LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short are Nittany legends in every sense.
Superstars on the field at Penn State, defining Linebacker U. in the late 1990s, then starring in the NFL, and then distinguishing themselves in their post-football lives.
JoePa's "Success With Honor" personified.
Short lived the college sports fairy tale, overcoming an impoverished childhood to become a highly successful adult.
Arrington is one of the best raw athletes in human history, an awe-inspiring speed/strength/explosiveness combination also blessed with eloquence and perspective.
In November, Arrington added an extraordinary layer to his spectacular Penn State legacy with a passionate, goosebump-inducing monologue at the epic post-Sandusky Old Main candlelight vigil, uniting Penn State as much as anything since the scandal broke.
Now, however, Arrington and Short are harming Penn State as much as anything since the scandal broke.
They both also have a come down with a (hopefully temporary) case of extreme childishness and shortsightedness.
Short and Arrington have, in essense, told Penn State they are taking their bat and ball and going home. Oh, and they're going to throw rocks at Penn State's house every step along the way.
Why? Because they didn't get their way.
Upon breaking news reports this week that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien would be the new Penn State football coach, Short and Arrington reacted as follows:
- Short: ""By not hiring (defensive coordinator Tom) Bradley or a Penn Stater what they have effectively done is turn their backs on 100 years of tradition. Penn State never has been about winning football games. They didn’t recruit the best players — they recruited the best people. If you go to Penn State, you have a better chance of graduating. ...There is a tangible standard at Penn State that this poor guy knows nothing about. I feel badly for him (because) he is clueless and will not have the support of the majority of the lettermen. This is a hornet's nest (for him)."
- Arrington: "You want a coach that can come in and give you the best opportunity to win. But here, in this circumstance, these were the most extreme circumstances that could have surrounded the changing, the firing of a coach in possibly the history of football. And, so, to not treat it as such, to drag out decision-making, to not be decisive about the things that you are going to do, to not communicate, to not show respect toward people that are a part of the community that will give everything they have to help rebuild what this university represents, to me, when we got to two months out—this is a two month drawn out process, and then you go and hire—without consulting anyone outside of the small circle you created—you go out and hire someone who knows nothing about Penn State, it comes across to me as you have done everything in this situation to basically make us look like the whole program is guilty. ... I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage. Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that's the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I'm done. I'm done with Penn State. If they're done with us, I'm done with them."
- (UPDATE: Arrington measures his words more carefully in a Jan. 7 follow-up to his initial outburst. Good for him. He makes some very good points, including that Tom Bradley was not immediately told directly by the search committee that someone else was going to be hired: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/hard-hits/post/penn-state-is-wrong-to-turn-its-back-on-joe-paterno-and-those-who-played-under-him/2012/01/07/gIQAGi66gP_blog.html?tid=sm_btn_tw)
- (UPDATE: Short released a statement of contrition on Jan. 8: "Out of a sense of frustration and deep loyalty for Penn State, I was overly harsh in some of my comments regarding the hiring of Coach O'Brien. I want Coach O'Brien to succeed at carrying on the proud tradition of Penn State."
Um ... what? Have these two guys been living in Australia for the past six weeks?
For six weeks the committee has been searching, and for six weeks there were no news stories, no blogposts, no statements released by Short or Arrington expressing these sentiments. And Arrington has his own radio show, so he's got the platform. Heck, Twitter gives everyone a platform at any time.
But Short and Arrington were silent, even though it's been obvious almost the entire time that the committee did not intend to hire from within and was looking at candidates from beyond the current PSU coaching staff.
Short and Arrington are much too smart and savvy to have not seen this coming.
What actually seems to have happened is that Short/Arrington were part of a group of former players who hoped to have a significant say in the naming of the next coach.
When Joyner and the search committee told them thanks for the input, we'll take it from here, Short and Arrington were insulted. Their feelings were hurt. Their egos bruised. And instead of speaking up at the time, they waited until O'Brien was hired and decided to lash out.
What they weren't doing was looking at the big picture for Penn State.
If Short and Arrington are upset they didn't hire someone with Penn State connections, they should blame Mike Munchak, the former PSU All-American who last week reportedly was offered the job and turned it down.
They also could blame alum Al Golden, the Miami coach who apparently made no attempt to pursue the PSU job.
Also, Joyner may be as arrogant as many have alleged, and he may have shown something less than proper respect to Short, Arrington and others who tried to get their two cents in on the search.
Well, so what?
Short and Arrington needed to jump into the fray back in November, to demand football alumni representation on the search committee. It took three weeks after Joe Paterno was fired for the committee to be formed, so they had time to take steps to get involved. To make a stink in the media if they didn't get a place at the table.
Now? It's too late. Sorry. And oh-by-the-way, the football lettermen were represented on the search committee - by Joyner, who played in the early 1970s and captained the 11-1 1971 team.
And as for Short's allegations of O'Brien's cluelessness about academic standards, um, Brandon, obviously you didn't know that O'Brien, 42, is a Brown University grad. That's Ivy League. You might have wanted to do a quick Wikipedia search on O'Brien first.
Also, O'Brien coached at Duke and Georgia Tech, places that know a thing or two about academics.
But Short and Arrington wanted Bradley hired, which is totally understandable. However, as fantabulous as the PSU coaching staff, and particularly Bradley, has been the past seven seasons in particular, and as deserving as they are of taking the reigns at PSU, it wasn't Dave Joyner or the search committee that deprived them of what they earned.
It was Jerry Sandusky.
Bradley and the other Penn State coaches are victims in this too, no doubt. In fact, Bradley, Larry Johnson Sr (defensive line) and Ron Vanderlinden (linebackers) are as good as any coaches in America at what they do, without question.
This is Arrington's primary beef in all this. Arrington has said he will not be defined by Jerry Sandusky.
And he's exactly right when he says this. The media and public have assaulted the reputation of anyone connected to Sandusky in any way. Well screw you, Arrington is saying, I had nothing to do with what Sandusky did, I am as sickened and horrified by it as anyone, and I resent your associating me with it in any way, just as you would resent it if someone associated you with a child molester when you had done nothing wrong, simply because you knew the person.
Therefore, Tom Bradley and the Penn State coaches also shouldn't be defined by Sandusky. And as such, Bradley and the current coaches should be the ones chosen to continue the PSU football legacy.
And he's right again. They should be.
Except that they can't be.
Because this scandal is so massive, so radioactive, and will continue to occupy the front pages. Even an innocuous mention of the next Penn State head coach in connection with the Sandusky scandal as time goes along will be a major distraction for Penn State football. Distractions the program cannot afford and can't risk.
(Incidentally, O'Brien could in theory retain many PSU assistants, since apparently Joyner told the staff they remain employed by PSU, presumably leaving it up to O'Brien to keep them if he chooses. Galen Hall is retiring, so O'Brien could take JoePa and Galen's spot, and everyone else could slide right back into their old roles. In reality, of course, Bradley, the interim head coach, certainly will have to go elsewhere because he could not realistically be asked to slide back down to defensive coordinator. Bradley then will again prove his greatness elsewhere, likely at someplace a notch below his standards - perhaps in the Mid-American Conference - and within a few years, as the Sandusky scandal dies down, Bradley will land a primo DC gig or good head coach job. Some others, though, could conceivably be retained by O'Brien. Forming the coaching staff is his most important task right now.)
Short and Arrington made their inflammatory, reckless, immature comments on Thursday. Today is Saturday and they have not retracted or recanted.
Some other alums seem to be supporting them to some extent, such as D.J. Dozier, who said "If the (Board of Trustees) or the committee believes that they ned to go outside of the current staff, which I don't see why, then go get a Penn State guy."
But, thankfully, that tide seems to be turning.
Kerry Collins and some others have responded and said the right thing. Collins released a statement that said in part, "I will support him and I call on all Penn State lettermen to do the same. Whether you agree or disagree with his hiring, we should support him. Instead of chastising him for not being a Penn Stater, let's show him what it means to be a Penn Stater. ... Let's support him in any way we can."
Added Shane Conlan, Short and Arrington's Linebacker U. predecessor: "Brandon Short does not speak for the majority of former players. He's gone off the deep end.''
Another person also seems to have the proper perspective. He's another guy who got a bad deal in all this, got canned due to his connection to Sandusky, by telephone no less, with no internal investigation and despite no legal charges against him:
"I understand Bill O'Brien has been named head coach and I want to congratulate him on his appointment,'' Joe Paterno said in a statement released to the AP. "I don't know Bill, but I respect his coaching record, and I am particularly pleased we share a connection to my alma mater, Brown.
"Despite recent commentary to the contrary, Penn State football has always been about more than winning," Paterno added, citing the program's commitment to education and community service. "I am hopeful this tradition will continue.''
More perfect. Despite the downfall of his empire, cancer and everything else, JoePa still sets the standard.
Short, Arrington and everyone else mouthing off needs to put their egos aside and give the new coach a chance, at least two years.
It's okay to say what you think should have happened with the search. To disagree, to strongly disagree.
But it's not okay to vent like a child. To take your ball and go home and throw rocks along the way.
It's not about you, what you've done for Penn State, or who you think the new coach should be, or how you think PSU football should cleanse and rebuild from the scandal. Or your hatred for Joyner and Joyner's disregard for your opinion. What's most important now is that - after you say your piece - you support the new coach and the program and the University. Or keep quiet.
We'll find out soon enough if O'Brien can or can't do the job. But he's earned it - he's qualified, if not perfectly qualified.
If he fails, PSU moves on to someone else in a few years. If he succeeds, great. But give him a fair chance. The committee conducted a legitimate search. O'Brien is a valid choice.
There was once a 38-year-old with no head coaching experience who took over a powerhouse program he had no connections to.
Bob Stoops has done pretty well at Oklahoma, no?
Now, if only O'Brien would quit his other job pronto and get started in Happy Valley. There's a lot to do.