After days of dancing back and forth, with everyone from Penn State's fans to the trustees wondering if head football coach Bill O’Brien was going to stay or go, he finally ended the suspense: O'Brien announced he would be leaving State College after two seasons to coach the NFL's Houston Texans.

At first glance, it's an old story: An NFL offensive coordinator gets a chance to lead a legendary college program, then jumps back to the NFL when he's offered the opportunity to become a head coach. But after conducting hundreds of interviews inside Penn State's program to write my latest book Fourth and Long, and several articles, I can tell you it’s not that simple. Or, rather, it's almost that simple -- but it's not what you think.

Dig a little deeper, and you'll see O'Brien's decision -- made at the eleventh hour, after much hand-wringing -- was based as much on the appeal of the Texans' offer as it was the lack of leadership presented by Penn State.

Probably no one felt this more acutely than the players on the 2012 team, Penn State's first after the dismissal and death of Joe Paterno.

"Who was stepping up and taking it?" 2012 senior Michael Zordich asked me. "We were. They never stood up for us. Not the president, not the AD. They were silent. Silent. Thanks. Who was standing up for us? O'Brien -- and that's it."

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who was elected to the board as an alumnus in the summer of 2012, understands Zordich's frustration. "From 1995 to 2011, until they accepted Graham Spanier’s resignation and fired Joe Paterno, those two were clearly the face of Penn State," he told me. "Since their respective departures, no one has replaced them, and we've struggled to overcome that. New logos and slogans haven't helped, either."

'It Lies With The Board'

Penn State's problems start with its outdated 30-member Board of Trustees. While other universities elect or appoint their trustees, Penn State uses a bizarre hybrid to fill its Board. This includes the state secretaries of education, agriculture, conservation and natural resources; six appointees by the governor, nine elected by alumni, and six elected by Pennsylvania agricultural societies. It harkens back to the school's founding as a land-grant college. Six additional trustees are selected by a committee representing business and industry.

Although the six business appointees, led by BNY Mellon president Karen Peetz, comprise only one-fifth of the board, they tend to have the most influence, and the nine elected alumni much less.

Consider three key decisions that were driven by just a handful of business appointees:

-- On July 12, 2012, within hours of receiving the damning Freeh Report -- which accused Penn State’s leaders of a "total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims” - a few business appointees officially accepted the report on behalf of Penn State. That decision, in turn, prompted the NCAA to accept the report in lieu of its own investigation, resulting in severe sanctions.

-- Failing badly to select a permanent president in November 2013 (more on that later).

-- Creating the $4.25 million per year salary for new football coach James Franklin, in early 2014.

The nine elected alumni trustees, in contrast, could count only one representative on one of those committees.

After NCAA President Mark Emmert delivered his famous quote about the "culture problem" with Penn State's football program, in July of 2012, Lubrano, who had just been elected to the board as an alumnus, responded, "We do have a 'culture' problem. But it lies in the board of trustees."

The Sandusky scandal has taken its toll on Penn State, as you'd expect. But right when the football team, at least, seemed poised to emerge from the crisis, the issues with Penn State's leadership have persisted, manifest in their struggles to select a permanent president and to provide crucial support for a football program still in flux.

Hiring One Of Their Own

This brings us to the position of Athletic Director. After longtime AD Tim Curley stepped down in 2011, the process of replacing him has been similarly bumpy and unorthodox. The board quickly named one of its own, David Joyner, as the "Acting Director of Athletics."

Joyner had been an all-American offensive lineman at Penn State in 1971, and went on to become an orthopedic surgeon. He was elected to PennState's Board of Trustees in 2003, 2006, and 2009, taking one of the nine seats reserved for alums, voted on by alums.

Nonetheless, Joyner was an odd choice for athletic director. That Joyner had no experience working in an athletic department was a weakness Michigan, Notre Dame and Oregon had also overlooked in their searches, in favor of business experience. But what business experience Joyner had was not a ringing endorsement for his candidacy. In 2002, he founded a company which operated a chain of gyms called C-5 Fitness. In 2006, the company filed for bankruptcy.

“Some companies do go bankrupt, no matter what you do,” Joyner said to PennLive.com. "I'm certainly not a venture capitalist, but I’m told that successful venture capitalists fail 85 percent of the time."

Messages to the Penn State Athletic Communications office to speak with Dr. Joyner (left in picture, with O'Brien and interim president Rod Erickson) for this story were not returned.

After Joyner took the job, trustee Ira Lubert, a real estate millionaire, arranged for the Joyners to stay in one of his homes in State College, and another in Hershey. Two months later, Penn State named Joyner the permanent athletic director.

The board's decision to hire a fellow trustee attracted the attention of the Pennsylvania auditor general, who released a report in November 2012, stating it created "reasonable public perceptions of insider influence and conflicting interests.”

Penn State dismissed the AG’s concerns, but the players did not. After the 2011 team finished 9-3, without a permanent president, athletic director or head coach, the team captains called a players-only meeting to decide whether to accept the bid to the lowly TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. After a civil discussion, they decided if they represented Penn State's values, they had to go.

All seemed settled -- until Dr. Joyner addressed the team after their vote. According to over a dozen players present, he accused them of being "a bunch of children” for declining the bowl invitation, which prompted Gerald Hodges to stand up and demand Dr. Joyner show more respect. The two started walking toward each other, creating a commotion loud enough for assistant coach Larry Johnson Sr., waiting outside, to come into the room, hold Hodges, and literally escort him out.

Finally, when captain Devon Still told Joyner, "We already decided. We’re gonna go,” Joyner calmed down, and told the team they had their full support, but the players never bought it. After Joyner hired O'Brien, the players asked O'Brien to keep Joyner away from the team -- essentially banning him from their sideline, their locker room and their team meetings -- and Joyner obliged, not appearing before the team again until the 2012 senior banquet.

The Outsider

When Dr. Joyner courted Bill O'Brien after the 2011 season, he asked him to FedEx his resume and cover letter, then lost the envelope in the department mailroom for eight days until O'Brien called to make sure they'd received it. O’Brien was smart enough to ask about the possibility of the NCAA punishing the football program, but naïve enough to believe Joyner when he assured O’Brien the NCAA would steer clear.

On July 23, 2012, the NCAA leveled historically severe sanctions against the school for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, leaving Penn State’s football program to face a slow version of the death penalty. But O'Brien and a special class of seniors not only kept the team alive, they thrived, knocking off ranked teams en route to an 8-4 record.

Two days after Penn State finished the triumphant 2012 season by beating eventual Big Ten champion Wisconsin, I sat with Bill and Colleen O'Brien at their breakfast table. "We like it here,” Bill said. "She likes it here, and the kids do, too. We love this team, the families. I love the values here, and I believe in them."

But as he was talking, his cell phone buzzed so often it almost fell off the edge of the table.

It wasn't friends or well-wishers calling, but athletic directors from Boston College, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers. They all wanted to know one thing: What would it take to get O'Brien to jump?

The Monday after the football season ends, college and pro alike, is traditionally the day when the athletic director, the general manager, or the owner calls in the head coach to assess the season just past and to plan for the seasons ahead. But not at Penn State. At least, not in 2012.

While O’Brien's phone was blowing up, Dave Joyner was on a hunting trip. It was the opening day of Pennsylvania's deer season. When I asked O'Brien about this, he shrugged it off, but then-senior linebacker Mike Mauti did not.

"That enrages me," Mauti told me, in December 2012. "Let's lay it out there: He's the reason we did all this. They hire anyone else, this doesn't happen -- and who knows where the program is? He's it. If O-B leaves ... it's because they didn't do their jobs and do what's right."

Nonetheless, O’Brien declined the overtures from other athletic directors and the NFL, and stayed put in State College. In the spring of 2013, Penn State bumped O’Brien's pay to $3.2 million. To keep up with the never-ending arms race that is modern college football, O’Brien also received assurances from Joyner that he would increase the budget for assistant coaches' salaries, recruiting and facilities face-lifts -- the very things rivals Michigan and Ohio State already have.

O'Brien's players followed up their inspirational 2012 season with an equally surprising 7-5 record this year. After the NCAA greatly reduced Penn State's sanctions, and recruiting picked up accordingly, the program's future suddenly looked much brighter.

New Year, Same Problems

But the school’s leadership, from the Board of Trustees to the athletic director, continued to stumble. After the Board set a meeting for November 1, 2013, to name SUNY Upstate Medical University president David Smith to replace interim president Rod Erickson, it canceled the meeting when Smith told one of the committee members he had received roughly $35,000 of unapproved income from a company that did business with the SUNY system. However, in a November 1 letter, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher informed Smith they had discovered the total was actually $349,295. Smith resigned, but there is a flap about his continuing to draw a paycheck from New York state.

After Penn State's 2013 season, according to insiders familiar with the situation, Joyner failed to follow through on his promises to boost O'Brien's budget for assistant coaches' salaries, recruiting and facilities. At the 2013 senior banquet, one witness said, the tension between the two men was "palpable. You couldn't ignore it." After the event, Dr. Joyner waited more than a week to respond to O'Brien's requests to follow up on his promises. (When I asked O’Brien about these accounts, he did not deny their accuracy.)

Given this, when the NFL's siren song resumed, O’Brien was ready to listen. The Houston Texans offered him the most appealing package: A great contract, a loaded roster, and strong, supportive leadership.

O'Brien based his decision partly on his long-held desire to become a head coach in the NFL, and the Texans' attractive offer. But it wasn't simply about money. It wasn't State College, the Penn State fans or the players, either.

When I reached him last week, he said, "I want to be clear: I love the Penn State fans and always will. They were incredibly supportive, and the players were great. I love those guys. I just felt that this was the best move for me and my family."

Joyner responded to O'Brien's departure faster than he'd responded to O’Brien's phone calls. He lured former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin to State College for $4.25 million a year -- a third more than O'Brien received his second season. Joyner was also willing to overlook the fact that four of Franklin's players were charged in June for raping an unconscious 21-year old woman in a dormitory, and a fifth player who pled guilty to covering it up.

It is hard not to conclude the Texans wanted O'Brien more than Joyner did, and that Joyner was more eager to hire Franklin than keep O'Brien.

Reached this week, Mauti said of O’Brien's departure, "It doesn't shock me one bit, unfortunately. It didn't take a genius to see it coming. You always try to leave your program better than you found it. That’s what O-B did. He gave us all he had, and that's why I’ll always respect him. I wish him nothing but the best."

O’Brien's career as an NFL head coach has just started. At Penn State, however, instead of basking in the incredible good fortune of finding the right guy during a desperate time, the same school that needed only two head coaches for 62 seasons is now welcoming its second coach in two years.

The years ahead will tell us who made the best decisions. But it’s a safe bet that Penn State University will not return to its former heights until it finally addresses its fundamental problem: the lack of strong leadership.

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On an otherwise forgettable game day, one in which Louisville crushed the FIU Golden Panthers, two huge Cardinals fans had a tailgate to remember.

While wearing Louisville football jerseys, Vonnie Evans and Jeff Miller got married Saturday morning at the Fairgrounds outside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The ceremony included a Louisville-themed cake, and the couple rode off on a decorated scooter cooler.

As Jonathan Lintner of USA Today writes, this is the second marriage for both Evans and Miller, and they wanted to find a way to celebrate with family and friends while also ensuring that no one missed the Louisville game.

In an indication of just how devoted Evans and Miller are to Louisville, some family members said they weren't surprised to hear about the tailgate wedding plans.

"On that side, we're all kind of crazy and kind of out there," John Schneider, Evans' nephew, told USA Today. "That's why I wasn't really surprised to hear they want to do something like this. They know we're all football fans, and I've made comments in the past about people missing games because of weddings. I'm like, 'I'm never getting married in the fall because of football.'"

The best part about this no-frills ceremony? The happy couple planned the event in two weeks.

WDRB 41 Louisville News

Their best gift, of course, was Louisville's 72-0 drubbing of FIU.

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As if Saturday's defeat of Notre Dame in front of a record crowd at Michigan Stadium wasn't punishment enough, the Wolverines rubbed salt in the wound as the Fighting Irish walked off the field.

Michigan's PA system blasted the "Chicken Dance" moments after the Wolverines sealed the 41-30 victory. The tune was a reference to coach Brady Hoke's comments that Notre Dame is "chickening out" of the teams' series. The Fighting Irish have opted out of the series, making next year's game in South Bend the last for the foreseeable future.

Here's how the song sounded at Michigan Stadium:

This text will be replaced

Note to future opponents of Michigan: Don't mess with Brady Hoke.

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We've seen several amazing displays of lawn loyalty in recent weeks, but one Ohio man's backyard design may be the best yet.

Sure, this Louisville lawn and this Redskins lawn may be flashier, but they're not very practical.

The lawn designed by Florida fan Jason Ioppolo isn't only awesome and unique, it can be utilized by his young sons.


This isn't the first time Ioppolo has fashioned his backyard into a miniature football field. He recently posted this picture to his Twitter account:


(H/T to For The Win)

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ThePostGame recently caught up with former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit discussed the offseason, the upcoming playoff system and Allstate's Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes.

***

ThePostgame: It seems like forever ago that Notre Dame and Alabama were playing in Miami. How excited are you for this season to get underway?

KIRK HERBSTREIT: I can’t wait. And if you think back to that night, you build up for 30 or 40 days about what you’re hoping the game might be, and then literally within the first two series it’s like “Oh, boy.”

So a little bit of a letdown that night in Miami. But you’re right, it’s been a long offseason with a lot of stories away from the field. It’s just going to be nice to see the ball in the air and have a chance to watch some college football this weekend.

TPG: Can you remember another offseason with this much off-the-field action?

HERBSTREIT: You’ve got to remember I went to Ohio State, so that Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor offseason was pretty big too. It seems like the last two or three years there’s just been a lot of craziness that seems to take away from what’s going on actually out on the field.

TPG: Tell us a little bit about the Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes and what that entails for a few lucky fans.

HERBSTREIT: It’s pretty cool. This is about as good of a getaway as you can be a part of it you’re a college football fan. I’ve teamed up with Allstate, and this is an opportunity for one lucky winner and three of his friends. You have from now until Nov. 30 to enter, going to the website Allstatecfb.com.

You can enter once a week all the way up to Nov. 30. The drawing will be in early December. And if they draw your name, you and three friends will head to New Orleans to go to the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl. I’ll meet you down there and we’ll watch the game at the Superdome.

And then you and your friends will be headed to the national championship out in Pasadena and have a VIP road trip experience. That’s a pretty good deal.

So you take in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and then you’re going to the national championship. And when you get home you’re going to have a brand new SUV. Not a bad deal to take 60 seconds once a week to put your name in to find out if you can win.

TPG: Which two teams do you think fans will be seeing in the national championship game in Pasadena?

HERBSTREIT: I think as we sit here and look at all of this on paper, I still think Alabama has proven to be able to avoid complacency in the past. I think that’s never something you’re over, I think it’s always a challenge, especially with kids today with the sense of entitlement that they have when they come to college. I’m anxious to see what kind of hunger and desire that Alabama plays with.

I have Alabama playing Georgia in the SEC championship game and Alabama advancing to the national title. And I think Ohio State, their schedule will allow them to make a pretty good run. I think their offense will be dynamic and I think their defense will be given enough games early to grow up. I think Alabama will play Ohio State in the national title.

TPG: It’s been so hard for a team to repeat as national champion over the past few decades, yet Alabama has won three of the past four national championships. What is Nick Saban doing that has been so effective?

HERBSTREIT: I think there’s a few things. The first thing is he is relentless in his efforts to recruit players. I don’t know if people really understand how involved he is in recruiting, and how competitive he is in recruiting. So it allows him to have a very high caliber athlete on his roster at every position. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is he doesn’t allow them to focus on their individual goals. If they focus on their individual goals, they won’t be there long. He gets them to buy in to the importance of competing and trying to win an SEC championship. And I think he feels that if they can do that, they’re going to eventually get to the national championship.

And then the other thing he does is he might be the best defensive coach in football. That includes the NFL. You’d have to put him up there as far as the masterminds of defense in the modern game with some of the best in the nation at any level. If you think about his teams in three of the last four years that they’ve won the national championship, go back to 2009, they gave up like 11 points-per-game. A couple years ago, with the dominating group, they gave up eight points-per-game. And then last year they only gave up 10 points-per-game.

If you can consistently play defense to that level in this era where everybody wants to talk about tempo and spread offenses and points, well Nick Saban’s figured out a way to keep defense in a pretty important role. It’s taken them to three of the last four national championships.

TPG: Looking ahead to the playoff, how do you think it might affect the regular season. Whether it’s scheduling, resting players or anything else.

HERBSTREIT: I think it’s big. I think having a selection committee instead of what I think is an antiquated system with the current coaches poll, the Harris poll and the computers.

I don’t think there’s a whole lot of wiggle room. My hope for the selection committee is they will reward teams for going out and playing some heavyweight non conference teams. Or even within your own conference, when you play good teams you should be rewarded by a selection committee. And you should move up accordingly. Or if you lose a close game, you shouldn’t drop six spots because you lost to a really good team on the road by three points.

I think that’s a real challenge for the selection committee. Don’t just vote based on the way we have the last 50 years in college football. Really study this, watch the games, appreciate the atmosphere and the opponent that each team is playing. And then adjust your poll based on what you’re seeing.

Take Georgia-Clemson, for example. Say Georgia, on the road, plays Clemson and they end up losing, for argument’s sake, on a last second field goal. They played great, but they lost, and the atmosphere had something to do with it. I’m one of those guys who in week one will move Georgia up or keep them where they are in a poll. I have a hard time penalizing a team who is willing to go to Death Valley and play a good opponent, and if they lost a close one, how do you penalize them when everyone else is playing Sam Houston State? I think you should reward teams for playing heavyweight opponents.

That way you get more and more teams willing to take a chance and play those kind of games. The winner there, if it happens, are the fans and more importantly, the players, who want to play in those type of games.

TPG: We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you about the Cincinnati Reds. Assuming that Cincinnati makes the playoffs, do you think they can make any noise?

HERBSTREIT: (laughs) I’m a little concerned with our bats right now. We’re just not hitting the ball and not scoring runs the way you’d like to see a team in August who's heating up and getting ready for the postseason.

I’m hoping that Ryan Ludwick continues to kind of get more comfortable, it’s almost like he’s still in spring training because he’s been out so long. I hope Johnny Cueto can come back. Because if you get into a one game playoff with the Wild Card, they do have Mat Latos, but it’d be nice to have Johnny Cueto healthy and ready to go for the postseason.

I’m a junkie. I follow them every single day, they’re getting close. It's going to be an interesting series with the Cardinals. And the Pirates are also playing great baseball. The Cardinals are kind of the Alabama of the National League Central, they just find ways to win when it matters. You have to give the advantage to the Cardinals in my opinion.

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As you watch the marquee college football matchup of this weekend, Georgia at Clemson, on HD from the comforts of your couch, take a moment to be thankful that you didn't spend upwards of 160 hours waiting in line to get tickets to the game.

This week Clemson football's Instagram account posted a few videos of students waiting in line for tickets. And their loyalty is remarkable. According to the narrator of the video below, the students waited for just about one week to score tickets:

It's no Duke-UNC basketball wait, but then again, Clemson-Georgia isn't exactly Duke-UNC. Waiting 164 hours for a non-conference game requires some serious dedication.

(H/T to For The Win)

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Mike Gesicki, a 6-foot-6, 215 pound tight end from Manahawkin, New Jersey, is being pursued by some of the country's top college football programs. That includes Miami, Florida State and Wisconsin.

Ohio State, too, wants Gesicki. In fact, Urban Meyer and his staff think Gesicki can be an important piece of the Buckeyes' puzzle. Literally.

Gesicki posted a photo of a recruiting pitch he received from Columbus, and it's kind of brilliant:

Corny? Sure, but at least it's creative. And legal.

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You never know what's going to happen when Steve Spurrier is meeting with reporters.

The Ol' Ball Coach has had an at-times prickly relationship with reporters, which has included berating them and even refusing to speak with them.

But a gesture over the weekend should put Spurrier in the good graces of the media, at least until football season begins.

During halftime of South Carolina's basketball game against Arkansas at Colonial Life Arena, Spurrier assembled reporters to discuss a few topics. During his talk, Spurrier told the reporters he had a trivia question for them: Which four teams from BCS conferences have won 11 or more games in each of the past two seasons?

The answer: Alabama, Oregon, Stanford and ... South Carolina. Naturally, Spurrier was proud of his team's fine company.

"For South Carolina to be in the same neighborhood as Oregon, Stanford, Alabama … that’s sort of neat," Spurrier said. "Somebody gave me that statistic today, so I thought you guys would want to know that. Next time, y’all do some of that work."

Two reporters guessed correctly and, according to reports, after the interview Spurrier reached inside his breast pocket and handed each of the reporters an envelope with a $100 bill. The reporters stood, stunned, while Spurrier walked away.

It is unclear what the reporters did with the money, although it would generally be considered journalistically unethical for them to accept gifts from Spurrier.

Spurrier's press conference can be heard here. The trivia question occurs at around the 1:00 mark.

(H/T to Larry Brown Sports)

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You may have seen that the refs at the Outback Bowl made a horrible call on a first down measurement. In fact, the call was so bad that even a 3-year-old could clearly tell it was the wrong decision.

A new video on YouTube shows an adorable toddler explaining to the camera why the refs botched this fourth-quarter decision.

"The football is really not touching [the stick]," she exclaims. "It's really not!"

Short but sweet.

Somebody get this girl some pinstripes; it's not too late for the BCS national championship game.

(H/T to Lost Lettermen)

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Like so many other veterans when they return home, Nathan Noble had some trouble adjusting to life in the United States. After serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Noble was a new man when he returned stateside five years ago.

"He'd been doing something he felt so strongly about that was every day absolutely a matter of life and death," Nathan's mother, Beth, recently told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Then you come home and nobody really relates to you. They expect you to be the same 18-year-old that left."

Now 28, Noble joined the Marines after graduating from high school about 10 years ago. In April 2003 he was deployed to Iraq, and eight months later he was deployed to Afghanistan. That tour lasted two years, and before long he returned to Iraq, where he was stationed in a dangerous part of Baghdad. Firefights and roadside bombs were common.

"We’d joke about things like getting shot, because that’s how we coped," Noble told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "But in the back of our minds it was very much a reality that, 'Hey, I might never see you again when you get blown up five minutes from now.'"

When Noble returned from Iraq, it took a while to adapt to civilian life. A skilled soccer player in high school, Noble helped a friend coach a middle school team and then eventually scored a gig as an assistant men's coach at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.

Noble, who had spent some time kicking a football during a brief stay in Uzbekistan, worked out with the Georgetown football team and routinely nailed 50-yard field goals. He discussed the possibility of walking on, but because Georgetown is a private school, the GI Bill would not cover the entire cost of tuition.

So Noble has gone back to training several days a week, hoping to play somewhere next year. He enrolled in classes at Kentucky in 2009, and since the NCAA allows students a five-year window to play intercollegiate athletics, Noble only has one year of eligibility left.

"I just hope I get a shot," Noble told WDRB in Louisville. "Whatever comes of that, I'll do whatever the team asks me or the team needs me to do."

For Noble's entire story, see here.

(H/T to Hot Clicks)

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