Last week, Sports Illustrated published a story that took a deeper look at the medical staff changes that Penn State made this offseason.
The story was hyped and teased with the question of whether or not athletics still hold too much influence at Penn State approximately 18 months after the startling revelations of the Jerry Sandusky fiasco.
While there may be some juicy tidbits worth exploring, the changes made to Penn State's medical staff have been blown out of proportion.The problem with the Sports Illustrated story may not be in how the content was reported but in how it was sold.
Sports Illustrated points out that newly appointed athletics director David Joyner has strong ties to the school's board of trustees, previously being a member, and that the timing of the staff changes are worthy of some further examination. Questions are being raised as to whether the hiring of Joyne and the running of the medical department are being handled properly. If players are being treated inappropriately, there should be a cause for concern.
One of the examples used by Sports Illustrated to paint the picture of diminished medical treatment involved a former walk-on player, Garrett Lerner. Lerner reportedly was burned while receiving treatment and sought treatment by a hospital closer to his home. After the story was published, Lerner told his local newspaper that he was unaware of the overall scope of the Sports Illustrated story, and he came to the defense of athletic trainer Tim Bream, who was responsible for the burn.
"I didn't want him or anybody to paint a bad picture," Lerner said to The Morning Call. "Tim didn't do anything intentionally, and I don't think he was negligent because even after it happened, he took care of me afterward."
Penn State was quick to share data that suggests Penn State's medical staff availability for players is on par with a number of other programs in and outside of the Big Ten. But the face of the program had the strongest of responses to offer.
Bill O'Brien's reaction to the story spoke volumes. As I noted on Awful Announcing last week, I have covered O'Brien since the day he was introduced as head coach, and I do not believe any particular moment stood out the same way his media responses to the Sports Illustrated story have.
O'Brien was assertive in his defense of the program's medical care and staff. He was clearly annoyed with the story's angle and adamant in stating the health and safety of his players is of the utmost importance.
One question not answered by the Sports Illustrated story is highlighted by O'Brien's response. Why would any program, let alone Penn State, make medical staff changes at the expense of their players? Penn State is already focused on medical concerns coming out of the spring game, and entering the 2013 season with 67 (64 on-field) scholarships means Penn State is at a great disadvantage when it comes to depth. If anything it would be more logical to think Penn State would go out of their way to provide the best available medical aid to their players.
Sports Illustrated failed to answer that key question. There may be a rocky relationship between the athletics director and the former team physician, who, by the way, remains the head of medicine at Penn State, but that was not the big issue raised by the magazine.