Penn St. mess has just touched tip of iceberg

Published 6:17 pm Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scariest thing about the sordid mess triggered by an alleged pedophile coach at Penn State named Jerry Sandusky is that we’ve likely just seen the tip of the iceberg. Now that the curtain has finally been pulled back on Joe Paterno, assistant coach Mike McQueary, who is said to have witnessed a 10-year-old boy being raped in the shower, the school president and others who were part of a cover-up that went on for more than a decade, more and more victims may feel courageous enough to come forward and tell their stories. God only knows how many kids were molested by a guy who could so easily have been stopped if any one of a number of people had been courageous enough to do the right thing. No stone should be left unturned in exposing how and why Sandusky was able to scar so many lives over such a lengthy period of time . . . Among the many messages resonating from the Penn State scandal is that the business of big time college sports may be too far out of control to be reined in. Another is that coaches who win enough games become far too powerful for their own good. The 84-year-old Paterno should have retired at least 10 years ago, but he had so much clout the school couldn’t coax him into leaving. Ultimately, to protect the Penn State brand, and the millions of dollars being brought in because of Paterno’s football program, it appears people who knew better looked the other way and allowed a disgusting cover-up to continue for years. Rest assured there are other scandals waiting to happen, because it’s become so inordinately important to a school’s financial bottom line to win lots of football games and get mega TV exposure.

Not that Jerry Jones was ever going to induct him into Dallas’ Ring of Honor anyway, but Jimmy Johnson’s comments about Jason Garrett on Fox NFL Sunday last week probably sealed the deal. On the day Jones was making a highly debatable induction of Charles Haley into the Ring of Honor, Johnson more or less questioned Garrett’s long suspect play-calling ability. “It may be time to think — not for this year but for next year — to hire an offensive coordinator to call the plays and be the head coach.” JJ said of Garrett. Jones, naturally, was quick to reject the suggestion. And why not? Who knows more about what responsibilities a coach should undertake, Jethro or a guy who took over a terrible team and won two Super Bowls in five years ? ? ? Cowboys QB Tony Romo didn’t get a lot of love in a poll of 111 players concerning who is the most overrated player in the NFL. Only Denver QB Tim Tebow, by the narrowest of margins — 22 to 21 — received more votes than Romo. NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez was a distant third with nine votes . . . Nice to see Wade Phillips getting credit for his remarkable transformation of the Houston Texans’ defense, but what could the Associated Press’ NFL writer Barry Wilner been thinking when he snubbed Phillips in his mid-season awards than ran in Wednesday’s PA News. Wilner named Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for his top assistant coach award, and there’s no question Zimmer’s done a great job. Then he named Carolina OC Rob Chudzinski, San Francisco DC Vic Fangio and Buffalo OC Curtis Modkins as the runners-up. No mention of Phillips, despite the fact he’s improved the Texans from No. 30 to No. 1 in yards allowed and from No. 24 to No. 5 in points given up. Amazing.

If you are a college basketball junkie, get the VCR programmed. ESPN is planning its usual hoops marathon kickoff Tuesday, with 21 games being aired in a 25-hour period starting at 11 p.m. CST on Monday night. Lamar fans looking for a scouting report on Ohio State and Kentucky can check out Jared Sullinger and  the No. 3 Buckeyes against No. 10 Florida at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and see No. 2 Kentucky tangle with No. 13 Kansas at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Of more immediate local interest, Memorial ex J’Covan Brown and the Texas Longhorns face Rhode Island at 3 p.m. on ESPN . . . Here are a few eye-opening stats about Butler’s basketball program sure to leave college basketball elitists gagging. The 10 wins posted by Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs in reaching the championship game the last two years are two more than the next biggest winner, Duke, which has 8. Butler’s 10 NCAA victims had a combined total of 34 top 100 recruits on the rosters while the Bulldogs had none. Included are Michigan State with 9 top 100 players on team Butler beat, Florida with 6, Pittsburgh with 6 and Syracuse with 5 . . . Tonight’s segment of the West Wind on Fox 4’s Sports Edge will be devoted to Lamar’s all-time, all opponent team in basketball. It’s a follow-up on a piece I wrote a few years ago, after I got to thinking about how many great players Cardinal teams faced over the years. To give you a little bit of a hint, the all-opponent first team was so loaded that three members of the NBA’s all-time top 50 — LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal, Houston’s Clyde Drexler and Texas El Paso’s Nate Archibald — didn’t make it. Part of the reason was that I picked a true top five, with two guards, two forwards and a center. One hint about that first team. Two of the guys selected played in the Southland Conference.

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For Dallas diehards who haven’t realized it yet, the Cowboys game won’t be televised in Southeast Texas today. With Buffalo of the AFC playing a noon game at JerryWorld, telecast rights go to the network (CBS) of the visiting team. Since the Houston Texans are also playing at noon on CBS, KFDM (Channel 6) is contractually obligated to carry their game. Most of the states’s other CBS affiliates, who have a choice, have opted for the Cowboys. According to the Houston Chronicle’s David Barron, only stations carrying the Texans are in Houston, Beaumont, College Station and Victoria . . . Can’t believe so many in the college football world are already clamoring for an LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS championship game. Only way that should even be considered is if there are no other unbeaten teams. Alabama, after not being able to score a  touchdown on the way to losing to LSU at home, doesn’t deserve a rematch. My biggest question after sitting through LSU’s 9-6 victory was how could the teams rated No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation be so mediocre at the quarterback position. It was like they turned the clock back to the 1960s when college football was all about defense, field position and being able to run the ball . . . Don’t invite  Archie Manning to the same cocktail party as the Fox NFL announcing duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. The former New Orleans Saints QB is beyond being ticked off at the way Buck and Aikman criticize his son Eli when they are doing NY Giants games. “They’re kind of hard on Eli,” Archie said the day after Eli rallied the Giants to a 24-24 victory over the Patriots.  “Joe’s always been tough on Eli, and it seems this year Troy is too. Sometimes I just mute them.”  I’ve always thought Aikman had players he was hard on and others he prefers not to criticize.

Sad as that Penn State situation is, there’s some irony where Joe Paterno is involved. At least there’s irony, if you buy into the rationalization that Paterno is somewhat out of touch with reality and didn’t fully understand what was going on with Jerry Sandusky. Back in 1969, Paterno coached an unbeaten Lions team that probably deserved to end up with the No. 1 ranking. That, however, was a time when wire service polls determined the national champion. Texas wound up a controversial No. 1 after then president Richard Nixon attended the Longhorns “Game of the Century” against Arkansas and proclaimed them No. 1 after a 15-14 victory. The AP and UPI polls went along with the president. Paterno, a Republican, seethed about Nixon’s influence on the football poll for years. In 1973, with Nixon embroiled in Watergate, he got even with the following widely-circulated quote. “I don’t understand how Richard Nixon could know so much about college football in 1969 and so little about Watergate in 1973.” . . .  Missouri and its head coach, Gary Pinkel, had to take extra satisfaction in Saturday’s 17-5 thumping of the University of Texas. Pinkel was one of the first Big 12 coaches to squawk about the Longhorn Network and to blow the whistle on plans to air high school games on it. More than anybody, Texas is why Missouri wound up leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, a move I still think will be a long-term mistake. But the Tigers at least have the last laugh on the Longhorns, having not only beaten them but keeping them out of the end zone for the first time in eight years. Trouble is, defeating Texas is not that big a deal any more. They are as mediocre as mediocre gets.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at