Should Matt Millen be Removed from ESPN?


Matt Millen, former Penn State University (PSU) and Oakland Raiders star player and former Detroit Lions General Manager (GM) – arguably the worst National Football League (NFL) GM in history – appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter today to analyze and react to the results of the Louis Freeh report that admonished Penn State for its mishandling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case.

Needless to say, Millen’s still-unfailing defense of deceased Penn State coach Joe Paterno caused a great deal of negative reaction, particularly in the social media universe.

Millen did little to dispel any previously-perceived disdain of himself and so many other former PSU football players who encompass the locker room, hooligan and mob mentality associated with defending his former head football coach, even after the Freeh report annihilated the actions of Paterno, former PSU President Graham Spanier, Athletics Director Tim Curley and PSU Vice President Gary Schultz for, among many things, their concealment of known sexual molestations by Sandusky over a period of 14 known years.

Here are some of Millen’s “gems” that he spewed on SportsCenter as well as my comments to Millen’s statements regarding Joe Paterno and the cult of culture at PSU:

• On the thought that Paterno could have stopped all of this: “Yes. In (Freeh’s) opinion, that’s what he’s saying. However, look at it the other way. If Joe Paterno comes in and says, ‘I think we should do this’ or ‘You might want to think about doing this’ or ‘Let’s go the other way,’ real leadership says, ‘No. I don’t care what you say, that’s not going to happen.’

Well, Matt assumes that Paterno had no leadership or decision-making capability.  The most powerful person in the history of Penn State, possibly the most influential and powerful man in the state, and what he says wouldn’t be heeded or enacted upon?  Sure Matt, I was born yesterday.

“Because that’s your job as a leader. You override — I don’t care how powerful you are — you override that.”

Matt: please see my above comment – he had the power to stop all of this – rather, he and those four PSU officials chose instead to protect the football program and Paterno’s legacy with, as identified in the Freeh Report, no concern or care for those sexually-abused victims.  Paterno and his minions should have been an adult/a man and put an end to it.  Instead, they were cowards.

• On how will it affect Paterno’s legacy: “I’m not a big legacy guy, per se. I’m a big character guy, and Joe had exhibited great character for years, OK? And this is antithetical to anything he’s ever talked about or espoused.”

Well, maybe he exhibited that great character for the first 31 years as its head football coach but those last 14 years?  Not so much.  To that point, seeing that the Freeh report infers that cases of sexual abuse by Sandusky may have occurred prior to 1998, could those 14 years have been a conservative estimate of the period of time of the crimes?

“So it’s tough to take. But that’s their finding, they back it up with evidence, so you have to start somewhere, you have to start to believe somebody, and I’ll stick with this until we see that it’s not the case.”

So Matt, to follow your logic – is this a prime case of someone who took too many blows to the head? – we should now adopt a new point of law that says (I “suppose”) he’s guilty until proven innocent (i.e. you can find the lamest thread of hope to exonerate your former coach)?

• On how Penn State fans should look at Paterno now: “You can’t discount all the good that he’s done. I think the biggest thing is to get a little perspective here, because he’s still a guy. He’s still a man, he still has flaws, and this was one of them. This decision right here was a major flaw. That’s a bad decision.”

Uh Matt, ‘yes’ you can discount all of the good that he’s done.  Whether fair or unfair, you are remembered – your legacy – by your most heinous and your last act.  What will Bobby Knight always be remembered for?  Knight will be remembered for throwing a chair during an Indiana University basketball game.  What will Woody Hayes always be remembered for?  Hayes will be remembered for slugging Charlie Baumann, the Clemson football player who intercepted a late Ohio State Buckeyes pass in the Gator Bowl.  Is it fair for two legendary coaches, two coaches whose legacy of great acts have all but been forgotten for those embarrassing acts?  But that’s the reality: you are remembered for your most damaging act and especially your last, parting act.

To that point, are you really certain that there weren’t other violations in other areas that wouldn’t have been discovered in such a small town and tight-knit, manic community, one that fully bought into the cult of big-time college athletics greed?

“Stuff that pops in my head right away: Your sin will always find you out. I was taught that as a young kid, it still holds true. That’s the way it goes. And now you pay the price.”

The tragedy is that those abuse victims paid the ultimate price: allowing Sandusky to kill their very souls.

The Penn State University and the other three parties to this concealment will pay the price from a penal and punitive sense, but Paterno will not pay any price.  Well, according to your blind trust of him, he shouldn’t.  After all, as you said, “You can’t discount all the good that he’s done.”

• On the report saying a culture exists at Penn State to protect the football program: “Those things exist in all strong, prominent programs. They have to. … So I don’t think that that’s necessarily significant. The part that’s significant is the poor decision that was made in light of that. That, to me, just spills the apples.”

Matt, hasn’t Penn State always held itself out to be the last bastion of sanctity?  Didn’t Paterno always espouse winning the right way?  Didn’t Paterno once state that his efforts had to be Herculean to counter the “Barry Switzer’s of the world”?

If anything, Millen’s stupidity and blind trust, even after the former FBI Director outlined the sordid details in a 276-page report, should show cause for ESPN to seriously consider relieving him of his duties as a college football analyst.

The network once showed a great deal of courage in firing Rush Limbaugh for his inflammatory and racist comments about Donovan McNabb and African-American Quarterbacks, yet they will probably look the other way regarding Millen’s idiotic remarks.

Millen has failed, time and again, to exhibit any shred of objectivity towards his Alma Mater, even after this report came out.  So, how can you expect him, as an analyst, to objectively cover college football teams, especially those that aren’t Penn State?

ESPN: Please do the right thing – relieve this self-professed, self-righteous blowhard of his duties.

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  1. Some Rare Sunday Linkage says:

    […] M. Banks at the Sports Bank wonders if it’s time for Matt Millen to leave […]

  2. “When I read t… | Sports Journalism says:

    […] Oh man. Um. Millen was awful, I mean god-awful. In fact, his performances on ESPN throughout the unfolding of the Penn State scandal were so bad and so offensive that many were calling for him to be fired after his absolutely ridiculous explanation (if you can call it that) of the Freeh Report. If you don’t believe me check this out, or this, or this or this. […]

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