Off-road race didn’t run through Nevada monument after all

By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Concerns about a controversial off-road race running through a new national monument in Nevada turned out to be much ado about nothing — sort of.

The “Vegas-to-Reno Best in the Desert Race” didn’t end up crossing into the Basin and Range National Monument on Aug. 19 as was planned and approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over the objections of conservationists.

The 37-mile segment on existing dirt roads through the monument northeast of Las Vegas was rerouted because a military helicopter crashed and sparked a wildfire nearby the night before.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a suburban Washington D.C.-based government watchdog group representing past and present federal workers, had argued unsuccessfully for months that the two-day, 640-mile race dubbed the longest of its kind in the nation would cause ecological damage to the fragile desert lands in the monument President Obama designated last summer stretching across more than 1,000 square miles.

“Kind of a weird ending,” Jeff Ruch, the group’s executive director, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Nobody is explicitly saying anything, but the race through the monument never happened.”

Ruch said he didn’t learn of the last-minute detour until he received a confidential call from a BLM employee earlier this week.

The agency’s failure to inform the public was further evidence of the secrecy surrounding the inappropriate approval of the route in the first place, he said.

BLM spokesman Chris Hanefeld confirmed Thursday agency officials informed race organizers hours before the start they had decided to reroute the course so the Air Force could secure the crash site. He said the detour was selected from alternatives studied as part of an environmental assessment conducted before approving the original route a week before the start.

“We didn’t issue a press release. Why would we?” Hanefeld said Thursday.

“The bottom line is the helicopter went down for whatever reason. They needed to secure the site. We needed to make a decision. We made a good decision, so the race went on. Everything went well,” he said.

The U.S. Air Force said in a statement the day after the helicopter crash that four crew members were treated for non-life threatening injuries after the HH-60G Pave Hawk from Nellis Air Force Base went down during a night training mission on the Nevada Test and Training Range near the monument.

Based in part on earlier criticism from PEER, BLM had set a 35 mph speed limit on the original route through the monument, and prohibitted any passing of vehicles so as to ensure the racers remained on the established dirt roads. More than 350 all-terrain vehicles, including trucks, cars, dune buggies and motorcycles competed in timed intervals in the two-day race that ended near Dayton on Aug. 20.

“The fact that BLM had already reduced this race to a glorified parade only underlined it should never have allowed racing inside the monument in the first place,” Ruch said. “Plotting this race through a national moment was conceived in secrecy, so it is only fitting that it ended in a mysterious fog.”

LEADING OFF: Sale vs Verlander, King Felix vs Rangers

By The Associated Press
A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
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PAIR OF ACES
Two AL Central aces square off when Chicago’s Chris Sale (15-7, 3.14) faces Detroit’s Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.33). Sale is coming off a strong start for the White Sox, striking out 14 over nine innings in a 3-1 loss to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Meanwhile, Verlander is 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA over his past 11 starts.
KING IN SWING
Felix Hernandez (9-4, 3.14) tries to win his sixth straight decision when Seattle wraps a series at Texas. Hernandez hasn’t lost since returning from the disabled list on July 20 and has a 2.43 ERA in five August starts.
BACK IN THE FOLD
Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.99) returns to Toronto’s rotation against Baltimore after being optioned to the minor leagues following his last start Aug. 20. The move was made to skip one of Sanchez’s starts in an effort to limit his innings. Sanchez has hit a speed bump in his breakout season, allowing a 5.29 ERA over three August starts.
RESURGENT RYAN
Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02) looks to cap a strong August that began with his return from facial fractures after taking a pitch to the face in May. The Pirates righty is 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts since coming off the DL, and earlier this month he called the injury a “blessing in disguise” because he was able to spend time cleaning up his delivery with pitching coach Ray Searage. Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21) is up for the Cubs.
YOUTHFUL YANKS
Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.11) isn’t one of the big-name Baby Bombers, but the 24-year-old can keep up his emergence in the Yankees rotation in a start at Kansas City. Cessa, formerly a Mets prospect, has victories in his first two major league starts this month, allowing three runs over 12 innings while throwing just 184 pitches. Royals righty Ian Kennedy (9-9, 3.57) has a 1.14 ERA over his past six starts.
WILD CHASE
The Mets and Marlins conclude a series with NL wild card implications. Miami righty David Phelps (7-6, 2.52) makes his sixth start this season after allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings last time out. Bartolo Colon (12-7, 3.44) has won consecutive starts for New York. Both teams are chasing the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot.
SHELBY RETURNS
Diamondbacks righty Shelby Miller (2-9, 7.14) will be called up from Triple-A Reno to make his 15th start of the season. Miller hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 6 and his ERA is nearly double that of any previous season.

Vera Caslavska, Czech gymnastics great, dies at 74

By KAREL JANICEK, Associated Press
PRAGUE (AP) — Vera Caslavska, a multiple Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who stood up against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, has died. She was 74.
The Czech Olympic Committee on Wednesday said Caslavska died in Prague late Tuesday. Caslavska had cancer of the pancreas and underwent surgery on May 15 last year, the committee previously said. She later had chemotherapy treatment.
Born on May 3, 1942 in Prague, Caslavska claimed her first Olympic medal — a silver — at the 1960 Rome Games.
Her golden era began four years later.
She won three Olympic golds in Tokyo in 1964 — in the vault, the individual all-round and the balance beam — to establish herself as a major force in her sport.
Four years later, Caslavska became an outspoken supporter of Alexander Dubcek’s liberal reforms meant to lead toward democratization of communist Czechoslovakia, an era known as the Prague Spring. She signed the Two Thousand Words manifesto published in June 1968 that called for deeper pro-democratic changes. That document angered the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who ordered the Warsaw Pact’s troops to invade Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms in August.
Facing a possible persecution, Caslavska went into hiding and was allowed only just before the Mexico Olympics to join the national gymnastics team.
She triumphed in four disciplines, winning the Olympic gold in the vault, the individual all-round, the floor exercises and the uneven bars. With another two silver medals at the 1968 Games, she became the top medalist and was later named the world’s best female athlete of the year.
For many, she will be remembered for her silent protest against the Soviet invasion. Standing on the top of the medal stands alongside Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik, with whom she shared the gold in the floor exercise, Caslavska turned her head down and to the right when the Soviet national anthem was played.
Combined with her gymnastic performances, the gesture made her the star of the games.
At home, Caslavska faced persecution  from the post-invasion hard-line Communist regime. It wasn’t until 1974 that she was allowed to work as coach in her country and later, in 1979-81, in Mexico.
After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel ended more than 40 years of communism, Caslavska became Havel’s adviser and was elected the president of the Czechoslovak and later of the Czech Olympic Committee. In 1995-2001, she was a member of the International Olympic Committee.
She received the U.N.’s Pierre de Coubertin Prize for promoting fair play in 1989 and was also awarded the Olympic Order.
In a personal setback, her marriage with Josef Odlozil, an athlete whom she married during the Mexico Games, ended in the 1980s. Her son, Martin, was found guilty of assault that led to his father’s death in 1993 and was sentenced to four years in prison. Although he was soon pardoned by Havel, Caslavska had to undergo treatment for depression and withdrew temporarily from the public life.

TNT broadcaster Craig Sager to undergo 3rd marrow transplant

HOUSTON (AP) — The son of TNT basketball broadcaster Craig Sager says his father is set to undergo a third bone marrow and stem cell transplant Wednesday as he continues his cancer fight.
Craig Sager II announced the procedure on Twitter on Tuesday, saying the marrow will be provided by an anonymous donor. NBC announced last month that the 65-year-old Sager was preparing for the transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and couldn’t take part in Olympics coverage. Sager was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and announced in March that he was no longer in remission.
Sager II also thanked his father’s TNT colleague Charles Barkley on Twitter for keeping his dad company in Houston.
Sager is known for his outlandish suits and strong rapport with NBA players and coaches.

Trove of baseball memorabilia, photographs going to auction

By ULA ILNYTZKY, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 500 baseball artifacts including a “Shoeless” Joe Jackson game bat and material from the Negro Leagues will be auctioned off by Christie’s this fall in New York.
The items come from the National Pastime Museum, an online museum based on a private collection of baseball artifacts, photographs and memorabilia.
Shoeless Joe’s “Black Betsy” bat is one of only two known to survive from his career, and the only one with his full signature in script, according to Christie’s. It is signed on the barrel and has the scars of game use, including ball and cleat marks and a handle crack. Christie’s experts think it might sell for $500,000 to $700,000.
Jackson was accused with other Chicago White Sox teammates of accepting payments for throwing the 1919 World Series. The Major League great was acquitted but banned from the sport.
“He’s a legendary figure and to have an actual object that he touched and used in a game, it’s a very special piece,” said Simeon Lipman, Christie’s pop culture specialist.
The auction record for a game-used baseball bat is a 1923 Babe Ruth bat that sold for $1.2 million in 2004.
The sale also has a game bat used by Negro Leagues slugger Josh Gibson when he played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936 and a Jackie Robinson bat that could sell for $300,000 to $400,000. Robinson, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956, gave the bat to a collector and signed it for him at a 1955 game at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium.
Steve Costello, a baseball historian and former executive vice president of Steiner Sports collectibles, said “collecting of vintage items is at an all-time high,” because there’s a scarcity of items and an increase in the number of collectors.
The Christie’s sale also includes other items and photography related to the Negro Leagues, including a 1907 book that chronicles the history of black baseball from 1885 through 1907. The “History of Colored Base Ball” was written by Sol White, captain of the Philadelphia Giants and future Hall of Famer. The auction house thinks it might sell for between $15,000 and $20,000.
Christie’s says the total value of the auction items could top $5 million. The sale is scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20.
The museum selling the items did not return an email request for comment.

European teams prepare to kick off World Cup qualifiers

By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer
ZURICH (AP) — Europe finally kicks off its 2018 World Cup qualifying program on Sunday, as the last of FIFA’s six continents to join the road to Russia.
Defending champion Germany and European champion Portugal head 54 teams — including new FIFA members Kosovo and Gibraltar — in European action from Sunday through Tuesday.
They are competing for 13 qualifying places in world sport’s biggest event. Each will play 10 matches in one of the nine six-team groups over the next 14 months.
Among intriguing home-and-away games ahead: Italy-Spain; France-Netherlands; and, the oldest international rivalry, England-Scotland.
Who will join the 32-team lineup in Russia? Group winners and the winners of four playoffs in November 2017 involving the eight best runners-up.
There are no second chances for third-place teams, unlike in the European Championship qualifying groups and final tournament groups.
Here are some things to know about World Cup qualifiers in Europe:
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HISTORY REPEATING
History is against a repeat Germany title: No European team has won back-to-back World Cups since Italy in 1934 and 1938.
Still, history also says that the Germans have never failed to qualify for a major tournament.
Coach Joachim Loew’s begins its defense against Norway in Oslo on Sunday, and without two veterans. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and forward Lukas Podolski are retiring from the national team.
The group includes two other Euro 2016 teams, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic.
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NO RONALDO
Newly crowned European champion Portugal is without star forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was left out of the squad to play Switzerland in Basel as he seeks full fitness after injuring his left knee in the Euro 2016 final.
Portugal landed in one of the tougher groups with three Euro 2016 teams, including Hungary. The Hungarians led Portugal three times, and Ronaldo equalized twice, in a thrilling 3-3 draw when they met in Lyon in June during the European Championship.
Portugal is top-seeded but has no cause to panic if it finishes second. It advanced to the past two World Cups via playoffs.
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EURO REUNIONS
Of several quick rematches after Euro 2016, Italy vs. Spain on Oct. 6 in Turin is the most attractive. Italy picked apart the two-time defending European champion to win 2-0 at Stade de France in the round of 16.
Slovakia vs. England, however, is a tough sell on Sunday in Trnava. It has to be better than a drab 0-0 draw in Saint-Etienne in June when Slovakia knew a point was enough to advance from the group in third place. New England coach Sam Allardyce has promised his players will have more fun on his watch.
Croatia vs. Turkey on the opening weekend of Euro 2016 was lit up by Luka Modric’s volleyed shot to settle the match. They meet again on Monday, with Modric now captain after Darijo Srna’s retirement, though in an empty Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.
FIFA ordered Croatia to play two home qualifiers in empty stadiums as punishment for persistent incidents of racism and offensive behavior by fans.
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ICELAND, HUH?
Iceland fans’ memorable Viking clap salute won’t be seen in its first two away qualifiers.
The surprise Euro 2016 quarterfinalists visit Ukraine on Monday, and Kiev’s Olympic Stadium will be empty because of a FIFA punishment for racist fans.
Iceland goes to Zagreb on Nov. 12 to face Croatia — which will be serving its second match of a similar FIFA sanction for racism.
The World Cup homecoming for Iceland — at the 10,000-capacity Laugardalsvollur stadium in Reykjavik — is against Finland on Oct. 6.
Iceland has a tough task to become the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup.
It is in Group I which seems the deepest pool of talent with four Euro 2016 teams plus Kosovo, which is likely the best of the minnows pot of No. 6 seeds.
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DEBUTANTS
Like all new FIFA members, Kosovo and Gibraltar — both accepted in May and fast-tracked into 2018 qualifying — start their international careers at the bottom of the seeding.
Kosovo makes a World Cup debut at Finland on Monday, and hosts Croatia on Oct. 6. Three days later, Kosovo will play at Ukraine which does not recognize it as an independent state.
Gibraltar is in perhaps the weakest group of the nine, with only top-seeded Belgium having played at Euro 2016.
Gibraltar kicks off with a home game — in Faro, Portugal, while its own stadium is being built — against Greece on Tuesday.
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Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faeroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Group D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova, Georgia
Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
Group F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein
Group H: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, Gibraltar
Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland, Kosovo.

Jayhawks still uncertain who will be QB in opener Saturday

By AMIE JUST, Associated Press
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach David Beaty still has not announced a starting quarterback for Saturday’s opener against Rhode Island, and it’s not because he is trying to keep it a secret.
He insists that he legitimately doesn’t know.
“I’ll know a lot more after today and I’ll know a heck of a lot after tomorrow,” Beaty said Tuesday. “So we’re getting close. We’ve got good choices.”
Two potential starters in Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis have had a significant amount of snaps in their careers, while the third prospect — redshirt freshman Carter Stanley — may be the most physically gifted of the bunch, a dual-threat quarterback not unlike former Beaty protégé Johnny Manziel.
“There is not a hair’s separation from them statistically in fall camp,” Beaty said. “We literally play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to see who goes first.”
The quarterback carousel is nothing new at Kansas.
There was quarterback controversy in 2012 with Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings, and again the next year with Cozart and Jake Heaps. The same thing happened in 2014 with Cozart and Cummings.
Last season, three different quarterbacks lined up in the starting slot at least once.
Cozart said he wins the most rock, paper, scissor battles during practice these days, and he uses paper as his weapon of choice. But ames aside, the captain has been a part of the quarterback mix at Kansas for four seasons, making the entire process nothing new.
As a freshman in 2013, Heaps started most of the season before Cozart was thrown into the mix as the starter late in the season against West Virginia. He was the starter the next season until Cummings got a chance, just before then-coach Charlie Weis was shown the door.
Last season, Cozart started three of the first four games — he missed one due to illness — before a season-ending injury. Willis was thrown into the starting role as a freshman.
“I’ve been through it before,” Cozart said of the quarterback battle. “I’ve just got to go into the game with the mindset of when I’m in there, controlling what I can, controlling the control-ables.”
Willis played reasonably well in eight games last season, throwing for 1,719 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passing yardage was the best by a quarterback at Kansas since Jordan Webb in 2011, and one of the best performances by a freshman in school history.
But Willis still has work to do.
“He’s a baby,” Beaty said, referring to his youth. “He is by no means a finished product, at all. If he was, he would be named the starting quarterback and he’s not.”
With Cozart healthy, Willis enjoys the battle.
“We have good competition going on in the room,” he said. “Iron sharpens iron and this competition is going strong. The cream always rises to the top.”
In practice thus far, Cozart and Willis are getting the most reps, but Beaty said Stanley’s dual-threat ability makes him an intriguing option in a quarterback competition still going strong.
“He’s got a little moxie to him that’s a little bit different,” Beaty said. “And he’s a guy that doesn’t say a whole lot right now, but in the game, he is a guy, that I think he’s going to have an opportunity when he does get into a football game to really show who he really is.”

Keys outlasts fellow American Riske in late night at US Open

By RACHEL COHEN, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Madison Keys slept until almost 11 a.m. Monday. She didn’t arrive at Arthur Ashe Stadium until 6:30 p.m., knowing that a late night on court awaited her.
Keys and fellow American Alison Riske didn’t envision it going quite so late. Their first-round U.S. Open match didn’t end until 1:48 a.m. Tuesday.
It was the latest finish for a women’s match in tournament history — typically the women play first and the men second in the night session, so six men’s matches have ended later.
The first night matches of the U.S. Open always start later because of the opening ceremony, but more often than not they’re routs with a top player facing an unseeded opponent.
But on Monday, No. 1 Novak Djokovic was pushed to four sets, then Riske and Keys went three.
The eighth-seeded Keys rallied from down a set and a break to win 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in 2 hours, 26 minutes.
Both players said they weren’t particularly aware on court of how late it was.
“Now that I’m a part of it, yay,” Keys said of setting a record. “Let’s not try to break it.”
Asked if she’s a night owl, Riske said simply: “No.”
Keys, meanwhile, is definitely not a morning person.
“This time of morning, I am,” she said in her on-court interview shortly before 2 a.m. “At 6 a.m., 7 a.m., I’m not a good person.”
The 60th-ranked Riske had two points on her serve at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker to try to close out the match, but Keys won them both and clinched the set on the next point.
Riske has lost 10 straight Grand Slam matches. She’s 2-16 against top-10 opponents, though one of the victories came against Petra Kvitova as Riske reached the round of 16 at the 2013 U.S. Open.
“It’s only a matter of time that things start turning my way,” she said.
Keys took a medical timeout in the second set to have a trainer work on her right shoulder. She said it was just soreness and she didn’t expect it to be an issue going forward.
Keys hasn’t lost in the first round at a major since the 2014 French Open. The 21-year-old is coming off a run to the Olympic semifinals, but she pulled out of the hard-court tuneup at New Haven because of a neck injury.

Penn State tries to move forward without abandoning Paterno

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Legends tend to linger in college football even after they are gone. At Penn State, getting out from under Joe Paterno’s shadow is more complicated than the typical transition from a coaching giant.
After being the most stable — in many ways stagnant — football program in the country for nearly five decades, Penn State has been awash in change in the five years since Jerry Sandusky became infamous and dragged down Paterno with him.
Moving forward has required Penn State’s new leaders to perform a most difficult maneuver: Distancing the school from a child sexual-abuse scandal that drew worldwide attention and shook Happy Valley, while not appearing to abandon the memory of the coach who many Penn Staters believe gave the university an identity for which they can still be proud.
“I think that is the ultimate challenge here,” Penn State coach James Franklin told The Associated Press. “How do you balance the history, the traditions, all the wonderful things that are deep rooted here and have been here forever, (while) also making moves that you need to be progressive and to be moving towards a healthy present and a healthy future.”
Franklin is entering his third season at Penn State. For the first time this season, Franklin will have the full allotment of 85 scholarships available when the Nittany Lions open at home against Kent State on Saturday. Penn State has gone 7-6 each of Franklin’s first two years.
Moving forward at Penn State, though, is not just about getting past NCAA scholarship sanctions and bowl bans.
For Franklin, the 44-year-old first African-American football coach in Penn State history, one challenge is trying to get former players to actively support a program that no longer feels like home.
“The ones that have come back and been around us and spent time with us and come to practice have been really good,” the former Vanderbilt coach said. “But there’s been a group of guys that haven’t been back because once again there’s a fracture. There’s still hurt feelings. It’s not as just simple as the new coach.”
Paterno coached at Penn State for 46 seasons. He was fired by the school’s board of trustees days after Sandusky, his longtime defensive coordinator, was arrested in November 2011 for molesting and raping boys. Paterno died two and a half months later of lung cancer.
The statue of Paterno was removed from outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012. Paterno’s name is still on the campus library built in part by his donations, but highly visible and university sponsored signs of him are hard to find.
“I think Penn State needs to embrace Joe Paterno for who he was, for what he did at Penn State, unequivocally and without hesitation,” said Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State alum and elected member of the board of trustees.
Lubrano said the university at minimum needs to apologize to Paterno’s wife, Sue, display the statue again and rename the stadium Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium.
While juggling wishes of ardent supporters like Lubrano, university leadership is also trying to convey to those for whom Paterno will never be completely redeemed that Penn State’s values were not tied directly to one man.
Splits in the relationship between Penn State and its supporters can take a practical toll on the university and athletic department’s ability to compete with Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten. According to a university report, private support and donations to Penn State have seesawed widely since the scandal, from a high of $274.8 million in 2011 to $226 million in 2015.
Penn State’s average attendance the last four seasons is 98,685, among the best in the country. But Beaver Stadium seats 107,000-plus and 9,000 empty seats per game costs the athletic department millions.
Athletic director Sandy Barbour and her team are considering a massive facilities upgrade, including either a renovation or a rebuild of the 56-year-old stadium. Donors will be needed, but the mere suggestion of taking down the stadium was not well received by some fans, Barbour said.
Barbour and Franklin try to stress that they will protect the things Paterno left behind that Penn Staters value most: Continuing Paterno’s so-called Grand Experiment of prioritizing academics and character and winning the right way.
“Depending on their position people may look at him differently, but it doesn’t change that he created that here. Or helped to create that here,” said Barbour, the former California AD.
As outsiders trying to lead an athletic department that had the same face for nearly 50 years, Barbour and Franklin understand full support and acceptance will take time. Winning more football games would help, but there’s a chicken-and-egg relationship between support and winning.
“I think we are still going through a healing process. I think what made Penn State successful for so long, and I think if you look at the programs across the country that were having success at the highest levels, everybody’s aligned,” Franklin said. “The head football coach, the athletic director, the president, the board and the alumni. That’s what Penn State was for a long time. We need to get back to that to be the program that everybody wants us to be.”
Many in the Penn State community are not yet ready to let go of how the school and Paterno were blamed and punished for the crimes of Sandusky, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence.
“And what many Penn Staters believe that the entirety of the Penn State community was accused of is really difficult for them to process,” Barbour said. “That as a Penn State alum, as a Penn State employee, they’re being painted with that brush.”
The Paterno family and their staunchest supporters, including some of Penn State’s most famous football alumni such as Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, have dug in on redeeming the coach.
“Since Joe Paterno died, a lot of people suddenly got brave and said a lot of things about him that weren’t true because he couldn’t defend himself,” Jay Paterno, Joe’s son and a former Penn State assistant coach, said in a recent speech to the Lake Erie Alumni Association.
The latest round of allegations came in May from unsealed court documents, with an alleged Sandusky victim saying he complained to Paterno about Sandusky in 1976 and was rebuffed. University President Eric Barron responded with a carefully worded defense of the school and Paterno.
“None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of university employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity,” Barron said.
But Barron, Barbour and Franklin can only go so far in their recognition of Paterno.
The 50th anniversary of Paterno’s first game as Penn State coach is Sept. 17, when the Nittany Lions host Temple. There is a celebration in the works and a dinner being planned for family members, friends and former players in the State College area the night before the game. No event is scheduled yet to acknowledge the anniversary at Beaver Stadium.
“No matter what position as leadership you take on the continuum, there are others that are going to criticize,” Barbour said. “Those that think that Penn State’s not been stood up for enough. There are those that think Coach Paterno has not been stood up for enough. There are those that think Coach Paterno has been stood up for too much. It’s all along the continuum. For leadership, really for anybody, that’s a challenge.”
Penn State football will never be the same, but there is hope for those who believe some things should never change.
“Have these times been difficult?” senior offensive lineman Andrew Nelson said. “Yeah, sure. But Penn State is defined by the tradition, you know? It’s defined by the academics. It’s defined by the type of guys that come play here. It doesn’t matter exactly who’s sitting in that head coaching position, we have special things here. After a while, Coach Franklin really helped us buy into that. And he bought into that, too. What makes Penn State special will always be here.”
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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

Look for Luck, Colts back in playoffs, and maybe Raiders?

By SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts played mostly without Andrew Luck when they missed the playoffs in 2015 after winning their division a year earlier.
The star quarterback returns, and so do postseason expectations for a team that has made the playoffs 14 of the past 17 seasons.
And maybe this is the year for the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since losing the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Luck missed nine games with an assortment of injuries and struggled with turnovers when he was playing. Protecting the fifth-year star is also a priority, with heavy investment in the offensive line and Luck’s offseason effort to refine his sliding technique to avoid big hits.
The Raiders have bigger hopes after a six-win improvement under coach Jack Del Rio to 7-9, with a promising young quarterback in Derek Carr and a potential superstar receiver in Amari Cooper. The defense has a proven pass rusher in All-Pro Khalil Mack, who had 15 sacks.
Besides the Colts, Dallas, Detroit and Baltimore were the other 2014 playoff qualifiers to miss a year later. The Cowboys are without Tony Romo again after he broke a bone in his back in a preseason game, the Lions are trying to move on after receiver Calvin Johnson’s retirement, and the Ravens are stuck in a tough division.
With all that in mind, here’s a glance at four potential playoff qualifiers that didn’t make it a year ago, and four prospects for missing out a year after getting in:
COULD GET BACK IN
Colts: Coach Chuck Pagano overhauled his staff after going 8-8 following 11-5 records in his first three seasons. First-round pick Ryan Kelly is a walk-in starter at center, and former Miami coach Joe Philbin is in charge of the blockers. Frank Gore believes he can end Indy’s eight-year stretch without a 1,000-yard rusher. Linebacker Robert Mathis should be motivated to help improve a struggling run defense in the final year of the 35-year-old’s contract.
Giants: New York spent big to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul and lure fellow pass rusher Olivier Vernon and other free agents after missing the playoffs four straight years since winning the 2011 championship. Ben McAdoo replaced longtime coach Tom Coughlin. Eli Manning and top receiver Odell Beckham Jr. always give the Giants a chance to have an elite offense in the potentially weak NFC East.
Raiders: Carr took a step forward in his second season, throwing for 32 touchdowns and 3,987 yards. Cooper has a proven partner in Michael Crabtree. Latavius Murray was a 1,000-yard back. Oakland lost a lot of leadership with the retirements of safety Charles Woodson and defensive end Justin Tuck. But the Raiders hope to fill the void with four free agents: guard Kelechi Osemele, cornerback Sean Smith, linebacker Bruce Irvin, and safety Reggie Nelson.
Jets: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick missed the offseason in a contract dispute but has been around long enough that it shouldn’t matter much. Versatile running back Matt Forte is joining an offense with receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who combined for more than 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns. The question is whether they can survive a schedule that includes six road games in the first nine weeks, and five of those opponents made the playoffs last year.
MIGHT NOT BE BACK
Redskins: Kirk Cousins had never won more than one game or started more than six before leading Washington to nine wins and the playoffs last season. He will have to match his NFL-best 70 percent completion rate if the Redskins can’t improve on a 28th-ranked defense. Cornerback Josh Norman and safety David Bruton Jr. were brought in as free agents to try to boost that unit.
Texans: Houston made the playoffs in the weak AFC South, then proved it didn’t belong with a 30-0 loss to Kansas City. The Texans are banking on Brock Osweiler proving he can be the playoff winner after he didn’t get a chance to show that behind Peyton Manning in Denver. Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is coming off back surgery that kept him out for the start of training camp.
Broncos: No Manning after he retired. No Osweiler after he spurned the Super Bowl champs to sign with Houston. And now free agent pickup Mark Sanchez was beaten out by 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian of Northwestern. Rookie first-rounder Paxton Lynch will have to wait for his chance. The uncertainty at quarterback makes Denver vulnerable, but one of the best defenses in the league is spearheaded by superstar linebacker Von Miller.
Steelers: Is it crazy to bet against Ben Roethlisberger, especially after he threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns in what are likely his only two series of the preseason? Perhaps. So how about this? The Steelers have never made the playoffs three straight seasons under the 13th-year quarterback, and they are coming off their fourth set of back-to-back appearances with him. Plus, running back Le’Veon Bell will be suspended the first three games and hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past two years.
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Follow AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apschuyler