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Bits & Pieces: Wrong priorities have caused damage to Penn State's image

It seems that almost everywhere I go, the discussion comes around to Joe Paterno and Penn State.

I met Joe Paterno here in Columbia years ago and I, like so many others, immediately thought that he was a great guy. So I am saddened by his fall from grace, but I am more saddened for the children who were victimized by a former assistant coach with the Penn State football program.

In my opinion, the football program became Penn State and was untouchable. People rarely talked about the excellent education that students received there. When you talked about Penn State, it was Joe Paterno and football, the school's cash cow that could do no wrong, and that's where the school went off track.

I think that we have piled on Penn State enough. It is time that colleges recognize that their only purpose is to educate. That means placing sports, primarily football and basketball, in their proper place.

From prose to the pros

Miriam McKenzie is about to live her dream in a whole different world. She recently signed a contract to play professional basketball with Kotka Peli-Karhut (Finland-SM-sarja). "I have no idea what that all means. I can't even pronounce it. I'm just going with the flow," Miriam said.

"It's always been a dream of mine. I don't think I'm done playing basketball. I'm going to play until my legs fall off."

Miriam's talent is impressive. In 2008, as a senior at Oakland Mills, she was this paper's girls basketball Player of the Year and she was also the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year. Miriam went on to a distinguished collegiate career at Loyola University, selected as a first team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference pick three times. As a senior she was second on her team and fifth in the conference in scoring average (14.5) and she was second in the MAAC in rebounds. Between high school (1,744) and college (1,384) she has scored 3,128 points.

Miriam graduated from Loyola with a degree in communication. She leaves for Helsinki in mid-September.

"I'm looking forward to getting to the next level and seeing what it's like. ...I'm excited and a little nervous, but I'm not going to play that way," she said.

Pugliese will be missed

We lost a wonderful man on July 28 with the passing of Vince Pugliese. Vince, 83, was an outstanding athlete. He was an All-Metro selection at Gonzaga High School in two sports. At Montgomery College he was co-captain of the football and baseball teams and was a junior college heavyweight boxing champion and a junior college All-American in football.

Vince spent many years teaching at Montgomery Blair and, in 1962, was named head football coach there. In 1964, he led his team to a 10-0 record and a top ranking in Montgomery County. In 1974, Vince became Rockville High School's athletic director. He has been named to four halls of fame and was a prominent force in the Atholton Youth Recreation Association.

Vince cared deeply for young people. At Blair, he often addressed assemblies encouraging teenagers to study hard and persevere in whatever direction they may take in life. Students realized that he was their friend.

I knew Vince for many years and knew what he meant to his family and friends. We talk about role models all of the time, but we just lost the gold standard of role models.

Carol Gralia contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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