I want to start writing about football again, and I’m sure most everyone reading this blog is pretty OK with that. But with the recent lawsuit filed by former Penn State player Isaiah Humphries and his allegations of hazing by former teammates (not to mention further allegations head coach James Franklin ignored him when he reported the alleged hazing), I just think it would be proper first to address that story before we start talking about something much less serious in nature, like the Xs and Os and the 2020 season.
The problem is, I just don’t have much to say about any of it. I have been asked some questions though, either by text or email or over social media. I’ll address those here, and, hopefully, we can use that as a starting point for where this story goes down the road, if it goes anywhere at all.
-What do you know about these allegations? Have there been rumors floating around about them?
Here’s what we know, for a fact. (And we live in a world where people ONLY want to hear about facts…right?)
- Humphries filed a lawsuit seeking civil damages against Penn State, Franklin and defensive tackle Damion Barber. In that suit, Humphries made explosive allegations against all three and several others, saying they either participated in or covered up a violent, largely sexually oriented hazing ring. Among the other Penn State players he mentioned in the suit: linebackers Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa, and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos.
- Penn State says it investigated Humphries’ allegations at a university level, then asked the university police department to investigate, and that the university police department asked Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna’s office to review its findings. The DA’s office ultimately determined it would not file any charges.
That’s where we’re at.
-Didn’t Barber miss a game early in the year due to a suspension? Did that have something to do with the allegations?
Barber didn’t play in the season opener against Idaho on Aug. 30.
“He was suspended for a violation of team rules,” Franklin said on Sept. 3.
Did that rule violation have anything to do with Humphries’ allegations? Don’t know that answer. Franklin doesn’t typically discuss the violation of the rule. But it’s fair to say that Penn State was confident enough with the findings of its investigation into this that no widespread punishments — if any punishments, at all — were doled out.
-What do you make of the Humphries suit and the Lynch suit being filed by the same lawyer?
I don’t want to think it means anything, interesting as it is. Could be coincidence, and if so, it’s not fair to speculate on reasons he took the cases (which could be easily argued as, because it’s a duty of his job). If he has some kind of itch to tear down Franklin or Penn State football or whatever, I don’t personally know what it is or why that would be the case. So, not fair to assume that has to be the case, right?
For those unfamiliar, Dr. Scott Lynch was the Penn State team doctor from the 2014 season through 2018, and he accused Franklin of pressuring him to clear injured players to return to the field before he felt they were ready. That suit was filed last August by Lynch and Philadelphia-based attorney Steven Marino.
Marino is both a Penn State graduate (and former student-athlete; a gymnast) and the attorney who filed suit on Humphries’ behalf this week.
-Did you get to know Humphries? What kind of person is he? Someone who would do this for attention, for money, for immediate eligibility if he knew he was transferring?
Never met him. Never spoke to him. Don’t know.
-Players seem to be punching holes through Humphries’ claims on Twitter. What do you make of that?
Nothing. I expect anyone currently part of the team would deny anything untoward happened. They have a lot to gain and lose. People are going to believe them or not believe them, typically dependent on their like or dislike of Penn State football.
There are three Twitter comments I found particularly interesting. Well…two, really, since former Nittany Lions tackle Ryan Bates — who wrote some pretty inflammatory opinions about Humphries (“…he made a name for himself for being a trouble maker…”) — deleted his post. I don’t know what to make of that.
But two others who were part of the 2018 team with Humphries before transferring out made interesting comments they kept posted:
One is former Lions defensive tackle Corey Bolds, who transferred after the 2018 season and is now at Rutgers:
Was at PSU when Isaiah got on campus & I promise you the allegations are false, looking for money & a headline smh https://t.co/kVr2xaXIN7
— Corey Bolds™ (@Chief_Corey) January 14, 2020
The other: Offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, who was a PSU backup for several years before transferring to Duquesne last season:
Concerning the Penn State football news: I know what’s true, and I know what I don’t know, but what I WONT do is bash someone who wore the same uniform I did, who contributed when I did, regardless for how long. We’re all grown. Those on both sides can speak for themselves.
— wu-tang ster???? (@saje72) January 15, 2020
I don’t know what to make of the Jenkins statement either, but I do know (or, I should say, I figure) these guys have nothing to gain by making statements.
-How can Penn State find itself in this position again? Wouldn’t you think the university would want to be 1000% sure there’s no smoke, no fire with the allegations?
Yes, I would think that. And I believe the athletic department and the university believe they investigated this fully and are confident they’re in the clear.
Is it, in reality, in the clear? Again, we have just two indisputable facts here — Humphries filed a hazing suit; Penn State said investigations found nothing to bring about hazing charges. We need more concrete information to know if Penn State investigated this thoroughly.
-Playing devil’s advocate: If what Humphries is saying is legit…Then what?!?
Then, a lot of changes will and should be forced at Penn State.
Obviously, you can’t have what Humphries is alleging going on at your university, never mind just the football program. You’d have to dismiss any player deemed to be part of such actions from the university, even ones who played comparatively minor roles.
You’d also have to fire Franklin. Maybe some other programs might be brazen enough to attempt to stand by a coach accused of covering up sexual assault in the year 2020 (or whenever this case actually gets heard, if it even does), but I can’t believe Penn State would/could even try. After the Jerry Sandusky scandal and years worth of talk about Joe Paterno and the coaching staff maybe not bringing allegations to greater public light, I’m not sure how you can have a sitting coach who ignored — as Humphries claims he did — a player reporting assaults in the locker room that were proven to be legit.
But, we’re a long, long way off from Humphries’ allegations being proven true in a civil court. The burden of proof is entirely on him, and his team is going to need some pretty good evidence. The allegations aren’t the case. The flashbacks to dark Sandusky history aren’t the case. The case is the facts and the case is the concrete proof, and Humphries either has concrete proof to back up his claims, or he does not.
Donnie Collins has been a member of The Times-Tribune sports staff for nearly 20 years and has been the Penn State football beat writer for Times-Shamrock Newspapers since 2004. The Penn State Football Blog covers Nittany Lions, Big Ten and big-time college football news from Beaver Stadium to the practice field, the bowl game to National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5368; @DonnieCollinsTT