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Penn State tries to move focus back to football
Two former Penn State administrators, including athletic director Tim Curley, are awaiting trial on charges of lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky and not complying with a state law about reporting suspected child abuse.
Still ongoing is a university trustees’ investigation spearheaded by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The findings of that investigation could be released in August and will be shared with the NCAA and Big Ten. Both want to determine whether Penn State violated any of their rules.
The investigations and legal proceedings could take years to play out, and because the scandal involves one of the most famous college football programs in the country, it is almost guaranteed to do so in the spotlight.
“There is great reputational risk in athletics,” said Southern California athletic director Pat Haden, who was hired shortly after the Trojans’ football and basketball programs were peppered by NCAA sanctions in 2010.
“Institutions like USC spend more than 100 years building a positive reputation and gaining respect in the community, then athletic shenanigans can impact that perception for a long time. If the chemistry department makes a mistake, it’s not going to end up on the front page of the newspaper.”
The hiring of O'Brien was at first greeted with skepticism and criticism by some former Penn State players, who wanted someone familiar, someone with ties to the school and Paterno, to guide the program through some very dark days.
Robinson-Leon, however, said it was wise for Penn State to go outside the “family.”
“They needed to bring in somebody who could not be perceived as an insider,” he said.
By hiring a first-time head coach, Penn State could be signaling that the football program _ and its coach _ will no longer be an isolated and powerful entity that seems to operate separately from the university, Robinson-Leon said.
“Penn State was criticized publicly for fostering a culture that ultimately allowed these heinous crimes to go unpunished,” he said. “The perception was a football program operating with impunity. The football program needs to regain the trust of the community and the public.
“Penn State needs to communicate what they are doing moving forward to make sure these things don’t happen again; demonstrate the football program will be held accountable.”
O'Brien was clearly trying to do just that during Penn State’s 18-city coaches’ caravan that stretched from Buffalo, N.Y., to Richmond, Va., and Cleveland to Boston.
“We’re one team,” O’Brien told The Associated Press in an interview last month before a tour stop in New York City. “This athletic department is a part of this university. This football program is a big part, but just a part of this athletic department.
“We’ve got a new era of Penn State athletics. A new era of Penn State football. We’ve got to respect the past. We’ve got to learn from the past. But we’ve got to move forward.”
That message does seem to be getting through to recruits, said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who visits with hundreds of highly touted high school football players and their parents.
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