Penn State trustees address painful decision to dismiss Paterno

27 Comments

For the first time since firing the legendary Joe Paterno Nov. 9, Penn State’s Board of Trustees will meet Friday to continue the business of running a university still shaken by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Ahead of that meeting, and in the wake of extensive criticism of how the 32-member board has handled the unprecedented scandal, a baker’s dozen trustees sat down with the New York Times to discuss the “painful decision” to dismiss Paterno as well as the tumultuous days after Sandusky’s indictment in early November.

As it relates to Paterno, the consensus among the trustees who spoke to the Times for up to three hours earlier this week is that there were three reasons for their decision to dismiss a man who was Nittany Lions football:

  • …his failure to do more when told about the suspected sexual assault in 2002
    Then-grad assistant Mike McQueary allegedly witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the Lasch Football Building and, after phoning his father, took, out of respect for Paterno, a “water-down version” of what he had witnessed to the head coach.  In turn, Paterno turned the information over to then-athletic director Tim Curleyand another high-ranking university official.  That was the end of Paterno’s action in the incident.”I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told the Washington Post in his first sit-down interview late last week. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”
  • …what they regarded as his questioning of the board’s authority in the days after Sandusky’s arrest
    Some trustees, per the Times article, viewed as insensitive Paterno leading “We are Penn State” cheers with a throng of students who had gathered at his house in a show of support in the wake of the Sandusky indictment.
  • …and what they determined to be his inability to effectively continue coaching in the face of continuing questions surrounding the program.
    Following a town hall meeting last week in which acting PSU president Rodney Erickson was the target of intense criticism for how Paterno was fired, the board’s chairman released a statement addressing “the Board’s unanimous judgment… 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.”

The overriding factor in the board’s decision to fire Paterno, though, appears to come down to the coach doing the bare minimum as required by law upon hearing in 2002 his former assistant had been alone in a football building shower with a 10-year-old boy, and that something of a sexual nature had occurred at the hands of an alleged pedophile.

“To me, it wasn’t about guilt or innocence in a legal sense,” trustee Kenneth C. Frazier explained to the Times regarding Paterno’s decision not to go to police. “It was about these norms of society that I’m talking about: that every adult has a responsibility for every other child in our community. And that we have a responsibility not to do the minimum, the legal requirement. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can take every effort that’s within our power not only to prevent further harm to that child, but to every other child.”

And therein lies the central issue when it comes to Paterno specifically: moral responsibility versus what’s required legally.  In the eyes of the law, Paterno appears to be free and clear of any repercussions criminally.

Morally?  “I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement announcing his retirement at season’s end shortly before his firing.  In a statement released by Paterno’s attorney to the Times Wednesday, Wick Sollers again reiterated that Paterno followed school policy in handling the situation.

“After learning of the alleged incident in 2002, Joe Paterno reported it immediately and fully to his superiors at the university. He believed these officials, who had the authority and responsibility to conduct investigations, would act appropriately. He did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time. Blaming Joe Paterno for the failure of administration officials and the board to properly investigate Jerry Sandusky is unjustified.”

Of course, Paterno wasn’t the only high-ranking university official to see his job status changed by the events of the past two-plus months.  Curley was placed on self-imposed administrative leave while vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz “retired”, with both facing perjury and failure to report abuse charges stemming from the Sandusky scandal.  Graham Spanier was fired from his long-time post as president, and it’s he who appears to be the target of the most trustee angst and ire.

Spanier and other Penn State officials, including Paterno and Curley, testified in front of a grand jury in late 2010/early 2011.  The school’s board was only apprised of the situation once by Spanier, a brief 5-10 minute discussion in May.  “[The board was] disappointed that Spanier, who was legally allowed to speak about his grand jury testimony, did not brief the board on the nature of the questions by the grand jury about the 2002 episode,” the Times wrote.

“He should have told us a lot more,” trustee Ira Lubert said of Spanier. “He should have let us know much more of the background. He was able to legally share his testimony and I think that he had an obligation to do that with the board so we could get more engaged with the problem.”

The trustees who spoke with the Times also addressed an inexplicable statement of unconditional support for Curley and Schultz released by Spanier shortly after the two were charged, accusing Spanier of altering the language of the statement the board claimed was meant to convey the university’s intention to conduct a complete and independent investigation into the allegations.  Instead, as an inferno of a scandal was growing with each passing hour, what was put out there for public consumption was a statement of “complete confidence” in two employees under felony indictment.

The decision to fire Spanier was made before the decision to fire Paterno, the trustees confirmed to the paper.  The trustees also acknowledged that Spanier offered his resignation, which was not accepted by the board so that the body could deal with the issue of his continued employment itself.

Illinois DT Tito Odenigbo reportedly transferring to Miami

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Miami lost a pair of underclassmen starting defensive tackles to the NFL draft, putting a serious dent in the interior of its line.  A couple of weeks later, however, it appears The U has somewhat softened that early-entry blow.

247Sports.com reported Friday that Tito Odenigbo has decided to transfer from Illinois to Miami.  As Odenigbo would be coming to the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer, he would be able to play immediately for the ACC team in 2018.

The upcoming season would be the defensive tackle’s final year of eligibility.

This past season, Odenigbo started four of the 10 games he played for the Illini, and his 4½ tackles for loss were tied for second on the team in 2017.  All told, Odenigbo played in 21 games at Illinois, starting five of those contests.

Prior to the NFL’s deadline, tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton confirmed that they would be leaving Miami early for the NFL draft.

A&M the landing spot for UCF RB Cordarrian Richardson

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The strange journey of Cordarrian Richardson has taken yet another twist.

The running back confirmed to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal late this past week that he has decided to leave UCF and transfer to Texas A&M.  The true freshman will have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2019.

Last season, Richardson ran for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 47 carries for the unbeaten Knights.

On National Signing Day in 2017, Richardson announced via a weather balloon in outer space that he would be signing with Maryland.  A day later, however, Richardson faxed in a signed NLI… to a school that wasn’t even in his final four — UCF.  Maryland, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss, were the top four teams that appeared in his original “commitment” video.

Richardson was also heavily recruited by Florida State, which at the time was coached by new A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher.

A four-star 2017 signee, Richardson was rated as the No. 9 back in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Tennessee; and the No. 157 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He was far and away the highest-rated signee in the Knights’ class that year.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.

The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility.  He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.

For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts.  He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts.  His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.

The past season, however, was a rough one.  After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.

“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.