do not begin raising him to that level as time moves on. Right now he is still a rather humble guy and I think the NU community has good perspective, but we must stay vigilant.

    One of the key messages here seems to be that nobody is above the school’s hierarchy just like nobody is above the law. The coach reports to the AD who reports to the President who reports to the Board of Trustees who report to the entire community. Once that order is broken, like it apparently was at PSU with the coach seemingly running the show, anything can happen, including a situation like this. Hopefully NU can continue to hold everyone accountable and keep its perspective.

  • Hdb

    Well said LTP! I share your views.

  • Chasmo

    Northwestern football and men’s basketball jobs are among the best in the country if you judge it from this one perspective: Working for NU is as close as any college coach will ever get to having tenure. The very fact that NU’s coaches don’t have to win at any cost, don’t have to win every year, and don’t have to try to win with kids who are bad actors, all can make the job rather attractive.
    If you are a highly ambitious coach who wants to be paid $3 million or more per year and compete for conference crowns and national championships, then NU is a terrible job for you.
    But I think Gary Barnett, if he had to do it all over again, would have stayed at NU. If he had, he’d still be coaching football in 2012 rather than being a hanger-on as a broadcaster for a marginal network.
    Look at what happened to Bruce Webber at Illinois — fired despite yet another winning season because of the feeling that the program had “lost momentum.” Compare that with what happened to Bill Carmody after he posted one losing season after another at NU.
    The Northwestern job isn’t such a bad job for the very fact that NU tends to do things “the right way” and its administration just doesn’t measure a coach by wins and losses.

  • das420

    If you think it’s arrogant or elitist to condemn child rape then we don’t have a lot to talk about–and, you clearly don’t get it either. And, a comparison between what happened at PSU and our gambling scandal from a few years ago is baseless and unbelievably stupid. See you later…

    • GTom

      He didn’t conflate the two issues. He only said that while NU can generally be considered clean, we have had incidents of impropriety in the past and can’t consider ourselves perfect. It’s not like he ever said that this means we can’t criticize others, either. In fact, this article has very little to do with Penn State directly. Instead, LTP is asking whether or not Northwestern’s culture (where there is perhaps less winning pressure) is part of doing things the right way. I know it’s a charged issue, but please don’t read more into LTP’s comments than what he actually says.

    • db

      When I came out strong against the PSU garbage I was slapped by several regular posters here – as well as the brilliant blogger from PSU – that I was a typical Northwestern prick that thought our school was above reproach, Not sure who – possibly chasmo – invoked the gambling as additional ammo. Like that is remotely relevant.

      It wasn’t LTP, but the view exists here that since we have had problems therefore we are not in a position to criticize others. We are not near perfect. Not even close. But I do have perspective, irrespective of dennis lundy’s gambling problem. So lets be clear, there are:

      1. clean programs – no one
      2. relatively clean programs – a bunch of schools
      3. relatively shady programs – a bunch of schools
      4. dirty programs – a few schools
      5. Penn State

      • GTom

        To be absolutely clear, db, I take no exception whatsoever to you or anybody else harshly criticizing Penn State for what occurred. I hope Jerry Sandusky rots in hell and that anyone who knew about this and looked the other way has their lives ruined – if only to a fraction of the degree of the victims they left behind.

        Where I don’t agree with you is i) your criticism of LTP and Tim for discussing something other than the scandal as part of a football discussion and ii) the fact that you lumped all Penn State fans into the “apologist” category and feel that this is a badge of shame that they need to publicly display at all times. Again, it’s a charged issue, and it’s pretty clear that you see the entire program as tainted, including the fans, current players, and coaches, and you aren’t prepared to discuss anything other than this aspect of the program. I get it, but I disagree. I don’t blame the fans or players for what occurred, I don’t expect them to suddenly stop supporting their team (although I agree with you that anybody who outright justifies it is a d-bag), and I don’t think that makes them evil.

        I certainly don’t think that LTP deserves some of the criticism leveled here and in the prior article for touching on this subject without going Rambo on his guest and having the gall to ask about our own culture and highlight some of our own mistakes.

        • db

          I believe LTP shd be able to post whatever he wants. I also believe timing the PSU blog between the trial and the investigation release was odd and not necessary. But that is his call, I just voiced a view.

          As you noted, I do believe that giving the crazies – and based on his responses, this includes the blogger – air time on their program is defeating at best. They have no perspective. Does that mean ‘everyone’? No, of course there are innocents caught in the gunfire. Residents in Chicago know that all too well when they watch the news every night and wake up to radio reports in the morning. But sometimes that’s what happens to reach a greater good.

          I had no opinion of anyone PSU-related until I watched their alumni with a chance to make a difference, just meekly recoil into the shadows. They let their voice be these idiotic past players that are largely candidates for the posthumous concussion brain tests. If the alumni wanted respect, they shd stand up and provide an alternative, adult view.

          Instead they let their voice also be defined by the NEW president that traveled around defiantly saying this was not a Penn State problem. Really, guy? All he had to do was show humility and respect for the victims. Instead, he and de facto the alumni shoved it down the victims throats and focused on donations. I think that’s wrong. I think that is everything that is wrong with that place.

          The vocal piece of PSU is currently solely focused on parsing NCAA bylaws looking for loopholes that might not allow the NCAA to act, which is comical if it wasnt so disgusting. I kind of agree, the DOE should be the one that shuts it down. And yes there will be collateral damage. But did you read the report? How do you move forward without accepting penalty and taking a few steps back? They turned off the freeh report in the student center today for godsakes. “They” don’t get it. Still, even after all of this. Of course some do, but they are irrelevant in the context of everyone that doesn’t. Hundreds of thousands.

          And the blogger was a dickhead, both in his post and reply. So he was absolutely free game.

      • cece

        +1 great list

  • HoosierCat

    LTP: Once again, thanks for all of your hard work for us NU sports junkies, it is greatly appreciated.

    The shocking facts in this morning’s Freeh Report really should not shock us because Joe Paterno was unlike any college football coach in American history. In addition to the victories, graduation rates and allegedly squeaky clean image, Joe was a very smart guy. Let’s not forget that the young Brown University graduate seriously considered an Ivy League legal education before he went to PSU. And this is NOT a knock on today’s PSU academics, but when Joe arrived on campus in 1950 Penn State was an overgrown cow college in the middle of nowhere. Never before has one man held such power at a university. Joe was PSU and vice versa. He created a huge empire and jealously guarded its well being. Football and PSU were/are synonymous because of him. It does not surprise me that he reacted so dispassionately when confronted with Sandusky’s crimes; he wanted to protect his creation and legacy. Many other men of less ability have done the same.
    However, in the college sports context, what is unique to me about Penn State is what happens next. I’m stunned that the PSU community (in general) seems to take a “move along, nothing to see here” attitude following Joe’s convenient death and the hiring of an outsider to coach his team. Maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but do these people have any idea what is going to legally occur the next few years. Penn State will appropriately pay out tens of millions to the victims. Moreover, in the midst of the Great Recession this public university will most likely call upon the Pennsylvania taxpayers to bail them out if it gets bad. When it’s all said and done, what kind of state will we find PSU?: vilified, financially hurt and persona non grata. All of which begs this sensational question: What will the Big Ten do when the $hit really hits the fan? It’s not to the level of the Catholic Church scandal, but it’s big. And anyone who thinks this filthy chapter in PSU’s history will be over with soon, welcome to the American legal system. As a defense lawyer, I can report to you that these plaintiff lawyers–and there are some very good ones representing several of the victims–will simply hold out for the lottery ticket payout. It’s simple: “Pay my client this enormous sum or we will let a jury decide the damages for a state university supported by the taxpayers.” PSU is the proverbial “deep pocket” client. If you are the University’s lawyers do you run the risk of an enormous judgment particuarly in light of the damning revelations in the Freeh Report? What’s more, when the Big Ten looks at a damaged goods Penn State for years to come, will the conference consider the unthinkable? Unlike our beloved NU, Penn State is not a charter member of the conference and is subject to expulsion. None of us know how the whole thing will play out, but is there anyone on this Board or elsewhere who does not think it’s anything but very bad for the Lions?
    I would like to hear the comments of my fellow NU alums. What do all of you think?

    • CatInTheHat

      Simply having to beg for taxpayer dollars and becoming a Big Ten paraiah (sp?) would be too good a fate for that institution and its football program. Sadly, I take the cynical view that very little will change. Some token additional sanctions might be levied by the NCAA. The B1G will censure PSU. That university’s world will keep revolving around Beaver Stadium, and while the players in the scandal (JoePa included) won’t smell like roses, their legacy will be mixed.

      Here is what SHOULD happen and what I deeply hope happens:

      1. Expulsion from the Big Ten

      2. NCAA Death Penalty: suspension of the program for TWO years. Zero games. Zero practices. Zero contact with recruits. The program is 100% dark for two full calendar years. All current PSU football players with eligibility remaining should be permitted to transfer and play immediately for their new institutions.

      3. Five-year postseason ban FOLLOWING the two-year program suspension (this is not to punish student-athletes but to force the total and complete rebirth and reimagination of the program, as if it is a brand new D1 football program).

      4. Regressive docking of scholarships during the five-year post-suspension probationary period (dock X number of scholarships in Year 1, slowly reinstating those scholarships over the course of five years until the program is at “full strength”).

      5. Termination of any and all remaining football program staff–from the janitor who scrubs the locker room floors to any coaching and administrative personnel–who were present prior to the release of the Freeh report. Yes, that means that the new coaching staff will have to go. It’s sad but necessary collateral damage. There must be no trace of this scandal left on the program once the seven-year cleansing period is complete.

      6. For crying out loud, tear down the statue of that haggish monster who ran the program and the university for so many decades.

      This will never happen. Money talks, and college football does not have to balls to make a true example of one of its premier programs. Tragically, there is no such thing as zero tolerance in major college athletics.

      The fact is that Penn State’s football program must start from scratch–from absolute square one–and prove itself like any brand new FBS football program, but to an even greater extent, because its administration has dug itself into an epic cravasse out of which it must now dig itself without external assistance. Penn State should have to recruit against the likes of Western Kentucky, Buffalo, and Miami of Ohio until it can prove that, as an institution, it has done the work to rid its culture of this scourge.

      • Icehockeycat

        Agree with the basic idea, but allowing them to do recover “in stages” is more like a purgatory of some kind of half-existence. Shutdown the whole athletic program for a decade or so to let the rot out of the whole thing. Let them remember why they are there – as an academic institution. If the new PSU admin has any integrity, they would volunteer to go the U of Chicago route for a while. If they did, the B1G should let them remain as part of the academic part (like UofC). If they do not volunteer to give it all up, the B1G needs to kick them out. Who will play PSU in an independent schedule???

        • CatInTheHat

          Totally agree. If we’re talking about a pure wish list and not a realistic or probable outcome, then this would be ideal. As you said, the rot, stench, and stains need to be completely eliminated, and the only way to truly do this is to remove athletics from the equation. Unfortunately, even my death penalty scenario is highly unlikely, let alone a complete shut-down of the athletic department. Like you said, it would have to be voluntary on the part of PSU. It would be the right thing to do, but the “right thing” still appears to be so far off of PSU’s radar that it is pie in the sky to believe it will ever be seriously discussed, let alone come to pass.

    • cece

      I’m all for the NCAA giving the harshest penalty possible. And I would not be unhappy to see PSU out of the B1G. the Freeh report provides the evidence needed.

      PSU has a rapist enabler culture. This report details the very worst of it. and they are committed to erasing it. But I do recall two other things….players accused of sexual assault and discipline fought by the enabler against PSU officials who wanted to discipline, and the infamous comment by the enabler when a FSU player raped a woman during a bowl game week….that the enabler would know which doors to send her to if she came knocking at his. right, blame the victim.

      so let’s not kid ourselves about the enabler. he was sweeping things under the rug for his players, his coach, and blaming a victim in a matter for another team. this is a rapist enabler culture. who were the assistants who testified for Sandusky? I can’t recall, are they gone? (I sure hope the other coach from the shower is gone.) the entire culture at PSU football needs a house cleaning. and that means follow the letter the NCAA sent to them months ago, see that the Freeh language answers the questions in that letter, the answers are not good, time out for that stadium.

      as for lawsuits, comments today from the board of trustee member indicate how much money they have raised, so there is no crying poor in the face of a lawsuit. while I loathe the victim mentality that pervades the legal system, especially in Illinois, these are actual real victims whose lives will never be the same, both from the assault and memory, and now things that more things will undoubtedly come out. it is a horrible shame. shut down whatever is necessary to compensate for what the enabler allowed to keep happening.

  • db

    I think they’ll suspend them for as long as the fb program gets shut down for, and re-evaluate at the end of that period.

  • Icehockeycat

    I honestly don’t think the magnitude of what has happened at PSU, now given the results of an independent investigation, has really hit home yet. This was not a lone sleaze bag who did a terrible thing once, was caught and then promptly expelled as should have been the case, but an institutional cover up of a series of terrible crimes that was allowed to go on for a very long time. Not only should the B1G consider expulsion, but the NCAA should consider some kind of serious ban or expulsion as well. Compare what happened to SMU and here, and it is not even close, and look what kind of punishment they got.

    For all the “everyone who allowed this to happen is now in jail, why punish the existing student-athletes for something they did not do” type comments, if the program (indeed perhaps whole athletic department) is shutdown by the NCAA, those student-athletes will land somewhere else so don’t give the “existing student athlete” excuse. Yes, I am calling for the whole athletic program to be shutdown. Let PSU become first an academic institution and maybe after a good 10 years or so, allow them to restart their athletic program. The new PSU administration can take the first step and volunteer to go “the U of Chicago” route and maybe they will start the path of letting everyone know they are institutionally changing.

    • CatInTheHat


      Yes–if only this were remotely possible.

    • CatInTheHat

      Another idea: knock them down to DIII, where there are no scholarships, and make them play Williams, Allegheny College, etc., etc. Would love to see 200 people in Beaver Stadium on Saturdays to see Beloit College kick the snot out of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

  • SB

    Side note:

    Matt Harris of LaGrange just committed to us over Wisconsin. Athlete being recruited to play CB.,0,6659199.story

    • cece


  • skepticat

    “second-to-worst gameday atmosphere (if you use crowd noise for the home team as a metric)”

    Why stop there?

    How about that “sound system” on Walker Terrace which could probably be drowned out by one of those backseat car stereo rigs, and which indiscriminately plays over the band?

    How about a Metra train system that gives you two options to get to the 11am games: arrive 2 hours before kick-off or one minute after?

    How about a CTA system that seems to run 2-3 four-car Purple Line trains an hour while the Red Line packs Howard Station to the point where people are almost falling off the platform?

    How about having a chain guard around the entire stadium which creates chokepoints of people trying to leave and waiting to get on the campus shuttles?

    How about Evanston not changing traffic patterns to ferry cars away from the stadium after the game?

    If by “second-to-worst” you mean among all schools in BCS conferences, then maybe….

    BTW, I like how LTPs invitation to reflect on our own culture in light of an unprecedented scandal in an unprecedented era of scandals has become an excoriation of him for mentioning PSU and how that institution must be ended.

    But not to worry. When, in the face of historically unprecedented on-field success, people are calling for jobs from the head coach up through the university president, I doubt we have much to worry about in terms of putting people on a pedestal. Now that “win-at-all-costs” mentality, on the other hand….

    • Chadnudj

      @skepicat – I know for a fact that the sound system does not play over the band. When the band wants to play, the sound system goes silent (with the exception of 3rd down, where the Metallica For Whom the Bell Tolls gets played)…..

      Now as for the quality of the sound system? I make no apologies, and your criticism is justified. We need a much better sound system. But the current system is VASTLY improved from the system we had a few years ago…..

      • skepticat

        The 3rd downs are probably what I’m thinking of then. If I’m not mistaken, the band generally plays that snippet from Mars (maybe that’s only after a big plays?) and then occasionally the sound system cut in with that Metallic bit. I find it really distracting.

        • Doug

          Yeah, I don’t mean to offend Chad, or marginalize him, but I really wish we just scrapped the piped in sound and let the band do all the entertaining.

          Either way, we need a sound system capable of mic-ing and projecting the band…

    • cece

      great list. the chain guard has caused lots of marks on my legs!!!!
      last year there was some bizarre handout about how parking should go in tailgate non tailgate and things changed all the time. very confusing.
      who is in charge of thinking through how a game day plays out off field? it is dismal, far below the quality of on field game day activities, team and band included.

    • byebyefitz95

      That really pisses me off about the el. I live off the belmont stop and going to games is a bitch. Why can’t the purple line run during game days…bullshit.

    • Lake The Posts

      @skepticat – let me help you get your concerns to the right people at NU so I can ensure they are addressed. I know they are aware of them, but let’s find out what they’re doing to address them.

      Second, to your point about how an “excoriation” of mentioniong Penn State, two points. I believe that Penn State football should receive a death penalty. Despite the potential NCAA bylaws on the death penalty, I believe this was a football and the power of football in athletic administration problem. The way to change culture is to do so authentically. Shuttering football for a couple of years would do that. The university does so many great things and the implication the school should be shut down is a bit much in my opinion.

      • skepticat

        I think you may have misunderstood me, and looking back at what I wrote, it isn’t very clear. I wasn’t trying to say that you’ve been overly critical of Penn St and have been calling for it to be shut down, but rather that you’ve been much-criticized every time you mention them and that, contrary to the spirit of self-reflection in your post, the discussion in the comments has largely gone down the path of discussing how and for how long their football program should be shut down.

        It’s possible I’m not being completely fair with the speaker tower: I understand what they’re trying to do, and perhaps it’s an improvement. But to me, having that there screams “our sound system is inadequate, our fan base lethargic, and we’re desperate to get some energy in this place” much more than if it wasn’t. I also feel that it competes with the band even if they don’t play over each other to extent I originally described.

        However, if you have any pull with resolving the transportation/traffic issues, that would be fantastic. Granted, the incompetence of the CTA knows no limits, but I’m not exaggerating when I say it has taken me almost 40 minutes to get from Howard Station to my seat, almost as long (if not longer) than it takes to get from Belmont to Howard! The holy grail would be running the Evanston express all the way downtown (which reminds me, I bump into a fair amount of out-of-towners waiting for the Purple Line and not realizing it only doesn’t run downtown during weekends), but I’d be happy if it would just keep pace with the Red Line during game time.

        Now that I know I have a personal voice to the powers-that-be, I’ll have to start keeping a list! :-)

  • CatInTheHat

    This is a must-read Grantland column from a PSU alum:

    If only the rest of their fan base could face reality.

    • cece

      thanks for the link. it’s a sad read and sad for him and his family. I feel this can be said even though the pain of the victims is beyond description.

      heard on the radio that the enabler even stopped the construction of a bigger airport for the area because he liked the hard to get to, can’t get out feeling for the are. feels really creepy considering what happened.

      • CatInTheHat

        It’s creepy and it was an act that deliberately stunted economic and job growth in the area. It gets worse and worse the more we learn about this animal.

  • JK

    Department of Education could prevent Penn State from receiving Federal student aid as well as possibly their accreditation.–ncaaf.html

    • skepticat

      This is exactly the point people have been making about the NCAA and Big Ten staying out of this: this is way over their heads.

      As the article says, loss of accreditation and ability to receive federal financial aid is “the DOE’s death penalty.” Furthermore, it says “we’re in “If not here, then where?” territory.”

      Should that happen, those wanting PSU’s football program shut down and the university kicked out the Big Ten will get all that, and more.

    • Icehockeycat

      And hence the reason why the new admin at PSU should volunteer the “U of Chicago” route. If they even look like they are trying to wiggle around any major sanctions, the hammer will, and should, come down very hard. This was not just an athletic department issue but a university issue and the only way they can even have a shread of a chance to show remorse and that they learned their lesson is to drop the athletic program for a while.

      • willycat

        Agree Icecat that following the U of C route would be a step in the right direction but don’t hold your breath. Last year Miami U turned down a bowl invite because of known infractions and guess what PSU went to a bowl to celebrate their season. A couple years back OSU not only played in a bowl after their tattoo scandal but played ineligible players to boot. Way back when San Francisco U. was caught in a a gambling scandal and they shut down their BB program, which produced the likes of Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, for years. The Big Ten continues to stick their heads in the sand and I really don’t feel the either the NCAA or the Big Ten will shut down the un-happy valley cash cow. The only hope is that the Feds or those responsible for acting when the Clery orders are ignored take action.

  • Mark

    The whole thing is sick and sad beyond description. It does remind me of Bob Knight’s line while coaching at IU that he wouldn’t take an NBA coaching job unless he made one dollar more than the highest paid player. The same should apply to “universities.” The football and basketball coaches shouldn’t make more than the highest paid academic position. There are many, many schools where the football or basketball coach is the most powerful person on the campus – witness OSU President Gee’s statement about he hoped Tressel wouldn’t fire him. (I live in Ohio and here we all knew that on some level Gee was speaking the truth.) I believe, hopefully not naively, that the overwhelming majority of those coaches wouldn’t hide or cover up behavior such as Sandusky’s.

  • cece

    forget Indiana and money, how about “lay back and enjoy it” re sexual assault? another coach who has no concept about the violence part in the term sexual violence. or hanging tampons in the lockers of players he thought did not do a good job? Knight is a pig. took too long for him to lose his job.

    but at least he did lose his job earlier than our second case. at PSU, the enabler was allowed to sweep sexual violence under the rug (player accused of rape), make comments (about the FSU situation) and nothing happened. not even with wide national notice about what he said. what would happen to any of us if we did such things in our job life? we would lose a job.

    but coaches? takes years and victims to take action. wrong way to conduct the business of sports.

  • Lake The Posts

    @GTOM – thanks for clarifying and perhaps better articulating my intent. You said what I wanted to reply to das420. I think being an accomplice to child rape by inaction is one of the most aggregious offenses you could commit.

    • GTom

      I’ve got your back. Like I said above, this is such a charged issue, it’s tough to even walk around the edges without offending somebody. Even I’m ready to pick up a pitchfork and torch on days like today, and as much as I have defended Penn State fans from unfair accusations of responsibility a few days ago, I would have to seriously question the integrity of somebody who’s ready to proudly don that blue shirt / cap / jersey after the release of this report.

      • db

        I just dont understand what this report said that wasn’t already common sense. The only new piece was it confirmed Paterno knew in 98. Did any rational thinking person believe there was a police investigation of the 30yr D coordinator for Paterno and Paterno didn’t know about it?

        I welcome people finally getting to the right side of this argument, but 90% of this stuff was obvious last November, and the rest of it confirmed in the emails a few weeks back.

        You are starting to see alumni step out of the shadows over the past 12-24 hours. I just think its shameful it has taken this long.

        That said I’m sure Tim woke up this morning and scoured for the latest news from the recruiting trail. Have to keep things in perspective – football first.

        On that topic, the NCAA should come out this morning and open up transfer rights immediately for existing players. They had nothing to do with this and should not be held hostage by the sins of others, right GTOM?

  • db

    GTOM – I re-read your post above and just have 2 comments:

    1 – If you dont think alumni and fans contributed to the problems in State College you have a much different take on what happened there than I do.

    2 – You are conflating 2 issues on my condemnation of the “new” coaches and “new” administration. If they were new, I might have a different take. But they are not new. Erickson, Joyner and a handful of coaches have been around forever. Erickson and Joyner are part of the crew that did not ask questions and put faith in Spanier implicitly. And one of the “new” coaches you speak of was interviewed in 98 about the first incident, plus other coaches have been there for a while. How do you change the culture when that is the backdrop?

    If PSU really flushed the system, offered kids the right to transfer and started over, I might not even care about shutting down the program. But alumni won’t ask for it, certainly won’t demand it. They are just pumped about the new recruiting rankings. And until they show that they care, I can’t defend them as honorable innocent bystanders like you do.

    • GTom

      1. We disagree.
      2. I never said administrators. Coaches – I think it depends on what they did / said / saw, but agree that it might have been best to clean shop entirely. I’m only aware of Vanderlinen still being on staff and I believe one position coach who was only there for a year (could be wrong).

      I agree that should there be formal reprecussions, the right thing to do would be to let the players transfer. However, you’re probably deluding yourself if you think a lot of those players are going to want to transfer (unless there are formal sanctions put in place). I suspect that many of them still have pride in their program despite what occured, which I know would drive you nuts, but they just might not be as indignant as you are.

      You’re obviously passionate on this issue. Believe it or not, there are elements of your comments that I agree with. I just hate to see collective guilt so loosely applied to so many people, but you’re entitled to that view.

      • db

        1 – I guess you didnt read the Freeh report. For this purpose start on page 127, and stop after the 119 recommendations needed to fix the place. And then see if you still think this was only about 4 people.

        2 – Larry Johnson is their lead recruiter and started at Penn State in 1996. I think he probably heard something or other about Sandusky and never said anything, no? He certainly saw him showering with kids like the rest of the assistants. Either way, tough to say you cleaned house when the prez, AD and 2 asst coaches with 1-15 yrs of tenure at PSU are still marching around.

        I do not delude myself of anything – of course many would stay. Parents are letting their kids commit there even today when there is a real chance they wont play football there for a while.

        But if you are such a staunch defender of the innocent bystanders, they dont get much more innocent than a young player duped by the last staff. I believe players shd have the right to transfer when the coaching regime leaves, let alone when something like this happens. I fully understand that the DOE and others will take a while with this investigation, but why hold these kids hostage to the legal process when they had nothing to do with it?

        And that’s why this place will not heal until they flush the place, period. If they reallly cared about the problem and the kids they wouldnt put handcuffs on their team. Sure they want this to get out of the news, but not at the expense of losing scholarship players.

        There are plenty of fine PSU grads that have a right to have pride in what they accomplished at the school. But the place was built on a football program, and that program was built on lies, deceipt, and the efforts of the most important people at the school to cover up anything that countered that narrative. It’s like building a house on stilts in a hurricane zone. Nice view, until the storm comes. Then you live with the repurcussions.

  • Wildcat Dad from PA

    How saddening it is to watch Penn State spiral into an abyss. The once-revered educational institution and football powerhouse have been undone due to lack of strength of character to do the right thing.

    The truth will ALWAYS come out … it’s just a matter of time. Had PSU officials been truthful and not concealed wrongdoing, the institution would be just fine now, and many young boys’ lives would have been spared.

    I believe in Northwestern. I believe that Morty, Jim Phillips and Coach Fitz are special people, with high integrity … guys who will do the right thing. What’s great about NU is that athletics does not an institution make. Education makes the university. Athletics is a beautiful enrichment for students and fans that binds us in spirit and improves our daily lives.

    Let’s never compromise on integrity, character and educational standards. I can live with .500 seasons. Face it … rarely does an athlete attend NU with intent to go pro. There are far better factories for that, some in the BIG. NU athletes are a special breed. They are the intelligent, soon-to-be leaders in our world who are gifted athletically.

    The fact that Coach Fitz can take smart and talented young men and mold them into sportsmanlike competitors is a great tribute to his talents. They not only compete against the best on the field, but they go on to do great things in the real world. Keep it up.

    Morty, Jim, Pat: you have my 100% support. I proudly send my daughter to NU.

    • NumbMum

      Well done, and thank you, PA Dad. Change “Dad ” to “Mom” and “daughter” to “son” and ditto .

    • GTom

      Isn’t this part of LTP’s point, though? We have faith in our administration and coaches, but so did PSU. Seriously, did anybody suspect that Joe Paterno would have let something like this go on until it reached the light of day? I mean, PSU has for all intensive purposes been a “clean” program until it became clear just how terrible things were. Joe Paterno was very highly regarded. So was Graham Spanier (his fingerprints are all over the most recent addition of Nebraska because he had influence over other University Presidents). Doesn’t this show that you’re never in the clear, and always need to remain vigilant even when you think you have the right people?

      Northwestern is no exception – the pressure to win might be less than other places, but there’s still pressure to win, and it’s immense. Just look at how many commenters here have called for coaching heads over the past season (myself included for Carmody). Isn’t it somewhat amazing that our basketball recruiting has improved, but there seem to be some questions with regard to academic standards in a few cases? Don’t you think that has something to do with the heat on the basketball program to improve now? Does that seem to bother anyone on this site? I’m not going to compare anything we’ve done with what is happening at PSU, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that our culture is immune from scandal.

      • db


      • timc

        Almost everything that can be said has been. Punishment is coming. I assume that it will start this season. We’re scheduled to play them there on 10/6. So what happens now? A non-conference game to fill in the space? Any thoughts?

      • cecece

        the child abuse situation is beyond horrible.

        but let us not forget the things described here….

        those things involved women being sexually assaulted. and the enabler being a bully to the administration about his own player…he gets to decide about discipline… and mean and clueless about women and sexual violence.

        that’s creating an enabling culture, it is public evidence that he is an enabler. so the enabler has not been a good person IN PUBLIC for a longer time than this most recent incident. he has not been good for some time. the myth of the man formerly known as Joe Paterno is just that. a myth. he is the enabler.

  • cece

    an important read with more about the culture at PSU….it was a problem on athlete discipline issues too…