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September 27, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-27

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8 - Friday, September 27, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SprsTeMcia aiy-mciadiyo

.6

In'Fourth and Long,' a look into scandal-ridden sport

By EVERETT COOK
Daily SportsEditor
In an era when getting access
to one college football program is
hard, author John U. Bacon decid-
ed to immerse himself in four of
them.
In his new book, titled "Fourth
and Long: The Fight for the Soul of
College Football," Bacon immers-
es himself with a quartet of Big
Ten programs - Michigan, Ohio
State, Penn State and Northwest-
ern - to get a clearer picture of the
operations of college football in its
current, scandal-ridden state.
The book,publishedby Simon&
Schuster, came out on Sept. 3 and
can be purchased at Barnes and
Noble, Amazon, the MDen and
Literati Bookstore, among other
retailers.
While every program and
school had their own subplots and
information, perhaps the most
interesting chapters covered the
Penn State program the year after
it received impossibly strict pun-
ishments from the NCAA the year
after the Jerry Sanduskyscandal,
In one of the most turmoilous
situations in the history of col-
lege football, Bacon had complete
access to the players, coaches and

the walls, not everything was
crumbling.
"The week after the sanctions,
they were trying to field enough
players to fill out the schedule,"
Bacon said in a phone interview
with the Daily. "I didn't realize
and appreciate how close it was
to actually closing. I was equal-
ly surprised and impressed by
how much effort it took from the
coaches, staffers and players to
keep that thing from falling apart.
It was not a task operation. It was
not dumb luck.
"If they had done anything less
than what was done, Penn State
might not have had a team last
year."
Bacon - who grew up in Ann
Arbor, teaches a class at Michigan
and wrote a book two years ago
about the Rich Rodriguez tenure
- has been around the Wolver-
ines long enough to know most
of Michigan's interworkings. But
there were still some surprises
behind the curtains in Ann Arbor,
so to speak,
"One of the better surprises was
just how hard working the band
is," Bacon said. "I really didn't
fully appreciate that even though
I've been around it my whole life.
That was a very happy aisle to turn

to. Also, the budget was an eye-
opener. How much goes in and
where itgoes. Evenifyou're accus-
tomed to certain things, certain
things in there still surprised me."
By the end of the book, it's clear
to the reader that the system is
broken.
There were enough stories out
of Penn State alone to know that
massive television contracts and
money had corrupted the people
supposed to be running the opera-
tion.
But for Bacon, the saving grace
was in the players, not the suits in
charge.
"By meeting the players at all
the schools, it restored my faith
that this things is worth protect-
ing and saving," he said. "The
players I encountered had a better
sense of what college football is
supposed to be about and a stron-

ger moral compass than many of
the people who are leading the
enterprise. While that's wonder-
ful,that's notthe wayit'ssupposed
to be. I'm not getting cynical about
the players in the same way I'm
getting cynical about the NCAA."
In a backwards way, it's the
players - the amateur athletes -
saving the adults, the multi-mil-
lionaires.
"The players were much more
sincere than even the most opti-
mistic fans could ever hope for,"
he said. "Taylor Lewan came back.
What does that tell you? The Penn
State players were being lured
in the parking lot, knowing they
could probably get some money E
to go other places. Almost all of
them stayed. That's amazing. The
biggest surprise is that the biggest
believers in college football are the
players, not the people running it."

Penn State coach Bill O'Briengave John U. Bacon unrivaled access to Penn Stale.

meetings, and it showed.
The most telling section came
in the week after the sanctions
were handed down, when the
NCAA ruled that Penn State
players could transfer anywhere
without penalty. Players like then-
senior linebacker Michael Mauti
had to convince the team to stay
together, even while knowing

that the Nittany Lions weren't
bowl eligible and would be facing
severe scholarship reductions in
the upcoming years.
For the last two years, almost
every bit of news out of Happy
Valley has been negative, Bacon's
reporting flipped the view back
onto the players and new coach
Bill O'Brien, showing that inside

>of

FOOTBALL
EA Sports to end NCAA Football series in'14

featuring Dr. Rajeeb Chakraborty (sarod)
and Pandit Samar Saha (tabla)
MONDAY, SEPT 30, 2013-8-9:30 PM
Stamps Auditorium, Walgreen Drama
Center,1226 Murfin Ave. d to the public,
For more information visit
ii.umich.edu/cwps or
call 734.936.2777. k

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