Bears

You won't believe Penn State's 2011 donations

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You won't believe Penn State's 2011 donations

From Comcast SportsNet
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State received more than 208 million in donations for the fiscal year that just ended, the second-highest total in university history despite the upheaval after the arrest of Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges. The school said Monday there was a slight uptick in the number of alumni who donated money or gifts in the fiscal year that ended June 30 to more than 75,500, reversing two years of slight declines. "We're very grateful -- humbled really -- to have this kind of response from Penn Staters, who I think have rallied to the cause ... by the side of the institution through a very difficult time," Rod Kirsch, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, said Monday in an interview. The number of donors overall -- which would include corporations and non-alumni -- also rose slightly to more than 191,000. Donations included gifts for scholarships; as well as increases in giving to the football booster club and the annual student-organized dance marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer patients and research. Only the 2010 fiscal year was more prolific for Penn State, when the school raised more than 274 million. What Kirsch described as a "bonanza year" for fundraising was due in large part to an 88 million gift by Terry Pegula, and founder and former president of an energy company involved in Pennsylvania's burgeoning natural gas industry. Pegula earmarked the gift, which is the largest private donation in Penn State history, to upgrade the school's club hockey team to Division I and build an arena. Pegula has since increased his commitment to 102 million. He said at a groundbreaking ceremony in April that he didn't waver even after the turmoil that embroiled the campus after retired defensive coordinator Sandusky was arrested in November. It led to the ouster of head coach Joe Paterno, a move criticized by some alumni and former players. Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts last month. The findings from the school's internal investigation, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, are also expected to be released soon. Those conclusions could weigh heavily on whether the university can settle any civil lawsuits out of court. The school has said that private donations, tuition dollars or state appropriations will not be used to pay for legal fees, consultants or any other costs associated with the Sandusky scandal, which has, through the end of April, totaled 11.9 million. The school isn't deviating from its overall goal of raising 2 billion in the current, seven-year fundraising campaign that began in 2007, Kirsch said. Including the most recent 208 million figure, about 1.6 billion has been raised for that campaign. "Keep in mind we are not only dealing with the crisis we're still going through, but we're dealing with a tough economic environment still," Kirsch said. "In that context, I'm not real surprised, but I'm very grateful for" the donations. Separately, Penn State reported 223 million in new donation commitments, down 37 percent from the previous year. Kirsch said that was expected given the size of Pegula's gift, and a big fundraising push by the school related to that donation. The latest fundraising figures were released against the backdrop of a decline in recent years in state funding, which is used to help offset tuition for in-state residents. Penn State trustees are expected to vote on a potential tuition increase at their next meeting Friday in Scranton. Kirsch said raising money for undergraduate scholarships remained a top priority to keep Penn State affordable. Last year, in-state freshmen and sophomores paid more than 15,000 a year in tuition to attend the main campus in State College, while out-of-state residents paid 27,000. The school is seeking to raise more money to support faculty. Penn State said it has also raised more than 46 million from current or former faculty and staff, or 3 million more than its initial goal. That total would include donations made by the Paterno family, such as the annual 100,000 gift in December, a month after Paterno was fired, for the library and an undergraduate fellow program that bears the family name. Paterno died in January of lung cancer at age 85.

Three questions for Bears D-line: Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Three questions for Bears D-line: Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Pre-camp depth chart

DE
1. Akiem Hicks
2. Bilal Nichols
3. Bunmi Rotimi

1. Jonathan Bullard
2. Roy Robertson-Harris
3. Cavon Walker

NT
1. Eddie Goldman
2. John Jenkins
3. Nick Williams

1. Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Hicks led the Bears with 8 1/2 sacks last year, and combined with his excellent work against the run probably should’ve been enough to get him to the Pro Bowl (it wasn’t). Still, 2017 was a feel-good year for Hicks, who signed a four-year contract extension a day before the season started and then turned in career-best production.

With the Bears’ pass rush having the most questions of any segment of this team coming into training camp, Vic Fangio will have to hope Hicks not only doesn’t take a step back in 2018, but improves off what he did a year ago. 

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said he wants to see Hicks play with greater consistency in 2018 — and if he does that, it would allow him to find that extra gear in his play. 

“Consistency with technique, consistency with production,” Rodgers said. “More opportunities to get in on tackles. I think his solo tackles were really high as compared to previous years, I’d like to see his assists go up, which means that he’s finding ways to get to the ball even faster. All those things you take into consideration when you’re evaluating a guy and seeing a guy if he gets better from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3.” 

2. When will Eddie Goldman get his second contract?

Goldman’s place in the Bears’ defensive line isn’t in question, even if his surface-level numbers (27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) aren’t exactly eye-popping. What Goldman primarily succeeds at — pushing back two interior offensive linemen weighing about 600 pounds — doesn’t show up in a box score, but it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by his coaches and teammates. 

“He’s a beast, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I’m glad to have him in front of me. He’s not a guy who’s rah-rah, but when he’s out there, he’s out there making plays. It doesn’t show up on film but he’s the key, he’s a vital part of this defense. He’s wrecking stuff in there. As a linebacker, that’s my best friend. 

“The more he can wreck, the more I can make plays and we all can make plays. It shows to us, and probably not to the public as much, but to us we know what his game is and we know what he brings to this defense. He’s definitely making us better.”

Goldman and Hicks played off each other well last year, and with Hicks (and Fangio) sticking around for a while, it would only make sense for Goldman — who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract — to be Ryan Pace’s top priority to sign to an extension during training camp. It seems like a matter of when, not if, that deal will be reached. 

“I don’t know about you all, but I don’t put any of the highlight reels on (that are on) national television,” Rodgers said. “I have a highlight reel in my room. And if I see him knock people back and make a play, or knock another guy back on his way to the quarterback that affects the pocket, that’s a highlight in my mind.”

3. Who emerges opposite Hicks as the starting DE?

While the consistency achieved across Fangio’s defense has been a point of praise for the Bears, at least inside Halas Hall, the impact of the departure of defensive end Mitch Unrein may have flown under the radar. Coaches and teammates praised how well Unrein fit a role on the Bears’ defensive front last year, with his consistency and knowledge allowing Hicks and Goldman to play faster. Consider what Rodgers said about Unrein last fall:

“Mitch is the glue that kind of holds it all together,” Rodgers said. “…When he’s out there on the field with those guys, he allows those guys to play fast. And if they know what’s coming their way, then they can play even faster.”

Unrein signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March, and the Bears didn’t make a move to replace him in free agency. So that means there will be a relatively open competition for the third starting spot on the defensive line come training camp between, primarily, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols. 

Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses. Bullard, a 2016 third-round pick, showed flashes at times last year but only has two sacks and 33 tackles in 30 career games. The Bears believe Robertson-Harris is an ascending player with pass rushing potential, but he’s only entering his second year playing 3-4 defensive end and would need to make significant strides in training camp. Nichols is a fifth-round pick who the Bears see as having some pass-rushing potential, too, but expecting a guy who played defensive tackle at Delaware to step into a primary role on an NFL defensive line is a little lofty.

One other note here, though: Even if the Bears have a true “starter,” expect there to be plenty of rotating with the spot(s) opposite Hicks and Goldman. For all the praise Unrein received last year, he didn’t even play half of the Bears’ defensive snaps, so having at least two other defensive linemen emerge as viable options would be beneficial for this group. 

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

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AP

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

Coming to you from Washington DC, we speak with Dylan Cease who competed in the MLB Futures Game along with his Birmingham Barons teammate Luis Basabe. 

Cease talks about the White Sox loaded farm system, what players have impressed him the most, where he gets his composure on the mound and more. 

Check out the entire podcast here: