When should the BOT Apologize to the Paterno Family
Now or Later?
The Penn State Board fired Joe Paterno last November, citing a "failure of leadership" and they fired Coach Paterno peremptorily, without due process, over the telephone. Last week, it was discovered that this same Board of "Trustees" has no plans on apologizing to the Paterno family until the "independent" Freeh investigation is finished.
In an OpEd article, the Executive Editor of the Centre Daily Times, Chip Minemyer, said that the "Trustees [are] right to hold off on [an] apology".
Newly-elected Alumni Trustee, Anthony Lubrano, disagrees. In a press release issued just this morning, Anthony points out that, "the position the Trustees found themselves in ... was of their own doing" and that "the flawed 23-page" Grand Jury Report contained information "insufficient to fire Joe Paterno".
Both positions are presented below, along with our PSU-ReBOT "Bottom Line" analysis.
Chip Minemyer - "Trustees right to hold off on apology"
Eyebrows and tempers were raised last week when the state secretary of education commented that Penn State’s board of trustees would wait until former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation is finished to consider an apology to the family of Joe Paterno over the firing of the legendary football coach.
Many are taking the board to task for this approach.
But you must ask: What choice do the trustees have? The honest answer: None. Waiting until the Freeh investigation into the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse allegations is completed makes perfect sense.
The trustees should also have in their hands the reports from investigations by the NCAA, the state Department of Education, the Attorney General’s Office — and anyone else who might be engaged in a probe of the circumstances that we’re told occurred on and around the Penn State campus over a decade and a half.
For education chief and board member Ron Tomalis, a seemingly innocuous comment — the trustees will “see what comes out of the Freeh report. I don’t want to speculate about what may or may not happen in the future.” — has mushroomed into another moment of castigation for the university’s governing body.
But he’s right. No apology — even one perhaps fully deserved — can be issued until key questions are answered concerning what Paterno knew and when, and what he did or didn’t do. And that’s if those answers can be uncovered.
Dave Joyner, a former Penn State player now serving as the school’s interim director of athletics, called Paterno the greatest college football coach who ever lived. From a purely football standpoint, that’s a stance that’s hard to argue.
Paterno won more games as a coach than anyone else in major college football, and more bowl games. His program sent many players on to successful careers in the NFL — and also to success in areas unrelated to the sport.
But his handling of the Sandusky situation can and should be questioned. Paterno himself said he wished he’d done more.
Will we learn that Paterno knew more than he admitted, that he had numerous opportunities to intervene and perhaps stop an alleged child predator early on?
You hope not. But that’s what the Freeh investigation and others could reveal.
The trustees made the right decision in quickly removing Paterno from his coaching position, and likewise pulling Graham Spanier from the president’s office. The alleged incidents occurred on their watch. More should have been expected of everyone in a position of leadership — especially those at the top.
You could reasonably argue that the trustees should have handled Paterno’s firing better than making a phone call to his home late at night and then hosting a hastily-called press conference.
But one trustee said the whole period from the grand jury presentment to the firing of the coach was a whirlwind of twists and turns, of new and troubling developments — akin to an episode of the television show “24.”
The night the board chose to pull Paterno from the sideline, reporters and many students were camped out at the coach’s home. No representative of the trustees could have gone there unnoticed to engage Paterno in a dialogue or to tell him of his ouster face to face — although maneuvering the gantlet of media to meet the coach directly would have been the right thing to do.
Joe Paterno is an icon in this community. His wife, Sue, remains a popular and revered figure, and the late coach’s family is held in high esteem — as they should be, given their many contributions to organizations and the quality of life here.
But any apology over the handling of the Paterno firing can only be offered once it has been fully revealed what Paterno knew and when, and what actions he took — or could have taken — to stop whatever abuse took place.
Tomalis’ words have reignited the debate over the trustees’ actions relative to Paterno.
But those board members have no choice but to wait until they know more before saying anything — including offering an apology to the Paterno family.
Anthony Lubrano - "Trustees WRONG to hold off on apology"
I read with great interest your editorial in today’s Centre Daily Times. Quite simply, I disagree with your conclusion. The trustees are wrong to hold off on apology, and here’s why:
First, in my opinion, the position the trustees found themselves in on the evening of Nov 9th was of their own doing. Instead of taking a deep breath, the Board of Trustees panicked. To blame anyone else is simply wrong. They are solely responsible for their actions and inactions that evening, and the several days before. At a time when Penn State most needed a strong voice, WE had none. NONE. What happened to all of those leaders on The Board of Trustees? Where were they? The University had no crisis management plan. NONE. Who’s responsible for that? Our unpreparedness was of our own doing and the Board of Trustees, as the governing body of Penn State, must accept complete responsibility for this. NOW.
Second, after Frank Noonan, the acting Commissioner of the PA State Police, spoke on Monday Nov 7th, the University should have issued a strongly worded response in defense of Joe Paterno. After all, the only information available to anyone at that time was a “leaked” 23-page Presentment. We now know that the Presentment is flawed in that it contains misstatements. Some would suggest that those factual mistakes were intentional and that it borders on prosecutorial misconduct. I’ll leave that to others to debate.
Third, on Nov 9th, the only details the trustees had as to Joe Paterno’s handling of the information given to him by Mike McQueary were found in the flawed 23-page Presentment. Certainly, that information alone was insufficient to fire Joe Paterno. After all, we had 61 years of empirical evidence to suggest his integrity and character were beyond reproach. To say that Joe Paterno would jeopardize the well-being of a child to protect a football program is preposterous. Yet, in spite of his firing, Coach Paterno is the only one to show strength of character by saying, “With the benefit of hindsight. I wish I’d done more.” By the way, this is very different than your statement “…he wish he’d done more.”
Fourth, Fran Ganter had no difficulty walking to the front door of the Paterno home and delivering the now infamous hand-written note that simply contained the name John Surma and a phone number for Coach Paterno to call. (The Trustees did not call him as you state.) Clearly, Mr. Garban or Mr. Surma could have, and should have, visited with Coach Paterno prior to any decision being made. He deserved that much. Why did the Board of Trustees feel compelled to act at 10:00 pm at night? What was the hurry? Was the risk of inciting an entire university campus at that hour of the night really worth it?
Finally, for the Penn State community to heal and move forward, an apology from the Board of Trustees to the Paterno family is essential. As many of the Trustees, including Governor Corbett, have said publicly and privately, they do regret the manner in which these events were handled. So then, why wait to make such an apology? The Board of Trustees would show all of us the strength of character demonstrated by Coach Paterno by doing so NOW. Waiting does not change their mishandling of the events of early November. Waiting does, however, unnecessarily prolong a healing process that must begin today!
For the Paterno family, an apology is likely moot. Joe is gone and he would probably be the first to say that it's not about him, that it's about making the Pennsylvania State University better. Regardless, no amount of apologizing can make up for the damage inflicted.
An apology for Penn Staters, however, is a symbol. It's an admission that the Board made a mistake. A mistake in firing Joe Paterno without first finding out the facts and the truth about what he did know or do. A mistake in the manner in which they arrived at their decision and the way they carried it out. A mistake in how they handled the media and sat silent, while the Penn State brand and reputation was repeatedly damaged by erroneous information, by the media.
The Board of Trustees have clearly failed in their fiduciary responsibilities, ironically clinging to "failure of leadership" as the reason why they fired Joe Paterno. Some have argued that Joe Paterno held a lot of power at Penn State, yet he was fired, without due process, by the Board of Trustees. This is what concerns PSU-ReBOT. If the Board can fire a man of Joe Paterno's stature, without due process, based upon a known-to-be-faulty, one-sided Grand Jury Report, without a presumption of innocence ... imagine what else they can do. Name a University President from within their own ranks? Fire tenured professors? Lie about what they knew and when they knew it? Alter records? Hold secret meetings? Appoint Athletic Directors from within their own ranks?
We are PSU-ReBOT and we are reforming the Penn State Board of Trustees. Join us.