Penn State Nittany Lions: Joe Paterno
McQueary will once again be an important figure in the criminal trials of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and in his own lawsuit against Penn State. ESPN The Magazine takes a closer look at McQueary in this gripping story.
One of the bombshells from the story is that McQueary told Penn State players in 2011 that he could relate to Sandusky's victim in the shower incident he witnessed because he, too, had been sexually abused as a child.
Don Van Natta Jr. writes that McQueary's life has been difficult since his allegations came to light. He still lives in State College at his parents' house but is unemployed and broke:
Approaching 40, McQueary fills his days hunting for distractions, scouring the web for employment -- he's failed to land several sales jobs -- and visiting his lawyer's office at a strip shopping center. On some days, he pays his respects at Joe Paterno's final resting place.
Van Natta also reports that McQueary developed a compulsive gambling problem while he was a player at Penn State and that he even bet on Nittany Lions games:
One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.
As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."
Whether Paterno or his assistants were aware of McQueary's gambling isn't known, but several teammates and former coaches say they doubt it. By all accounts, McQueary was fooling fans across Happy Valley -- and pulling the wool over on Paterno. "I love Joe to death," says a woman who worked for years in the football office. "But in a lot of ways, he was clueless."
There have been inconsistencies in McQueary's account of what he saw in the Lasch Building showers on Feb. 9, 2001, and those statements and his memory will thoroughly be dissected in the forthcoming trials.
2. Speaking of Penn State, new head coach James Franklin might be the first sitting SEC head coach to leave the conference for a Big Ten school since the SEC began playing football in 1933. I say “may” because I haven’t found one in my research, but I am not positive I have run down every single lead. In recent years, two prominent head coaches, Nick Saban (Michigan State to LSU) and Bret Bielema (Wisconsin to Arkansas), have left the Big Ten for an SEC school.
3. Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys 25 years ago today, catapulting his University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson out of college football after a three-year run in which Johnson’s Miami Hurricanes went 34-2, winning one national championship (1987) and losing to the eventual No. 1 team in the other two years (Penn State, 1986; Notre Dame, 1988). Another of Jones’ Razorbacks teammates, Barry Switzer, came out of retirement and joined Johnson as the only head coaches to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl (until Pete Carroll joined them earlier this month).
It's no coincidence that a historic downturn in Big Ten football has coincided with a historic stretch of instability among the league's coaches.
The Big Ten coaches that year had combined for four national championships, five Rose Bowl titles and seven BCS bowl victories.
Since 2005, the Big Ten has gone through 17 coaching changes (not counting Nebraska's after the 2007 season). Seven teams have made multiple changes, including Penn State, which introduced new coaches earlier this month and in January 2011 after not doing so since February 1966. Last season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson was the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders division. He was hired in December 2010.
As the Big Ten invests more in its coaches, it also must ensure it has the right leaders in place for the long haul.
"If you believe strongly in the person you have," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told ESPN.com, "continuity is invaluable."
Few programs value continuity more than Iowa, which has had two coaches (Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry) since the 1978 season. Ferentz, who just completed his 15th year at the school, has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach. He's one of only four FBS coaches to start before the 2000 season (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Troy's Larry Blakeney are the others).
Iowa awarded Ferentz with contract extensions both in 2009 and 2010, the latter a whopping 10-year deal with a salary of $3,675,000. The Big Ten hasn't set the pace nationally in coach compensation, but Iowa's pledge to Ferentz, often the subject of NFL rumors, jumps out. Ferentz's salary is frequently debated and scrutinized, especially when Iowa struggles like it did in 2012, but Barta's loyalty to him hasn't wavered. Iowa rebounded to win eight games last season.
"Because of that commitment, we made our statement," Barta said. "We're going to fight through this with the person in whom we have great confidence and trust. There's no guarantees in life, but because of Kirk's past performance, because of his long-standing approach at Iowa and his proven success, it was a risk I was willing to take. Knock on wood, so far it has worked out terrific."
Barta sees a similar approach from Big Ten schools like Michigan State, which won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles in Mark Dantonio's seventh season as coach. Dantonio in 2011 received a contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life," and his newest deal is expected to more than double his salary from $1.9 million in 2013.
"Continuity breeds success," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said, "and that's the hardest part sometimes on the institutional side, to keep that commitment, keep that contract whether it's an assistant or a head coach. … It requires a high level of confidence and a high level of trust."
“There have been similar long-term commitments at other Big Ten schools. Northwestern awarded coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract in 2011. When Indiana hired Wilson, it gave him a seven-year contract, longer than the initial deals new coaches typically receive. Athletic director Fred Glass links Indiana's lack of continuity -- the school has had five coaches since 1996 -- with its on-field struggles (only one bowl appearance since 1993) and knows the school needs a more patient approach.
The day of playing musical chairs with coaches, of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right.” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon
"Stability is an important thing in our league," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who applauded recent moves like MSU retaining Dantonio and Penn State hiring James Franklin. "The best example I'll use is men’s basketball where we're having tremendous success, in large part, because of the stability we have in a number of our programs. I think we need to get that in football."
While Big Ten football has struggled in recent years, the league is surging on the hardwood, in large part because of veteran coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo (19th year), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (13th year) and Ohio State's Thad Matta (10th year). Six of the league's 12 basketball coaches have been in their jobs for at least five seasons.
Continuity doesn't guarantee success, but it often correlates. Barta has tried to create "an environment of longevity and long-term commitment" at Iowa, while also recognizing the pressure to win and, in some cases, the need to part ways with a coach.
"The day of playing musical chairs with coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right."
After several years of transition, the Big Ten hopes it has the right men at the top -- and the ability to keep them there.
During separate interviews, each assistant on Friday afternoon echoed the same sentiment. Most of the staff -- seven of nine who came straight from Vanderbilt -- explained how they turned a have-not program into a good SEC team. So, they said, it stands to reason they can do even more with a university that boasts more tradition, renown and finances than their last stop.
"There are 'haves' and there are 'have-nots' in college football, that's the truth," said offensive line coach Herb Hand, adding that maybe 15 'haves' exist in the FBS. "And this is one of the 'haves' -- and I'm excited about that."
During a visit to La Salle in Philadelphia last season, teachers left their classrooms and walked down a flight of stairs to catch a glimpse of Bill O'Brien. An army of students manned their cellphones and hoped for a picture. And, for a day, the targeted recruit -- linebacker Zaire Franklin -- felt like the most popular kid there and fielded dozens of questions at lunch about his experience. ("Does he have big hands?" was one of the odder questions.)
James Franklin didn't have that at Vanderbilt. Far from it. He took over a program that struggled in every facet of football. And, even during its success, he stopped at fraternities and tried to increase attendance at every opportunity. During his first day on the job at Penn State, he joked that he would blow up birthday balloons in backyards if people asked him.
"That was a mistake, obviously," Franklin said with a smile Friday, as he has received quite a few offers to do exactly that.
A largely intact staff that performed wonders at Vanderbilt certainly boasts a higher ceiling at a program like Penn State. The competition in the Big Ten isn't as fierce as the SEC. The Nittany Lions have already pulled off back-to-back winning seasons under the sanctions, and they basically have a head-start over what the staff started with at Vanderbilt.
"We've been at some places where you kind of never had the resources you had here," defensive line coach Sean Spencer said. " It's going to be very exciting to know the playing field is going to get a little more level.
"Whatever we did at Vanderbilt was unbelievable, right? You know that playing field was getting to the point where it was level with the rest of the SEC. Well, now, [Penn State] is already pretty level. So now what are we going to do? The sky is the limit."
It wasn't just the implication of Big Ten titles during Friday's news conference and sit-down talks with the assistants. Some didn't shy away from saying that's exactly what the goal is -- and exactly what this program is capable of.
That's something Penn State fans haven't heard for quite awhile. Joe Paterno wasn't one to make promises, and O'Brien tended to temper expectations. Franklin's staff not only has embraced those lofty expectations, it has taken them to another level.
Again, right now, it's all talk without actions. But Franklin and his staff have certainly caught this fan base's attention -- and they're aiming high. Penn State has shared one Big Ten title in the last eight seasons, and it was vacated because of the sanctions.
"We came here to build a Big Ten championship -- and a national championship-caliber defense," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said, reiterating that very point three minutes after he initially made it. "That's the only thing we know."
Added offensive coordinator John Donovan: "I'm excited to recruit for this school and bring a championship to Penn State."
Penn State's last coaching search went at a slow, seemingly wayward pace and left plenty of questions, especially about the man being introduced to lead the program on Jan. 6, 2012.
There will be no Bill O'Who moments when James Franklin, officially hired today as Penn State coach, steps to the lectern this afternoon inside Beaver Stadium. Franklin is a known name and a big name in the coaching profession. He has accomplished what few believed possible: He made Vanderbilt not merely relevant in football, but pretty darn good with three consecutive bowl appearances and a 24-15 record. The 41-year-old has been mentioned for seemingly every college and NFL coaching vacancy this year. If Penn State fans weren't familiar with his work before the past few weeks, they certainly are now.
No one is feeling sorry for Penn State now. The only pity party being thrown might be by new Big Ten member Maryland, which tapped Franklin as its coach-in-waiting in 2009 but couldn't keep him in town.
This is a move that carries potential high rewards for Penn State, and also some risks.
Franklin signed the nation's No. 22 recruiting class in 2013, and Vanderbilt's 2014 class currently ranks 29th. He's an exceptional recruiter with national reach, as well as ties both in the state -- he's from Langhorne, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, and played quarterback at East Strousburg University -- and in the Mid-Atlantic. Franklin's time in the SEC should put Penn State in play for more prospects in a region they rarely have entered.
Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states, including the big three (Texas, Florida and California), but also Big Ten states Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
There has been a lot of talk about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shaking up the Big Ten with his "SEC-style" recruiting approach. Well, Meyer has company with Franklin. That's not a bad thing for a league that for the most part lags behind in recruiting at the highest levels.
Franklin will fire up Penn State fans, players and recruits when he speaks. He oozes confidence -- some see it as arrogance -- and won't flinch at the NCAA sanctions, the administrative instability and the pro-Joe Paterno section of Penn State's fan base, which frustrated O'Brien at the end of his tenure (but wasn't the primary reason he left). Penn State is an old-school program and Franklin is undoubtedly a new-school coach, but the marriage can be successful.
His hiring also brings some potential red flags.
1. Franklin has had six coaching jobs since 1999 and hasn't remained in one place for longer than five years. Although many believe he's suited for the college game, NFL teams could come calling if he continues to succeed. When top SEC vacancies become available, his name likely will be mentioned. For all his talk of "anchor down" at Vanderbilt, it's debatable whether Franklin will ever truly drop anchor, even if he's back in his native Pennsylvania. The buyouts in his contract will be very telling, as Penn State can't afford to be a steppingstone job.
2. A Penn State program embroiled in a child sex-abuse scandal in 2011 is hiring a coach who had four players accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. A November court filing by defense lawyers requested text messages sent by Vanderbilt coaches that could shed light on what took place. Franklin immediately dismissed the players and hasn't been implicated in any potential cover-up, but Penn State simply can't afford any character issues with its new coach. PSU's vetting of Franklin had better be foolproof or the school will suffer.
3. There's a lot of hype around Franklin, some of which might be overkill. Coaches who win at places like Vanderbilt or Duke or Northwestern tend to get additional credit when it's not always merited. Of Franklin's 11 SEC wins at Vanderbilt, only two came against teams that finished with winning records. He still must show he can beat top teams like Ohio State, Michigan State and possibly Michigan, all three of which he'll see annually in the East division. Vanderbilt's offense ranked no higher than 55th nationally in scoring under Franklin, who has overseen only one truly explosive offense (Kansas State in 2007, when he served as coordinator).
Al Golden would have been the safe choice, but Penn State swung for the fences with Franklin, who will earn up to $4.5 million per season, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Franklin mint, indeed.
There are more potential rewards than risks here, and the fact Penn State could land such a coveted coach under the cloud of sanctions illustrates how the job has improved in two years. Franklin enhances the Big Ten coaching fraternity. That two of the league's past three coaching hires are African-American is an excellent sign after a lengthy drought.
A Penn State program not known for glitz under Paterno has made a flashy, fascinating hire in Franklin.
Buckle up, Nittany Nation. This will be a wild ride.
Time to check the mail ...
Dave from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam -It was great to see Coach Dantonio finish out the season with a Rose Bowl win. His team's effort reminded me a lot of OSU's defense the year they won the NC game. I also like seeing him getting a huge raise. But what does it say, 1) to Texas, and 2) to MSU, their fan base, and the players that Dantonio turned down overtures there? Granted, I'm sure he isn't the only coach being contacted, but the fact that he'd just plain turn down interest in the role has to say something significant.
Adam Rittenberg: The most significant development is that Michigan State will pay Dantonio like the top-tier coach that he is. Not enough Big Ten programs are willing to invest the ridiculous sums of money they earn every year into winning football championships. I know money isn't everything, but it shows the commitment to head coaches and top assistants like Pat Narduzzi, who also should get a big raise after another superb season. Dantonio's loyalty to MSU has never really been in doubt. He told me years ago the only job he'd leave for is Ohio State -- when Jim Tressel was still there. But I didn't know if MSU would make the necessary financial commitment, and it appears as though it will.
Joe from South Bend, Ind., writes: Adam,Maybe I am biased. But I can't help but feel that the notion of "JoeBots" caused O'Brien to leave, a bit disingenuous. Why aren't the fans allowed to be upset when, Ron Vanderlinden, the recruiter and developer of All-American, All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebackers - Bowman, Lee, Poz, Connor, etc - was fired? Also, wouldn't Alabama fans, despite the amazing record of Saban, react harshly if Saban tried to change Alabama's historic uniforms? This narrative seems so forced to me. Most Penn State fans are more than supportive of O'Brien. Even the great coaches can be the subject of legitimate criticisms.
Adam Rittenberg: Joe, the Joe Paterno supporters weren't the reason O'Brien took the Texans job. He came to Penn State as a coach likely to jump to the NFL and jumped after two years. I'm not surprised and most Penn State fans shouldn't be, either. Fans absolutely have the right to question decisions like dismissing Vanderlinden, which left several Big Ten coaches puzzled. Being upset about the uniforms thing is a little less understandable, as O'Brien made changes with good intentions in mind. I agree that the large majority of PSU fans supported O'Brien, but he also was in a stressful situation after the way things ended with Paterno. But his exit had much more to do with the allure of the NFL.
Steve M. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam, which loss on Ohio State's D is more crippling...Bradley Roby or Noah Spence?
Adam Rittenberg: It's sort of a chicken-and-egg question because if Spence pressures Clemson's Tajh Boyd, he has less time to attack a Roby-less secondary. Then again, Roby is capable of matching up against Clemson's talented wide receivers. You can replace good pass rushers, and I wouldn't say Spence is an elite one just yet. It's very hard to replace standout corners like Roby.
Matt from Plymouth, Minn.: Hey Adam,With Jeff Jones getting even more exposure from winning the MVP honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, is there any way he will actually end up signing a letter of intent with the Gophers, especially given that he's already softened his commitment? It would be huge for the program if they could convince him to stay in his home state.
Adam Rittenberg: It's going to be tough, Matt, as the higher-profile programs are swarming now. Michigan offered today, and Jones will take an official visit to Florida later this month. Minnesota can sell staying local and helping the Gophers reach new heights, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jones signed elsewhere. He would be a great get for Minnesota, which loses too many of its elite prep prospects (James Onwualu, Seantrel Henderson, Michael Floyd) to other programs.
Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: When people question how tough the B1G bowl lineup is, you should point out that we were the only one of the 5 power conferences to play nothing but power conference teams in bowls. A few MWC, AAC, C-USA, or MAC matchups would definitely help the record!Also, I hope you plan to make some mention in the blog about Gordon/White breaking the record for rushing yards by teammates in a season, and also the first ever pair of 1,400 yard rushers on the same team. Quite an achievement! That said, I wouldn't be shocked if Gordon/Clement do just as well next year.
Adam Rittenberg: Lance, I've argued for years that the Big Ten's bowl lineup is way too difficult given the league's current state and the locations of games. I don't think you need to face a bunch of teams from non-power conferences, but a little more ACC wouldn't hurt. The new lineup is much better overall. I admire commissioner Jim Delany's desire to play the best, but perception is based more on wins, not who you play. Thanks for bringing up James White and Melvin Gordon, who had excellent seasons and worked well together. I agree that the Gordon-Corey Clement combination next year will be very good.
Will from Walcott, Iowa, writes: Big Hawkeye fan. Disappointed in the outcome in the Outback Bowl, a game we could have won. However, the thing that bothered me the most in this game was the flagrant fake injuries the LSU players were displaying late in the game. I counted at least 3 times an LSU player was on the ground in "agony" only to to be back in one play later jumping and hopping around like nothing happened. I think Les Miles should be reprimanded for allowing this un-sportsman like conduct to go on. I see this happening more and more in college football. Is there anything that can be done to stop it?
Adam Rittenberg: There's not much that can be done, as it's hard to conclusively prove that the injuries, however benign they might be, are conclusively fake. I know Iowa fans aren't laughing, but isn't it a bit funny that we're talking about a defense faking injuries to slow down the Hawkeyes' offense? I couldn't believe it when they made the defensive substitution ruling. Against an Iowa offense? Somewhere, Chip Kelly was chuckling. But the fake injuries are an unfortunate part of the game today. It's on officials' radar, but I'm not sure how they'll go about stopping it. I agree that Iowa could have won that game.
Nick from Sparta writes: Adam, Alright, since it hasn't been discussed enough the last few years. Any chance, that with the recent, and now reasonably prolonged Spartan success, that the divisions will be realigned? Looking at the last few years, the divisions seem incredibly unbalanced, with HUGE schedule favoritism to Wisc and Neb. Any chance?
Adam Rittenberg: No chance, Nick. The Big Ten based the original alignment on long-term results and the most recent one on geography. The East certainly looks loaded, but only if Michigan improves substantially and Penn State gets back on track. That looks like a two-team race -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- in 2014.
It's another cold December in Happy Valley, which means the season for O'Brien coaching rumors -- and the accompanying panicky fan base -- is in full swing.
CBS' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that both the Texans and Vikings have already approached O'Brien. That's not surprising; Penn State's dimple-chinned coach is in high demand for developing quarterbacks and showing tremendous leadership during a dark time in Happy Valley. Why wouldn't teams be interested?
No reports have emerged yet about interviews or potential contracts. Heck, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier hasn't even been fired yet.
"When you're a team that has four wins," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "[reports like that are] going to happen. That's the NFL, the business we're in. It happens."
And when you're a college coach who's guided a rookie quarterback and a roster of just 60 other scholarship players to a winning season, new opportunities are going to happen. It's the same situation and same question as last season: Will O'Brien leave for the NFL?
And the answer is likely the same this time around: Eventually, yes -- but just not this season.
Penn State fans are a jittery bunch these days, in part because they've never had to deal with these offseason rumors in the past. Joe Paterno became a PSU assistant coach in 1950, a year before sales of a commercial computer that weighed 13 tons. (Seriously.) He was named head coach in 1966, three years before man walked on the moon.
And before the age of Twitter and the Internet, Paterno thought about leaving Happy Valley just three times -- in 1969, 1973 and 1982. Alumni celebrating their five-year college reunions weren't even alive the last time a head coach other than O'Brien thought about leaving for another gig.
So, maybe understandably, the same fans who pack Beaver Stadium every Saturday are worried they won't see O'Brien again next season. The panic button has already been hit -- but it's been hit much too prematurely.
If O'Brien chooses to stay another decade, his name could pop up on coaching lists every offseason. Even before the confirmed reports, some media outlets floated O'Brien's name as a potential candidate. This is the new normal. But it's just not normal to fans who still drive around with "409" bumper stickers or who have lived through the tenures of nine U.S. presidents and just two Penn State head coaches.
All these reports, and accompanying speculation, revolve around the same storyline as last year: O'Brien is an attractive choice because he's a good college coach.
So, maybe, it's fitting to look back at what O'Brien had to say when the dust cleared around this time last year. It likely still applies.
"I have a lot of respect for that league," O'Brien said on Jan. 7, referring to the NFL. "I love that league. Again, this is my profession. I'm a coach. And that's the highest level, and so -- but at the same time, like I've said, I really, really, I can't be more clear about this: I love coaching these kids.
"I enjoy being the head football coach at Penn State, and I enjoy working here. I enjoy the people I work for, the people I work with, all the people I've met, the student body is incredible here, and I enjoy being here. And I plan to be here."
History tends to repeat itself. Last year, O'Brien garnered interest and worried fans before staying put at Penn State. This year, it's likely more of the same -- even if PSU fans aren't yet used to it.
2. Frank Fina, one of the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky case, told 60 Minutes Sports that he found no evidence that the late Joe Paterno took part in any effort to conceal Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. “I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence,” Fina said, “not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.” Fina agreed, using Paterno’s own words, that the coach should have done more. That’s a long way from the Freeh Report. So someone with subpoenas exonerated Paterno. Maybe now NCAA president Mark Emmert will realize that he overreached. Probably not.
3. With the commitment of West Monroe, La., offensive tackle Cameron Robinson to Alabama, the Crimson Tide has 14 players in the 2014 ESPN 300, including 10 in the top 120. However, only two of those prospects are from the state of Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban has commitments from players as far away as California, Oklahoma, and Iowa. That’s a long way from 2008, when Saban found three future first-round draft picks in Alabama alone: Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Marcell Dareus.
Among the questions Munson raises is why complaints from Joe Paterno's family, trustees, former players and faculty members weren't directed toward Penn State president Rodney Erickson, who agreed to the sanctions.
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A Nittany Lions running back from 1967-70, Ganter spent 33 years on Paterno's coaching staff before moving into an administrative role -- related to football -- in 2004. He will retire from the school Thursday after a 46-year run.
"I am very proud and thankful to have been a member of the Penn State Football family for the past 46 years," Ganter said in a statement released by the team. "I will always owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Bob Phillips for recruiting me to play at Penn State, and to Coach [Joe] Paterno for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime when he hired me onto his staff. Outside of my dad [Fran], who passed away when I was a young man and prior to being a father myself, Coach Paterno was the most influential and constant figure in my life."
Ganter also thanked current Penn State coach Bill O'Brien in his lenghty statement. After graduating from Penn State in 1971, Ganter started coaching the Lions' freshman team that fall before moving up the ladder. He became the team's offensive coordinator in 1984 and assistant head coach in 2000. Ganter coached six All-America running backs, including Curt Warner and Ki-Jana Carter, as well as two All-America kickers during his tenure.
Many thought Ganter's promotion to assistant head coach put him in line to succeed Paterno for the top job (longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky retired following the 1999 season). But Paterno remained head coach through a rough on-field stretch between 2000-04, after which Ganter became associate athletic director for football administration.
Read more on Ganter's retirement, including tributes from former Penn State players, by clicking here.
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When the ball rolled off high schooler Dan Kendra's fingertips, fans thought of Dan Marino. When he circled his team in the huddle, he seemed like Jim Kelly. In 1994, Pennsylvania's favorite son was just 18 years old -- but he was already counted on to be the next great signal-caller. A surefire Hall of Famer whose father joked that even Joe Paterno wouldn't be tempted to turn this stout athlete into a linebacker.
Before the digital age, back in the era of pogs and Saturday morning cartoons, Kendra might have been the most recognizable high school player in the world. He was USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year, ESPN's Player of the Year, Parade's Player of the Year and SuperPrep's Player of the Year. He was everybody's player of the year.
And, in December 1994, he was all Penn State's.
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He wasn't yet old enough to watch a PG-13 movie, but he instantly knew who that man was. Joe Paterno. He extended his little arm, while Paterno smiled and told the fresh-faced youngster something that stuck with him all these years later: "He said one day I'll be playing football up there," Geiss remembered.
On Monday, Geiss finally realized his dream -- and discovered Paterno was right all those years ago -- when he accepted a preferred walk-on offer to play at Penn State.
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Every season opener heightens the adrenaline after eight months of toil. Factor in what Penn State players have been through over the past eight months, and their emotional roller-coaster will reach its apex shortly after noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
- Jan. 6: The hiring of new coach Bill O'Brien, the program's first new leader since 1966
- Jan. 22: The death of former coach Joe Paterno
- June: The trial and conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky
- July 11: The release of the university-commissioned Freeh report, which detailed a cover-up at the highest levels of leadership at the school
- July 23: The NCAA leveling historically severe sanctions against the program, including a four-year postseason ban beginning this fall
- Late July-early August: The transfers of nine players, including star running back Silas Redd
The scrutiny has been there for months, and all Penn State players have wanted to do is play football. They finally return to the game field Saturday against Ohio University in a season opener unlike any other in the history of the school -- or the sport.
The school on Tuesday announced two changes to the Nittany Lions' unis for the 2012 season.
1. A blue ribbon will be worn to honor victims of child abuse.
2. Players' last names will be displayed for the first time "in recognition of their resolve and dedication to the team and the university," a news release reads.
Penn State has sported an unmistakably simple look for decades: white helmets, black shoes, blue or white uniforms, no decals or names. Any talk of changes under former coach Joe Paterno were typically shot down immediately.
But it's a new era in State College, and O'Brien and players had hinted at the changes in recent months. After all that has happened, it's not surprising to see them come to fruition. O'Brien met with several players and they decided to add the names.
"We want our fans to know and recognize these young men," O'Brien said in a statement. "They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown. Moving forward, I'm deeply committed to honoring Penn State's traditions, while building a bright future for our football program."
Acting athletic director Dave Joyner added of the ribbons, "Coach Bill O'Brien and his football team made it clear they want to support victims and bring more awareness to this issue, which affects so many."
The ribbon addition was a must after the child sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky. But the addition of the names surely will attract more attention.
We'll likely get a closer look at the uniform changes Thursday as Penn State holds its preseason media day. According to a team spokesman, there have been no discussions about the uniform changes beyond the 2012 season.
What's your opinion on the changes?
Challenges Facing Franklin at Penn State
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35