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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."

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.