Penn State trustees address painful decision to dismiss Paterno

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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.

In advance of FBS move, Liberty announces 13 future match-ups

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Liberty doesn’t have a conference home, but the Flames aren’t letting a little logistical hurdle like that stop them from manifesting their destiny.

The school is moving up to FBS in 2018 whether FBS wants them or not, and the Flames on Wednesday took a major step forward by announcing 13 future games, primarily filling out schedules for the early years of the next decade.

“The announcement of these additional football series give Flames Nation a taste of our future football schedules,” Liberty AD Ian McCaw said in a statement. “We are close to completing schedules for our first five seasons of FBS football. I appreciate Mickey Guridy‘s diligent efforts is securing these agreements.”

The future games break out as follows:

Bowling Green
Oct. 3, 2020 — at Bowling Green
Sept. 2, 2023 — at Liberty

Marshall
Oct. 14, 2023 — at Marshall
Oct. 5, 2024 — at Liberty

Massachusetts
Nov. 2, 2019 — at UMass
Nov. 28, 2020 — at Liberty
Nov. 6, 2021 — at Liberty

NC State
Nov. 21, 2020 — at NC State

Troy
Sept. 11, 2021 — at Troy

UAB
Oct. 2, 2021 — at UAB
Sept. 10, 2022 — at Liberty

Liberty opens this season at Baylor, and will face 10 FBS foes in 2018, including trips to Virginia and Auburn.

Jasmin Hernandez reaches settlement with Baylor

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Jasmin Hernandez was not the first woman former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott raped, but she was the first one to go public. Hernandez, obviously, allowed her name to be used publicly, and with that put an identity on the sexual assault crisis at Baylor. And she was the first to insist Elliott be prosecuted.

Elliott has since been convicted and sentenced for his crimes, and on Saturday Hernandez reached a settlement with the people she accused of allowing Elliott’s assaults to happen.

Hernandez has reached a settlement with Baylor and requested former Bears AD Ian McCaw and former head coach Art Briles be removed from the suit.

“We’re moving on,” attorney Irwin Zalkin told the Waco Tribune. “Jasmin is very happy with that and pleased to be moving on with her life.”

“You kind of weigh the costs and benefits of continuing, and for her, it reached a point where she felt she could resolve the case and have some closure and move forward. It was the right time for her,” Zalkin told ESPN.

The settlement means Baylor has now reached settlements with seven plaintiffs; four Title IX suits with a total of 13 plaintiffs still remain.

McCaw, of course, has since moved on to become the AD at Liberty, while Briles — who admitted no wrongdoing in being removed from the Hernandez suit — said through an attorney he expects to coach in 2018.

Baylor, meanwhile, must now brace for the release of the Pepper Hamilton documents as ordered by a judge last week.

Oklahoma State puts up 1945 national championship signage at Boone Pickens Stadium

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Oklahoma State has decided that it was the 1945 national champion. It even has the photo to prove it.

While it is strange to name yourself a national champion more than seven decades after the fact, it is especially strange considering the banner comes significantly after Oklahoma State announced it is now the 1945 national champion. If you remember, Oklahoma State accepted the AFCA’s naming of the Pokes as the 1945 champions last year.

“After gathering all the pertinent information and doing our due diligence, it is the pleasure of our Blue Ribbon Commission of coaches to officially recognize Oklahoma State’s 1945 championship season with the AFCA Coaches’ Trophy,” AFCA executive director Todd Berry said at the time.

Known as Oklahoma A&M at the time, that ’45 Cowboys team was extremely good. They finished 9-0 on the year, opening with a 19-14 win at Arkansas, trucking Utah 46-6 in Salt Lake City, spanking Oklahoma 47-0 — the largest of OSU’s 18 wins over OU — and concluding with a 33-13 win over St. Mary’s in the Sugar Bowl.

The problem, though, is that the 1945 Army team hasn’t gotten any worse in the 72 years since. Led by College Football Hall of Famers Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, the Black Knights allowed a sum of 35 points in their run to a 9-0 mark — and never more than seven points in any one game — with wins over four top-20 teams, including legacy programs in Eastern markets such as No. 9 Michigan, No. 6 Penn and No. 2 Notre Dame.

Oklahoma State doesn’t care, though. The signage is up, and you’ll have to bring your bayonets to take it down.

Kliff Kingsbury ‘not sure’ Da’Leon Ward will play this season

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Da’Leon Ward was the bell cow of Texas Tech’s running game the last month of the 2016 season.  With a new season fast approaching on the horizon, it seems highly unlikely he’ll do the same in the early portion of 2017 — if at all.

Ward has been a non-participant throughout the whole of Tech’s summer camp that kicked off earlier this month because of unspecified issues related to academics.  Kliff Kingsbury addressed the running back’s situation Tuesday, with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writing that the head coach’s “update sounded ominous, considering Tech’s second session of summer school ended” late last week.

In fact, Kingsbury allowed that, when it comes to Ward, he’s “not sure he’ll be back for this season or not.”

Last season, the sophomore led the Red Raiders with 428 yards rushing.  of that, 370 of the yards came in the last five games of the year.

Justin Stockton, whose 154 yards last season were fourth on the team, has been running with the first-team offense throughout camp.  Last season’s second-leading rusher, Demarcus Felton (354), is back for the 2017 season as well.