O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

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O'Brien, Penn State mindful of past, but ready to move forward

Penn State didn't get the death penalty. The football team will play games this fall, instead of the broached penalty of being axed for four years. So with that in mind, Bill O'Brien has to do his job, and that's coach the Penn State football team.

"Penn State's sanctions aren't the end of the world," O'Brien said Thursday at Big Ten media day. "I think people have to keep things in perspective and remember that there's a lot more important things in the world, like the victims of child abuse, like our own families, like these kids and their emotions right now. Like I've said from Monday on, my job is to keep this 2012 football team together, but after that it's just about competing and doing the best job we can."

Whoever succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State was going to have a difficult time. Nobody could've envisioned the job being as difficult as the daunting task facing O'Brien. But from a purely football standpoint, all O'Brien -- who said he expects 108,000 fans at every home game at Beaver Stadium this year -- is concerned about is winning games.

"I think we have a chance to be a decent football team," O'Brien said. "I think we can field a competitive team and I think that would show a lot of people that we're not dead."

But the sanctions handed down Monday were harsh in an effort to de-emphasize football and attempt to change a culture within the program that helped protect Jerry Sandusky. With no chance of making a bowl or Big Ten championship game, and with severe scholarship reductions put in place, Penn State players are free to transfer to wherever they please without having to sit out a year.

O'Brien hasn't seen a mass exodus from State College, though, at least not yet. The first-year coach said about 50 players have already affirmed their commitments to stay at Penn State.

"It shows you what Penn State is all about, it shows you what these kids are all about," O'Brien said of those players sticking with the program. "This is a prideful bunch of kids, these are tough kids. ... We've got great kids, kids that want to stick together. Now, I know there may be some kids that will leave, I understand that."

Only a handful of Big Ten coaches said Thursday they would look to recruit Penn State players. Illinois coach Tim Beckman was one, and his approach was met with some level of criticism. Most other coaches said they would listen if a Penn State player contacted them, but won't actively recruit anyone away from Happy Valley.

"I have a problem with that," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of actively trying to add current Penn State players, reiterating the same phrase. "But as a player, a young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. We have to keep that in mind. However, when he's a part of a team, you're getting into a situation that I'm not quite very familiar with, and we're not going to get very familiar with it."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was a little more open to the idea, but ultimately decided against adding any Penn State players.

"To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree," Hoke said. "But we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and not recruit the guys and keep our business our business."

While O'Brien said none of his players have informed him of their decision to transfer, running back Silas Redd reportedly is considering a move to USC.

"The rules are what they are -- it's like NFL free agency without the rules," O'Brien, who previously coached with the New England Patriots, said. "So other schools can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they're contacting these kids, and it is what it is."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would rather the contact between other schools and Penn State be, at least within the conference, nn an athletic director-to-athletic director level instead between compliance departments.

"I want it to happen at a higher level," Delany said, adding that he wasn't in favor of allowing the transfers to happen within the conference. "I argued to some extent against it. Our presidents were clear and unanimous that they want these students to have the opportunity to go where they want to go and with no exceptions, including Big Ten exceptions.

"What I said to our coaches this morning, you know, I get it; this is what the rules are. And I expect you to operate in a way that makes not sense just under the rules but sense to you as adults and grownups, so that if a player is interested in talking to you or has an interest in your university, so be it. Those are the rules. That's what our presidents want. That's what the NCAA wants."

Like O'Brien, who repeatedly expressed a desire to turn the page now that the sanctions have been placed on Penn State, Delany is ready to move forward while still reflecting on the past.

"What's clear to me, though, is that justice can never really be served in this case, because the victims can never receive justice," Delany said. "And that's just the sad fact of the case. And while there are ancillary people who impacted the case in one way or another, affected the Big Ten, it's affected Penn State, obviously. It's affected a lot of people who are not involved in any way shape or form with the case, I think you have to just ... you have to recognize that the 10 individuals and perhaps many, many more, were damaged and hurt. And there's no amount of legal, criminal, civil, NCAA, Big Ten action that can change that or help them.

"And so a lot of people want to debate about NCAA penalties or Big Ten penalties, and those debates are fine. But to me, they miss the point very much because they're not in any way related to what happened to the victims of Sandusky's actions."

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

It hasn’t been easy for the White Sox over the last seven weeks so why should Thursday afternoon be any different?

A day after they nearly squandered an eight-run advantage in the ninth, the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 in front of 26,158 at U.S. Cellular Field despite giving away two more leads. J.B. Shuck’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning paved the way for the team to earn it’s third straight series victory. David Robertson converted his 21st save in 23 tries for the White Sox, who moved back above .500 for the first time since June 10.

Shuck already had two hits in three at-bats when he was gifted an eighth-inning plate appearance courtesy of a pair of two-out walks by Fernando Abad. Abad walked Avisail Garcia and Jason Coats to bring up Shuck, who singled to left to produce the winning run. Shuck tied a career-high with three hits.

Carlos Rodon twice struggled with the lead, surrendering it once.

Ahead 2-0 in the fourth, Rodon gave up back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier with two outs. Before that, Rodon retired the first 11 batters he faced, including five strikeouts.

The White Sox regained a three-run advantage in the fourth inning and Rodon responded with a perfect fifth. But he struggled in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to creep back within a run. Rodon gave up a double and a RBI single before he walked Grossman with one out and Dozier followed with an RBI single. Matt Albers stranded a pair to keep the White Sox ahead 5-4.

Rodon exited after allowing four earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

The White Sox offense figured out how to attack Tommy Milone and forced him out of the game in the fourth inning.

Todd Frazier got things rolling with a solo homer in the second inning — the 14th consecutive solo homer hit by the White Sox — to make it a 1-0 game. The team is one shy of tying a franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs, which was set from Sept. 2-25, 1965.

Jose Abreu singled in a run in the third to put the White Sox up two.

The White Sox regained the lead for Rodon in the fourth after Minnesota tied it in the top half. Avisail Garcia singled in Brett Lawrie, who started the inning with a double.

Garcia stole second base and he scored on an RBI single by Matt Davidson. It was the first big league RBI for Davidson since Sept. 27, 2013 with Arizona. Davidson later left the game with a fracture in his right foot.

After Shuck doubled and Tim Anderson walked to load the bases — his first career free pass in 86 plate appearances — Milone hit Adam Eaton to force in a run and make it 5-2. But Neil Ramirez took over and got Abreu to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

With Anderson, who reached base four times, on second and one out in the seventh, Abreu struck out and Frazier flew out. 

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

OMAHA, Neb.— Coastal Carolina capitalized on two errors on the same play for four unearned runs in the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers won their first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over Arizona in Game 3 of the College World Series finals on Thursday.

Coastal Carolina (55-18) became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) was trying for its second national title since 2012.

Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the national leader in wins, went 5 2/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS. He was named the Most Outstanding Player. Alex Cunningham earned his first save, striking out Ryan Haug with a full-count fastball to end the game after Arizona had pulled within a run in the bottom of the ninth.

Arizona's Bobby Dalbec (11-6) also worked 5 2/3 innings, with all the runs coming against him. He struck out eight to increase his CWS total to 25 in 20 innings.

The championship was also the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. But the Big South only has about eight hours to savor the accomplishment -- the Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.

Arizona, which came into the day with just two errors in seven CWS games, saw second baseman Cody Ramer commit two on the same play to open the door to a four-run sixth inning for Coastal Carolina. Ramer couldn't get a handle on Zach Remillard's grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but he overthrew infielder Kyle Lewis, which allowed Paez to come home.

Next, G.K. Young launched a no-doubt homer into the seats above the right-field bullpen for a 4-0 lead. All four runs were unearned, and Dalbec was relieved by Cameron Ming after facing one more batter. Before the sixth inning, Ramer hadn't committed an error in 17 games.

The Wildcats cut the lead in half with two unearned runs in the bottom half against a tiring Beckwith. An error on first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. and a walk loaded the bases before Jared Oliva's two-RBI single knocked out Beckwith. Bobby Holmes relieved and struck out No. 9 batter Louis Boyd to end the inning.

Coastal Carolina caught a break in the third inning after Ramer sent a liner into right field that got under Connor Owings' glove and rolled to the wall. Ramer made it to third on the two-base error. Zach Gibbons then hit a comebacker to Beckwith, who went home as Ramer tried to score. After catching Beckwith's wide throw, catcher Parrett reached back to put the tag on Ramer, who was called out on an extremely close play.

Arizona's first two batters in the bottom of the ninth reached base against Cunningham, and Gibbons' sacrifice fly made it a one-run game with two outs. Ryan Aguilar then doubled into the left-field corner, but Ramer was held at third to bring up Haug.

After Cunningham struck out Haug, he turned to his dugout, beat his chest with his fist three times and saluted before flipping his glove away to start celebrating with his teammates.