It’s been exactly nine weeks and one day since Penn State issued a statement declaring that its Board of Trustees had “determined that it is in the best interest of the University for Joe Paterno to no longer serve as head football coach, effective immediately.”
The abrupt and what some considered heartless end to a 46-year head-coaching career at, and a 62-year association with, the school did not sit well with many individuals connected to the university. Two months later, it’s still not sitting well, apparently.
At a series of town hall meetings that began Wednesday and was intended to address how the school handled — or bungled — the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal before and after it came to the public light, president Rodney Erickson was peppered with questions by the alumni in attendance regarding the manner in which Paterno was dismissed. As a result of those questions, the university decided to release a statement from board chairman Steve Garban.
Here’s Garban’s statement, in its entirety:
Many alumni have asked why the Board decided to remove Coach Paterno from his position as Head Football Coach.
On Wednesday, November 9, Coach Paterno announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2011 football season. Given the nature of the serious allegations contained in the Grand Jury Report and the extraordinary circumstances then facing the University, the Board’s unanimous judgment was that Coach Paterno could not be expected to continue to effectively perform his duties and that it was in the best interests of the University to make an immediate change in his status. Therefore, the Board acted to remove Coach Paterno from his position as Head Football Coach effective as of that date.
Coach Paterno remains employed by the University as a tenured faculty member. The details of his retirement are being worked out and will be made public when they are finalized. Generally speaking, the University intends to honor the terms of his employment contract and is treating him financially as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 football season.
That’s all well and good, but what we’re anxiously awaiting is a statement on why Sandusky, months after the school was made aware of the grand jury investigation into the alleged pedophile and a week before his indictment, was sitting in the president’s box for a Nittany Lions-Illinois game Oct. 29 at Beaver Stadium. With tickets provided by then-athletic director Tim Curley.
The reasoning behind that immensely disturbing development, more so than the minutia behind the firing of a head football coach, is what university officials might consider addressing in future town hall meetings. And something for which those same alumni questioning how Paterno was dismissed should demand an answer to just as loudly.
UPDATED 8:26 p.m. ET: Shortly after Penn State issued its statement, Scott Paterno, one of the coach’s sons, issued a statement of his own in which he again charged that the dismissal was not handled well:
“It is helpful to have on the record the Board’s position re my father’s status with the University. As has become apparent, the termination on November 9, with no notice or hearing, was not handled well. Joe Paterno has reiterated from the beginning that the first priority in this crisis is to serve the best interests of the victims.
“He believes strongly that everyone involved is entitled to due process.
“He also thinks that a wholesale attack on the football program and Penn State’s academic record, as has happened in some quarters, is unjustified. This is a crisis that deserves thoughtful and thorough review. In the course of that review and analysis, however, the legitimate achievements of this University and the many good people who worked so hard to build it into a world class institution should not be disrespected. My parents are unwavering in their loyalty and dedication to Penn State.”