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ENIS, ADMITTING MISTAKE, BARRED FROM CITRUS BOWL

Penn State All-American running back Curtis Enis admitted Tuesday he accepted gifts from a sports agent and then lied about it, coach Joe Paterno said.

Enis was declared ineligible for the Citrus Bowl and has probably played his last game for the Nittany Lions.

"I think that he realized he made a mistake," Paterno said on a conference call from Melbourne, Fla., where Penn State is practicing for its New Year's Day game with No. 6 Florida. "He was trying to come clean with everything."

Paterno met with Enis and his parents around 1 p.m. in an "emotional meeting." After talking, the two men hugged and Paterno wished Enis well.

"He said he was sorry," Paterno said, and then read from a statement from Enis: "I know I made a mistake. . . . I apologize to my teammates and my fans and ask for their understanding."

Enis led the No. 11 Nittany Lions in rushing with 1,363 yards this season. He's third all-time at Penn State with 3,256 yards.

The junior is the second Penn State star to be ruled ineligible for the Citrus Bowl. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius won't play because of poor grades.

Paterno said he did not ask Enis how he got involved with the agent or what gifts he accepted.

"Obviously I'm disappointed. I also want to be fair. He made a mistake. It happened -- what time, when, we didn't get into that," the coach said. "I have a bad taste in my mouth . . . obviously I'm not very happy."

Paterno said a university investigation found that the charges, first raised by a Pennsylvania television station, had merit. He then confronted Enis.

"All I was trying to do was get him to the point where we could make a statement and get this behind us so he could get on with his life," Paterno said.

WHTM-TV in Harrisburg reported Friday that Houston-based agent Jeff Nalley bought Enis $400 in clothing on Dec. 6 in a Harrisburg-area mall.

Enis denied the charge and said his girlfriend bought the gray pinstriped suit he wore to ESPN's Doak Walker Award ceremony on Dec. 11. Nalley backed him up, saying he purchased a $75 shirt and $325 suit at John Craig Fashions in Camp Hill for former client Lovell Pinkney, a tight end released by the Green Bay Packers in August.

On Monday, the television station reported that several Harrisburg mall employees said they were certain they had seen Enis on Dec. 6. None of the workers would appear on camera.

The station showed a "Curtis Enis 39" autograph, which a security guard said the player signed for him that day. At one store, the station reported, Enis signed one of his Penn State jerseys.

Enis finished first in the conference in TDs (19) and third in total rushing yards. He was named him co-offensive player of the year with Tavian Banks of Iowa.

"He's one of the best backs we've ever had," Paterno said.

Hackett, Robinson clear the air

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Hackett says he feels better now that he's spoken with John Robinson, the man he's replacing as Southern California's football coach.

Hackett met with the local media for the first time Tuesday. Hackett, 50, was hired to succeed Robinson last Wednesday. Committed to finishing the season in Kansas City, where he's offensive coordinator of the AFC West champion Chiefs, Hackett arrived in Los Angeles on Monday for a three-day visit. The Chiefs play their first playoff game Jan. 4.

"John and I have a lot of history," said Hackett, an assistant at USC under Robinson from 1976-80. "What I know and love about USC happened at the side of John Robinson. It really was where my career took off as a football coach.

"I have spoken with him, talked about a lot of things. I will continue to talk to him and I feel good about that."

Hackett said a lot of his conversation with Robinson didn't involve football.

"The mood was two dear friends talking," Hackett said. "This is a friend of mine who made a lot of things possible in my life."

Hired before Robinson was actually dismissed as USC's coach, Hackett admitted he was "uncomfortable with the whole thing" before speaking with Robinson, and said his former boss wished him good luck.

Hackett made it clear the Chiefs are his No. 1 priority right now, saying he had made that promise to the team.

"I have taken great pride in my five years in Kansas City," he said. "It needs to be finished correctly."

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