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You Can't Take The Effect, And Make It The Cause

Regarding convenient explanations.

These criminal charges coincide with concerns from a former player, a recruiting analyst, local media and others that Penn State has pursued recruits who are good athletes but might have questionable character issues, in order to improve performance. The team under head coach Joe Paterno faced an unprecedented four out of five losing seasons from 2000 to 2004.

Not sure why they couldn't just mention their names. That would appear to be the "journalism" thing to do.

Former Player - Michael Haynes
Recruiting Analyst - Bob Lichtenfels
Local Media - Stephen A. Smith Mike Missanelli
Others - Unknown - Nice touch ESPN, very....pointless.

The last part of the quote is true, of course.  Penn State went though the worst stretch in the Paterno era.

The reason I find this so ridiculous is because they claim that (at least) five different people have determined from the evidence that Penn State's problem is that Paterno sold out. That he abandoned the "Great Experiment" in order to chase the better performing teams in the Big Ten. The problem is I have no idea how they came to that conclusion. Did they visit all of the guys who have committed to PSU over the past four years and talk to their mothers? Did they look up police reports or detention logs at their high schools? What makes a guy one with "character issues"? If it isn't something tangible, it's nothing.

So with that in mind I did the only thing I could do to try and lend some insight. I looked up all of the players on "The List" (starting with the apartment fight, if nothing came up after a few google searches that player was skipped) and backtracked in order to figure out who else, besides Penn State, offered a scholarship.

Chris Bell - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Cal, Florida, Miami, Michigan
Phillip Taylor - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida, Maryland, Ohio State
Tyrell Sales - Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Notre Dame (well then, he can't be a thug), Ohio State
Knowledge Timmons - South Car, BC, UConn, Maryland, Minnesota, NC St
Navorro Bowman - Virginia Tech, Illinois, MSU, NC, OSU
Chris Baker - Syracuse, Wisconsin, UConn
Ryan Breen - Illinois
Andrew Quarless - Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Wisconsin, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska
Austin Scott - UCLA, Virginia, Michigan, NC
Lydell Sargeant - PSU, Stanford, Utah, Fresno, BYU, North Carolina, Oregon
Justin King - Pitt, USC, Florida, Miami, Michigan, OSU
Anthony P. Scirrotto - Stanford, Temple, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Minnesota

So if Penn State was recruiting questionable character kids, then you would expect at least one kid on The List to have that reflected in his list of offers. The opposite appears to be true.

Of these "problem players" most received offers from at least one other Big Ten program. Schools include Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Only Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, and Purdue were absent, but we are rarely competing with those programs for recruits simply because of the status of the Penn State program.
Point: If you want to claim that Penn State has started recruiting character issue players, you have to make the same claim against all the Big Ten schools I just mentioned.

Of these "problem players" many received offers from some of the most academically respected schools in D1a football. Virginia, Cal, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Stanford all boast strong academic and citizen standards, or at least they bank on that perception.
If you want to claim that Penn State has started recruiting character issue players, you have to make the same claim against all the schools generally held in high regard mentioned above.

So there are a couple of different ways to look at this:

One: Everyone is recruiting character issue players, including schools who would probably claim otherwise such as (but not limited to) Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

Two: No one is recruiting character issue players, at least to their knowledge and not any more than has been acceptable for the last 100 years.

I'm not here to make up anyone's mind but you probably know where I stand. Penn State has been competing for recruits with the schools mentioned above for as long as they have been nationally relevant. How any of these people could give ESPN this story without anything to back it up is curious (the recruiting expert, especially). How ESPN could take their word for it without so much as a simple Google inquiry is probably irresponsible.

This isn't to say the program doesn't have issues, or that there aren't troubled kids on the roster. The point is that lazy journalism is dangerous, and when you take people's opinions as facts without looking into them, it appears as though you are attempting to slant your story.