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Penn State Football: The Not-Bill O’Brien Winter Break Top 10

by on December 20, 2013 1:30 AM

The final final of the Fall 2013 semester is over today.

But the football news never stops -- even as our patience is tested with regurgitated rumors about a professional sports league and the head football coach of a prominent university in central Pennsylvania.

No names, please.  

Today’s column is B--- O’----- free.

Instead, here are 10 “other” mostly-football stories that will occupy the local news landscape at least a little bit over the next 25 days until Monday, Jan. 13, when winter break ends and the beer-swallowers return to cap off Syllabus Week.

1. Assistant coaches – Less than 24 hours after Penn State upset Wisconsin 31-24 to end the regular season, assistant coaches Ron Vanderlinden and Charlie Fisher “resigned to pursue other opportunities.” That was 19 days ago. Quite possibly the vacancies have already been filled, but not announced because the two coaches’ teams are still playing – as one of the 32 teams in the NFL and/or one of the 70 college teams in bowl games. By Jan. 13, only four of those 102 teams will still be playing, in the four NFL conference championships. 

2. A-Rob and the NFL -- Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson has until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft. By then, he must decide if he wants to come back for one final season at Penn State. Robinson is the first player since at least 1985 to lead the Big Ten in receptions and receiving yardage in consecutive seasons. His combined 174 receptions and 2,445 receiving yards the past two years both rank No. 3 in Big Ten history for consecutive seasons.

3. Verbals continue -- Penn State is up 17 verbal commitments and one official signee (juco transfer Tarow Barney) who are slated to attend PSU in 2014. They’re not official until Feb. 5, 2014. There may be a few more players in the interim, even though Penn State coaches can’t hit the road again until Jan. 16 to visit recruits.

4. Recruits start classes – Barney, a defensive end, will start Spring semester classes at Penn State’s University Park campus the second full week of January. Other incoming freshmen scheduled to enroll next month are quarterback Michael O’Connor, wide receiver De’Andre Thompkins and defensive tackle Antoine White.

5. AFCA convention – The American Football Coaches Association’s annual get-together, to be held Jan. 12-15 in Indianapolis, draws thousands of high school and college coaches. The convention is one of the reasons for the recruiting hiatus until mid-January.

At the convention, PSU’s Larry Johnson (pictured above right, with an unnamed coach) will lecture about the defensive line, while former Penn State assistant Brian Norwood, now the associate head coach of Baylor, is part of a “Fathers in Football” panel. His son Levi is a Baylor wide receiver, with 83 receptions and eight TDs over the past two seasons. Mack Brown, the deposed Texas head coach, is president of the AFCA and will lecture on “The Future of Football: A Dose of Reality.” (I’m not making that up.) Penn State’s head coach was a featured speaker in 2012.

6. (Not-yet-to) trials and tribulations – Unsealed grand jury testimony by Cynthia Baldwin and Graham Spanier will continue to be mined for media fodder as the legal jockeying associated with the Sandusky scandal will no doubt continue, winter break or not.

7. Basketball vs. Michigan State – Not football, but this is a big deal: Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions are playing excellent basketball this year. Unfortunately, though, a game that is much bigger than the Rec Hall retrospective is getting lost in the New Year’s Eve shuffle. Fifth-ranked Michigan State, a typical BJC draw of at least 10,000-12,000, makes its only visit to campus on Tuesday, Dec. 31, for a 5 p.m. tip. A waste and a shame. One salvation: First Night button-wearers get in for $5.

More bad home-attendance news: The Nittany Lions have two more prime Big Ten home games before the students return, with contests Wednesday, Jan. 8, against Minnesota (coached by Rick Pitino’s son, Richard) and noon, Saturday, Jan. 11, against Indiana.

8. More McG – Former Nittany Lion and NFL rookie QB Matt McGloin will make two more starts for the Oakland Raiders as the pro season winds down. Oakland is at the Chargers this Sunday and plays host to the Broncos – and that Peyton Manning guy  -- on Dec. 29. Click here to view a video of McGloin talking about the San Diego game.

9. Film debut – “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley,” is about the aftermath of the scandal and premieres next Friday at an invitation-only event in the State Theatre. The next day, the film will be shown around the state and in State College. The Dec. 28 showing at the State Theatre costs $12 and begins at 4 p.m. Buy your tickets here.

10. Presidential search continues … and continues and ... – Technically, winter break will be over by the time the Board of Trustees meets again, on Friday, Jan. 17. But, perhaps, news will break the first week of classes about the BOT voting on a new prez. Don’t count on it. (Technically, spring break may be over by the time that happens.) This is Day No. 710 since current president Rodney Erickson said he was going to resign.


Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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