NCAA to punish Penn State; Paterno statue removed

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NCAA to punish Penn State; Paterno statue removed

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The NCAA announced Sunday that it will issue sanctions against Penn State in the wake of a scathing report that found that top university officials buried child sex abuse allegations against a now-convicted retired assistant and led to the tearing down of the famed statue of once-sainted coach Joe Paterno.

Shortly after Paterno's statue was removed Sunday, six months to the day after he died, the NCAA came forward to say that it will levy "corrective and punitive measures" against the school. The sanctions will be spelled out Monday, the NCAA said without disclosing further details.

NCAA President Mark Emmert hasn't ruled out the possibility of shutting down the Penn State football program in the wake of the scandal, saying he had "never seen anything as egregious."

The Paterno family issued a statement saying the statue's removal "does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community."

"We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth," said the family, which vowed its own investigation following the release of an investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that found that Paterno and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Sandusky.

The family called the report "the equivalent of an indictment a charging document written by a prosecutor and an incomplete and unofficial one at that."

The bronze statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university." Students chanted, "We are Penn State" as the statue came down.

Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put into storage because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."

"I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse," Erickson said in a statement.

Many of those watching the statue's removal stared in disbelief and at least one woman wept, while others expressed anger at the decision.

"I think it was an act of cowardice on the part of the university," said Mary Trometter, of Williamsport, who wore a shirt bearing Paterno's image. She said she felt betrayed by university officials, saying they promised openness but said nothing about the decision until just before the removal work began.

Dozens later gathered to watch and listen to the sound of sawing, scraping and shoveling as workers removed Paterno's name and various plaques from the walls behind where the statue had stood. Shortly before midday, all that remained was the bare concrete and stone.

Few watching said they understood the decision and feared what kind of punishment the NCAA would pile on.

Cloresa Turner, who drove up from Martinsville, Va., to see the statue, clasped her hand over her mouth when she saw the statue was gone.

"He's done so much for this university. It's sad," she said. "To wipe it all away is like he meant nothing."

In NCAA terms, the Penn State case is stunning partly because of the swift action by the governing body for college sports. NCAA investigations on issues it normally handles, such as improper benefits, can drag on for months. But in the wake of Freeh report's release on July 12, the NCAA has shown rare speed in moving toward the punishment phase for Penn State.

Recent major scandals such as the Reggie Bush case at the University of Southern California and players at Ohio State trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos have resulted in bowl bans and the loss of scholarships.

Current NCAA rules limit the so-called death penalty shutting the program down completely to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. But NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to use harsher penalties for the worst offenses. That includes postseason and TV bans, which haven't been used extensively since the 1980s.

"This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal," NCAA President Mark Emmert told PBS. "Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case because it's really an unprecedented problem."

Another question hanging is whether Penn State and, by extension, Paterno, major college football's winningest coach will have to vacate any victories. Paterno won 409 games for the school in his 46 seasons as head coach. USC lost a national title when it went on probation and Ohio State vacated the 2010 season, including its victory in the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas.

Kayla Weaver, a Penn State senior and member of the dance team called the Lionettes, said an NCAA death penalty would not only force the football players to transfer, but it would also force program changes for cheerleaders, dancers and band members and would hurt season ticket holders.

"It could ruin everything that we've built here," said Weaver, 21, from Franklin Lakes, N.J.

On Twitter, Akeel Lynch, a running back recruit who played high school football in western New York, wrote, "I still bleed blue and white," while quarterback Matt McGloin tweeted, "The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel."

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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