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Mehl still hasn't and won't read Freeh Report

July 21, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor , Times Leader

Since the end of his football playing days, Lance Mehl has been asked to do countless speaking engagements to different groups of people, young and old.

Mehl, who is extremely low key and laid back, was invited to give a speech last week at a football camp in his hometown.

The Bellaire High product might have had a few more nervous moments when the forum was opened up for questions and answers.

However, the audience - comprised of some 60 aspiring football players at the inaugural Bellaire Youth Football Camp - didn't go digging for any kind of inside information about the recent problems surrounding Mehl's college alma mater Penn State University.

Mehl was asked many questions by the campers, who ranged from first to eighth graders, but just one dealt with Penn State University.

One youngster said, "did you play for Joe Paterno?" Mehl said, "Yes I did."

And not one other question was brought up about the Nittany Lions' program, which was a relief for Mehl.

"I am glad they didn't because it's a sad, sad situation," Mehl told me shortly after the interview.

Mehl, who starred as a linebacker for the Nittany Lions from 1976-79 before going on to a professional career with the New York Jets, has run through a whole gamut of emotions when he thinks about the happenings in State College.

Jerry Sandusky - who recruited Mehl to State College and then was his defensive coordinator - was charged and just last month convicted on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of young boys.

Shortly after Sandusky was brought up on charges, Paterno was fired as head football coach and, shortly after the new year, died after a battle with cancer.

Mehl, who works with youths with the Belmont County C-Cap program, was subpeonaed as a defense character witness during the Sandusky trial. His testimony was no more than five minutes in length and involved no cross examination from the prosecution, freeing him to head back to Belmont County.

Just last week, Penn State returned to the headlines as the long-awaited, 267-page Freeh Report was made public.

Whether it was the trial verdict, the Freeh Report or the opinions about whether or not Penn State should be punished by NCAA for its transgressions, Mehl hasn't followed or read anything about it.

And he doesn't plan on it either.

"I'm not going to read that stuff," Mehl said. "I didn't watch anything. After I got subpeonaed up there, I didn't want any part of it. It was just a circus."

Mehl was called by one of Louis Freeh's staff members for the report and he spoke with the individual for five or so minutes.

"They called a bunch of (former players)," Mehl said. "I didn't have a problem talking because I didn't know anything. All of that stuff was new to me."

Last week, several other men came out publically and said that Sandusky had sexually molested them when they were boys in the 70s and early 80s, which would have been at the time when Mehl was playing for him.

Mehl called those reports, "Shocking! I really had no indication of that. From what I saw, and my dealings with Jerry, it's just not the person I knew."

Now that Sandusky has been convicted in a court of law and not just in the jury of public opinion, Mehl didn't pull any punches when asked about the sentencing, which will come in a few months.

"He's been convicted, he did it and, in my estimation, he deserves to die," Mehl said.

With each passing day, there seems to come a new story from Happy Valley, which needless to say, hasn't been all that happy of late.

The debate over whether or not the Freeh Report's findings should lead the Penn State Board of Trustees to take the statue of Paterno down from outside of Beaver Stadium, is ongoing. There were some reports on Twitter Friday afternoon that the decision had been made, but those were unfounded.

"Let's face it, Joe Paterno built Penn State," Mehl said. "But, you live by the choices you make and what happens happens and if they've got to pull away (from Paterno) that's what they've got to do. I figure (the statue) will come down. It's just sad because Joe did so many great things."

Many national columnists and media members have called for the NCAA to implement its strongest punishment - the death penalty - to the Nittany Lions because so many members of their administration played a role in the cover-up of the Sandusky crimes.

The last school to receive a death penalty in football was Southern Methodist University, which was basically paying its players. That's the definition of a competitive advantage, which is what the NCAA polices against.

Mehl doesn't see how the Freeh Report findings and the cover-up allowed PSU to gain a competitive advantage.

"What did they gain?," Mehl asked. "It wasn't like they did anything to enhance their program in terms of cheating. Morally? Obviously, there's an issue there. I think the NCAA may overstep its bounds if it does anything major."

Fall camp under new head coach Bill O'Brien begins in just a few weeks, so some of the Penn State focus will be shifting back to the 2012 Nittany Lions on the field.

But, these stories aren't going away anytime soon, meaning it could be a while before Mehl watches or reads anything related to PSU.

WHO'S WHO AT CAMP

Mehl was one of a host of speakers that took part in the inaugural Bellaire Youth Football Camp at Nelson Field, which was sponsored by Electronics Recycling Services.

Other speakers at the camp, which was hosted by head coach Jose Davis and attraced 60 youths, included former Cleveland Brown and Green Bay Packer Ben Taylor, current West Virginia University Assistant Director of Football Operations Quincy Wilson and Mehl.

"I didn't want to close it down to just Bellaire speakers," Davis said. "I wanted to get a broad view. Obviously, Lance and Benny played here, but being able to throw Quincy into the mix because he's a huge name in Ohio Valley football. All of the guys have stressed how football played a major part in their lives."

SETH'S SCOOPS

* ST. CLAIRSVILLE junior Michael Ferns was recognized the state of Ohio's second-ranked player - regardless of position - in the Class of 2014. Ferns, who received more than 20 offers this past spring, has already shaved his list to Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State. He's gone on record saying he'll make a decision by the end of the upcoming school year.

* WITHIN the last week, Cincinnati Moeller baseball standout Spencer Iacovone, whose parents are Ohio Valley natives, received two scholarship offers. Both Northern Kentucky and Dayton extended formal offers.

*OHIO HIGH school sports website J.J. Huddle released its Division IV state-wide preview this past week and St. Clairsville was selected as the team to beat in Division IV, Region 15.

* WE WOULD like to wish Ohio Valley basketball official Bill Leach a speedy recovery from an accident he was involved in last week. Along with officiating hoops, Leach is also a softball umpire in the spring.

* IT'S HARD to believe that in eight days, prep football teams around Ohio will begin two-a-day practices. The prep football seasons opens on Aug. 24.

 
 

 

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