The Tone Deafness of Penn State President Eric Barron Is Deafening

New Penn State President Eric Barron (Nabil K. Mark, AP)/Morning Call
Penn State president Eric Barron certainly made an impression yesterday.

A few months ago, Barron said he would review the Freeh report, the one requested by Penn State's board of Trustees in the wake of the revelations against Gerald Sandusky and was used by the NCAA as a justification for unprecedented sanctions against the university.

Evidently, his report is in.

Today, he said that the Freeh report "very clearly paints a picture about every student, every faculty member, every staff member and every alum. And it's absurd. It's unwarranted. So from my viewpoint, the Freeh Report is not useful to make decisions."

His tone deaf comments continued.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of shoes that have to drop. You could argue that public opinion has found us guilty before the criminal trials," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind what was completely and totally wrong was the notion that this entire alumni base, our students, our faculty, our staff, got the blame for what occurred."

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Posted in Eric Barron, Freeh Report, Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier, Penn State Football Scandal, Sandusky, Tim Curley | Leave a comment

Terror In Europe Hits Close To Home

I know what it's like.

I know what it's like to be living in a city where terror lives and breathes, a place where terrorists do plenty to put civilians in harm's way.

More than ever this is the scene playing out in Paris, London, Brussels and other places in Europe following the Charlie Hebdo murders these last couple of weeks, with word of hacked websites, copycat crimes, police crackdowns and foiled terrorist plots.

But these are not unique times.

As an American who lived abroad in the late 1970s and 1980s, I was there, too.  I know what it's like.
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Posted in 1980s, American School of Paris, Charlie Hebdo, Living Overseas, Paris | Leave a comment

Message to FCS Schools: The Playoff Experience Is What You Make Of It

When you think of FCS playoff success in the 2010s, you have to think of the most successful current program playing FCS football over the last four years: North Dakota State.

The Bison's three national championships speak for themselves, and if you count their impressive playoff run in 2010 as well, their four-year record in the playoffs is as impressive as Youngstown State's and Appalachian State's runs in the last thirty years.

In 2011, the Lehigh football team saw the Thunder Dome (or, if you prefer, the FargoDome) up close, and saw what home advantage can do in the playoffs.  The 24-0 win wasn't the most impressive performance by the Bison ever in the postseason.  However, the hallmarks of the North Dakota State home-field advantage, in the form of false starts and timeouts for the visiting team, were very evident in Lehigh's gameplay that afternoon.

Today I'm taking a look at the process of determining seeds and bids to the FCS playoffs, and I found a system where a different schools have different expectations of the what the playoffs can offer.

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Posted in Athletics Departments, FCS, Finances, Football, Lehigh, North Dakota State, Playoffs, UNH | Leave a comment

2014 Saw All Of Division I Football Break Into Cliques

You may remember the genius of Groucho Marx, the bespectacled Marx Brother with the grease-painted eyebrows and mustache.  One of my all-time favorite films, Horse Feathers, featured Groucho, Harpo, and Chico on the football field (actually the Rose Bowl), representing their "school" in a particularly important game.

But it's a particular quote of his that seems to summarize Division I football perfectly, at both the FCS and FBS levels.

"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Division I has never truly been a large tent of equal schools.  It was a division that counted as members Texas (whose athletic budget is as large as some small nations), Mississippi Valley State (whose entire athletics budget is about the size of what the University of Texas pays for socks for its athletes) and Marist (who doesn't even spend any money on athletics scholarships for its football athletes).

But 2014 was a year of true soul-searching in athletics, where a whole lot of schools decided they didn't want to belong to the Division I club that accepts them as members.
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Posted in 2014, FCS, Football, HBCU, Lehigh, MEAC, Playoffs, SWAC | Leave a comment

Dreams Of Sports Illustrated Still Dance In My Head

I remember, growing up, having the covers of Sports Illustrated on the wall.

Growing up outside of the county, Sports Illustrated for me was a vital link back home, to America.  It allowed me, a stranger in a country not my own, to stay connected to the sports I otherwise would have lost contact with.

Back then, I pored over the weeks-old issues, reading accounts of games that were long in the past.

I'd read pieces by Frank Deford and Rick Reilly - my only link to an active sports culture back home.  (That and Armed Forces Radio on the short-wave made me feel American.)

They kept me engaged, connected, in a world where American football was just that - American - and sports in general had a different emphasis.

Those days feel very far away, coming up into this Christmas season - an era away.

And my boyhood dreams of appearing one day in Sports Illustrated, too, still seem very far away - and different.
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Posted in Football, Grantland, Lehigh, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, Sportswriting | Leave a comment

LFN’s 2014 Mountain Hawk Recruiting Christmas List

The 2014 season is over, and recruiting has been very much underway for the Lehigh football program.

If you mosey on over to the Lehigh Sports Forum, you can get a list of all the unofficial recruits that head coach Andy Coen and the rest of the coaching staff appear to have secured commitments for the class of 2019.

I always look at the Lehigh football program's recruiting season as a list to Santa.  If I was running the program, what would I want to see under Lehigh's tree?

In order to do that, we need to see what Lehigh has coming back in 2015, and what we need for the future, and what better place to get that than some of the biggest fans of the program?

(And you don't even need to work on your ground game to do it.)
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Posted in Andy Coen, Christmas Wishes, Defense, Football, Lehigh, Offense, Recruiting | Leave a comment

2014 Season Report Card

It's been hard to put the season into words.

Believe me, I've tried many times.  Many postings trying to summarize what happened, what is happening, and where to go from here.

In the end it was easier to think of the season as a report card.

It's a cliche, I know.  I was trying to avoid going there.  But in the end, it was the only way to really put the final word on the 2014 season together.  Going into the season, there were expectations on this team.  The report card is the place where the analysis is done on the performance of the team.

Below the flip, check out the analysis.  (Warning: it might not be pretty.)
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Posted in 2014 Season In Review, Chris Leigh, Colton Caslow, Football, Lehigh, Nick Shafnisky, Pierce Ripanti, Troy Pelletier | Leave a comment

Season In Review: Too Many Almosts And Not Enough Finishing

The word that sums up the 2014 football season for Lehigh is almost, and nowhere was that almost more symbolic and frustrating was in their opening weekend against a team that would make it to the FCS Playoffs, James Madison.

Early in the 4th quarter, thanks to a gutty touchdown run by senior RB Rich Sodeke, Lehigh held a 28-24 lead on the Dukes and had taken advantage of a litany of James Madison miscues to get the ball at their 20 and a golden opportunity to stomp on the throat of the Dukes.

But that 4th quarter instead was an all-too-accurate look into the small things that cost the Mountain Hawks wins this season.

In the end, it wasn't the talent that had Lehigh limp to a 3-8 finish in the 2014 schedule.  It was a whole lot of little things.
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Posted in Andy Coen, Brandon Leaks, Colton Caslow, Football, Lehigh, Nick Shafnisky, Rich Sodeke, Tim Newton, Troy Pelletier | Leave a comment

Perspective, And Lack Thereof, In My #Rivalry150

In the run-up to the big game at Yankee Stadium I had an opportunity to talk with Lehigh football alum OL Dan Mulholland.

One of the great diehard fans, Mulholland runs the "Kings of Tailgates" at Lehigh home games, partially in tribute to his teammate Roger McFillan, who died unexpectedly at the age of 50.  The tailgates in Roger's honor, run by Dan, his twin brother Bob Mulholland and fellow teammate Gus Gustafson, are a Mountain Hawk gameday fixture right next to the Rust Pavillion, and every home game they "grill the opponent's mascot."

It so happened I talked with Mulholland about his best work, his blocking for RB Jack Rizzo's record-breaking rushing performance against Lafayette in 1971.  Rizzo ran for 313 yards, a Lehigh single-game record that still stands today.

"Yeah, we'll never see any sort of rushing performance like that ever again in a Rivalry game," I told him mere days before Lafayette RB Ross Scheuerman would drive his SUV all over the Lehigh defense for 304 rushing yards and 357 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns.
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Posted in 2014, Chris Leigh, Football, Lafayette, Lehigh, Rivalry, Rivalry150, Ross Scheuerman | Leave a comment

Lehigh Digs Two Touchdown Hole in Yankee Stadium, Can’t Dig Out, Loses 27-7 In 150th Meeting With Lafayette

Someday I will look back on the 150th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette as a joyous occasion, one of those times when I remember chucking a football around the parking lot of the Yankees with my son and his friends.

At some point I'll think of my time in the open air Yankee press box, two seats down from the New York Times, and smile.

Now is not one of those times.

Lehigh couldn't get the offense going in the first half, or the entire game, for that matter, but managed to allow Lafayette RB Ross Scheuerman to set a single-game record in rushing for the Leopards, a 60-carry, 313 yard performance.

The result was a dominating, humbling, frustrating, overwhelming 27-7 win by Lehigh's bitter Rival on Yankee soil.
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Posted in 150, Andy Coen, Football, Frank Tavani, Lafayette, Lehigh, Matt Mrazek, Rivalry, Ross Scheuerman, Zach Zweizig | Leave a comment