Dallas While half of the football coaches in the Big 12 Conference prepared for the marathon that was the opening round of Big 12 media days, the NCAA levied unprecedented penalties against Penn State University on Monday morning in the wake of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children on the PSU campus.
While many of the Big 12 coaches knew and admired former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who reportedly was involved in hiding the criminal activity, none was interested in discussing the situation in great detail.
“My expertise is just in coaching football,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “So administrators, presidents … you trust they understand what needs to happen. And that’s not really up to me to judge. The whole situation is just incredibly tragic. That’s the only word I can use to describe the whole thing.”
Included among Penn State’s penalties were a $60 million fine, a significant reduction of scholarships, a four-year bowl ban and the vacating of more than 100 victories from the 1998-2011 seasons.
“I was surprised at the magnitude of the fine,” new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “Without having a more thorough understanding of what’s being done and why it’s being done, I don’t know that I can provide any insights on what the takeaways are. I’d like to have a little more time to think about it.”
Although all five coaches deflected repeated questions on the topic, each did respectfully and sincerely. None was as blunt as Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who simply said, “I don’t want to talk about that. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about Kansas State and the Big 12.”
It’s clear the scandal has created some uneasy feelings with coaches, athletes and fans around the country. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads and TCU coach Gary Patterson made valiant attempts at saying something while saying nothing.
“First and foremost, this is a matter for the legal systems and the courts, and there’s more of that to come,” Rhoads said. “I can’t say anything that’s going to do anything to help the victims or their families.”
Added Patterson: “That’s a hard question for you to ask any college football coach that’s been in it a long time, because it’s your life. We’ve got to find the problem. That’s a world problem. That’s not just a Penn State problem. I’m going to try to find an answer. I don’t think things have been the same since it happened.”
Last June, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 young boys during a 15-year period. He currently is awaiting sentencing and could be punished with as many as 373 years in prison.
Bowlsby on expansion
While the Penn State talk carried substantial weight, Bowlsby also covered a couple of lighter topics Monday morning.
Included among them was the idea of Big 12 expansion, which Bowlsby said was not happening anytime soon.
“If the Big 12 had to vote today, we wouldn’t take any new members in,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t know that we’d get two votes for moving to a larger number.”
Bowlsby also said he hoped the whole realignment epidemic was over, at least for a while.
“I think a period of calm would be highly advantageous for college football in general,” he said.
Chuck Neinas, who served as the Big 12’s interim commissioner during the past year, received a surprise thank-you gift from the Big 12 on Monday.
Bowlsby announced that the Big 12’s football coach of the year award would be known as the Chuck Neinas Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year Award.
“This is an honor I will cherish,” said Neinas before taking one more opportunity to sing about the stability of the conference. “If the Big 12 was a stock, it’d get a buy order from me.”