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Penn State Football: It’s About That Culture Thing

by Carolyn Todd

Why did Louis Freeh determine that Penn State had a so-called “football culture”?

In his report, Freeh states the following key finding:

“In the Fall of 2000, a University janitor observed Sandusky sexually assault a young boy in the East Area Locker Building and advised co-workers of what he saw. Also that evening, another janitor saw two pairs of feet in the same shower, and then saw Sandusky and a young boy leaving the locker room holding hands. Fearing that they would be fired for what they saw, neither janitor reported the incidents to university officials, law enforcement, or child protective agencies.”

Later in his report, Freeh describes an interview with one of the janitors involved: “Janitor B explained to the Special Investigative Counsel that reporting the incident ‘would have been like going against the President of the United States in my eyes.’ ‘I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone.’ He explained, ‘football runs this University,’ and said the University would have closed ranks to protect the football program at all costs.”

And so according to Freeh, even though a more senior janitor discussed with these two janitors how to report what they saw, the two janitors involved decided that because they were fearful of losing their jobs, they would not report a tremendously awful crime. Or at least that’s what they told Freeh twelve years after it happened.

They blamed Paterno’s power for their failure to do what was the right thing to do at the time – to call the police.

I don’t necessarily want to judge them. I can understand the fear of losing a job, whether that fear is founded or not. But it’s a true shame that they did not report the crime when it occurred in 2000.

Sandusky might have been behind bars a lot sooner given what appears to be the clearest eye witness account of Sandusky performing a sexual act on a victim. A lot of victims might have been spared over the past decade.

And as the Paterno family report published last week has pointed out, just because a janitor assumed that Joe Paterno MIGHT fire him for reporting a crime doesn’t make it true that he WOULD have or even COULD have.

There is no evidence that Paterno would have dismissed these janitors and not taken them seriously. There is also no evidence that Paterno would have fired these janitors.

AND significantly enough there is no evidence that Paterno had the authority to fire these janitors even if he desired to, which in my opinion is not something he would have done.

Remember, in the year 2000 Sandusky didn’t report to Paterno or have anything to do with his program. And it has been well documented that Paterno wasn’t close to Sandusky or consider him a friend.

In addition there is ample evidence that when Mike McQueary reported something in 2001 that was far more ambiguous than what one of the janitors reportedly saw – he told his dad and a medical doctor that night and the jury during the Sandusky trial that he did NOT see a rape – Mike was neither fired or told by Paterno to keep it quiet.

Paterno made sure that Mike met with Tim Curley and Gary Schultz to report to them what he saw. Mike was kept on as graduate assistant coach and then later on he was promoted to assistant coach.

So why was Freeh so sympathetic to these janitors for not calling the police and so willing to blame the “football culture” for their inaction?

I probably never will understand that part of the history of the Sandusky scandal. It’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can be blamed for somehow ignoring a crime that was never reported. But that is in essence what the Freeh report does. It blames Paterno and the football culture.

Joe Paterno had a lot of influence, for sure, at Penn State. But was he powerful enough to decide EVERYTHING at the university? No, he wasn’t. That is a myth perpetrated by people who have a limited view or don’t understand how academia works.

Dr. Vicki Triponey, the former VP of Student Affairs, was another one of Freeh’s interviewees and it appears that her assertions also had influence on Freeh’s conclusions about a football culture. She is well-known for her complaints that she couldn’t wrest control away from Joe Paterno on whether or not his players could continue to play while facing disciplinary proceedings. Her complaints have been well-publicized in the media. She felt that it should be up to Judicial Affairs, not coaches, to determine player involvement in practice or games. Joe Paterno objected to that.

But what was NOT so well publicized in most media, although reported in a Centre Daily Times article written by Anne Danahy, is that an independent Faculty-Senate committee at the university interviewed 40 people about Triponey’s concerns and about her proposal for Judicial Affairs to determine whether or not an athlete should continue to play on a team if faced with disciplinary proceedings. This Faculty-Senate committee, NOT Joe Paterno, made the final recommendation to the university president as to how student discipline of both athletes and non-athletes should be handled.

Essentially this academic committee confirmed the notion that coaches should be allowed to determine whether or not a player should continue to play, not Judicial Affairs. They determined that for non-athlete extra-curricular activities it was left to the leader of those activities (e.g. advisor) to determine whether or not a non-athlete facing discipline should continue to participate. The committee felt that athletes should not be treated any differently than non-athletes.

The Freeh report’s opinion that there is some sort of a “football culture” that needs to be rectified at Penn State seems to be one of the reasons that the NCAA has come down especially hard on Penn State in assessing the harsh sanctions that it has.

Never mind that what happened at Penn State was criminal activity by a former coach, that none of the current players ever worked with. Never mind that it had nothing to do with creating competitive advantage on the playing field, which is supposedly what the NCAA is supposed to be investigating.

Mark Emmert, mimicking Freeh, publicly stated that Penn State’s “football culture” needs to change as a justification for his announcement of harsh NCAA sanctions. And what was even worse, he seemed to imply that academic integrity at Penn State had been compromised.

What was it about a 91% graduation rate of football student athletes at Penn State that Emmert didn’t like?

Perhaps the problem was that the people Freeh interviewed at Penn State ADMIRED the academic culture that was built within the football program?

And perhaps Freeh’s teams confused admiration for Joe’s commitment to academics and fundraising for an attitude of “Joe can do no wrong” or “Joe has too much power”?

Let us not forget, Emmert chose to accept the Freeh report and announce the worse NCAA sanctions ever against a university rather than launch his own investigation.

So Emmert doesn’t even know who Freeh interviewed in his investigation.

Trust me when I say, Penn State faculty and staff are smarter than to think Joe Paterno could have done no wrong. We respected Joe Paterno’s abilities as a head coach, his philanthropic efforts on behalf of Penn State, and his determination to make sure his players graduated.

But we also knew that he was quite human. He wasn’t perfect. We also knew that Joe had boundaries he respected. He had a lot of influence, but he didn’t always choose to use it.

Evidence of that fact is that neither Joe Paterno nor anyone else from the football office has ever interfered with a faculty decision related to the academics of a football player.

There has been no pressure to pass any athlete. None. Ever. By any coach of any athletic program at Penn State.

As an instructor at Penn State I’ve had my share of student athletes in the classroom – football and otherwise – and all I can say is that every scholarship athlete I have had in my classes is very closely monitored, three times per semester! To make sure they attend classes, to make sure they are participating, to make sure they are passing. It works, and Penn State has been admired over the decades for it working so well.

And speaking of football culture, what about the fact that football student athletes are involved in all sorts of other initiatives, such as “Lift for Life”, where this year alone they raised over $100,000 to combat kidney cancer?

And where this year Offensive Lineman Eric Shrive was named “Rare Disease Champion of the Year” by Uplifting Athletes and the Maxwell Club for his personal efforts in raising over $69,000 of that amount to fight this disease. Congratulations, Eric, on that honor!

No, Freeh and Emmert got it wrong. If you want to know what Penn State’s culture is truly about, consider this past weekend’s efforts in the dead cold of February.

710 student dancers on their feet for 46 hours. More than 15,000 students on their feet in the stands supporting those dancers. Countless Penn State student clubs and organizations spending weeks and months on end canning on street corners to raise money to combat pediatric cancer.

Countless folks – students, families, community members – standing in line for hours outside of the Bryce Jordan Center trying to get into the arena to lend their support to the dancers, and turned away because the largest inside venue on campus isn’t big enough to accommodate all who want to participate.

Numerous committees are organized throughout the year to support this event and make sure the dancers are well taken care for, and that the Thon children themselves – children who suffer tremendously from treatments related to their cancers – are having a great time.

That’s right. The children themselves who benefit from Thon interact directly with the students at Penn State, through the Four Diamonds Fund, which is the major beneficiary of the Thon fundraising effort.

Just about every student club participating in Thon has one or two of these children assigned to them. That makes the fundraising to cure cancer personal. Very personal. And given that these children sometimes don’t survive, it is agonizingly emotional in the final hours when during the Thon family hour the triumphs over cancer are celebrated, but then also the names and photos of the Thon children who passed away are flashed on the screen.

I teach at Penn State. I’m a huge football fan, as you know. But, when I think of culture at Penn State, I don’t think of football first.

I think of Thon. Thon is what pervades the atmosphere among students at Penn State, and it is what differentiates Penn State from any other major university in the world. Thon pervades all year round.

Football at Penn State is exciting, fun, a major passion each fall for seven home weekends each year. But isn’t that true at every FBS school? Isn’t it true at Alabama? Wisconsin? Michigan? Ohio State? You name it. Football is big in the fall at all of my top five favorite college football venues. I beg you to contend that Penn State football is more important than football at any other of these schools.

But while football is primarily a fall activity, the Penn State Dance Marathon drives Penn State students 52 weeks per year. The student clubs, fraternities, and sororities all organize into teams to can on weekends on street corners in communities throughout the northeast and even across the country.

Thon itself has what seem to be a zillion different committees, whether they be rules and regulations, morale, security, entertainment, communications, and of course there is a huge competitive thrust among the numerous student clubs to raise enough money to be eligible to sponsor one or more dancers to represent them, and to be recognized as a top 5 contributing student club among various designated categories of clubs when the grand amount is announced.

And so on a weekend in February, a miraculous event occurs, the culmination of a year’s worth of effort. A bunch of students hold a 46 hour dance party at the Bryce Jordan Center. No alcohol, by the way, is allowed within the BJC, and anyone who is visibly drunk is turned away.

The Thon kids have a ball. The dancers learn what it is like to suffer…and to survive.

Football culture? Football players are involved as well in supporting Thon. In fact, all the athletes at Penn State put on a show for the dancers on Saturday night. The athletic teams spend hours developing, practicing, and then competing for the best dance routine, and it’s a highlight of the weekend…you can view it here. It’s a great laugh, especially the men’s hockey team and this year’s winner, the men’s swim team.

In the end, in my opinion, the Penn State student culture is defined by Penn State students striving to make an impact on the world. The students contribute tremendously to the families whose kids are suffering from cancer, and to researching a cure for pediatric cancer. This year, they raised over $12 million. Since the beginning, over $101 million. For the kids.

And you know what? On Monday morning, the Thon mission will start all over again. New leadership for Thon will be named, a transition plan to impart all the lessons from this year’s successes and failures will occur, and committees will be formed to start the effort all over again for next year.

The janitors were wrong. Louis Freeh was wrong. So was Mark Emmert. Football doesn’t run everything at Penn State.

If you want to know what the culture at Penn State is about, especially in terms of student life, look no further than Thon.

Congratulations, Penn State students! For The Kids!!! $12.3 million plus. Every year I look at what Penn State students accomplish, and I’m absolutely amazed. As we all should be.

The world’s largest student-run philanthropy. That’s what defines Penn State culture, much more than football does. And I suspect it always will.

But it’s also what’s incredibly disturbing about the Sandusky crimes. Penn State’s culture is defined by the acronymn “FTK”. For The Kids.

Sandusky violated first of all his victims, but also the entire Penn State University, through his heinous criminal actions. He struck at the core of Penn State’s cultural beliefs which have always been about supporting children through Thon. He also struck at the core of the community’s support of The Second Mile, the charity he founded, which has also been all about supporting children.

That is what is so hard to accept. That this monster in our midst could go after the very kids that the culture of this school and this community could work so hard to support.

As for a football culture? For any Penn Stater, they know better.

The NCAA Grinch couldn’t stop football from coming to Penn State

By Carole Kirkpatrick, 50-Yard Lion bloggerThe Patriot-News on November 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM, updated November 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Grinch[1].jpgDr. Seuss‘s Grinch tried to stop Christmas from coming to Whoville much like NCAA President Mark Emmert tried to stop football from coming to Penn State.

When we meet the Grinch in the Christmas classic, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas“,  he is high in his lofty perch above Whoville. His heart, four sizes too small, is shrunken beneath his green furry skin. He gets an idea. “I must stop Christmas from coming.” So with the help of his faithful lapdog Max, he rushes down the hill on his sled with a plan to destroy the joyful celebrations in Whoville.

I put to you that NCAA president Mark Emmert sat in his lofty offices in Indianapolis and looked down at the devastation in Nittanyville from the J.S. arrest and scandal. Paterno was dead. Spanier was fired. Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury. There would be trials and lawsuits to come.

But Penn State had hired a new exciting coach named Bill O’Brien. Emmert must have thought, “I must stop Penn State football and its fans from coming back to Beaver Stadium.” So he and his faithful lapdog, Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA executive committee and Oregon State president, sought to keep wins from coming to Happy Valley. So they hastily zoomed down to a podium to announce crippling sanctions that would devastate Nittanyville.

You see he thought Penn State football was about its long-revered coach. He thought it was about the winning seasons. He thought it was about the expansive tailgating surrounding one of the largest college football stadiums in the country. He thought it was about the apparel and the stores. He thought it was about the decorations and flags. If he could hand down sanctions devastating enough, he could make all of that football culture go away.

Penn State football wasn’t about all of that. The NCAA Grinch thought if he got some of the players to leave, it would stop them. Penn State football wasn’t about those who left but those who chose to stay. The players who stayed stepped up with hearts and hard work to take the places of those who left setting records in their wake. The NCAA Grinch thought if he took scholarships away for four years that would stop them from bringing enough talent to Penn State to play. Coach O’Brien already has a team with numbers close to the cut off for this year. The NCAA Grinch thought that the four year bowl ban would keep away recruits. Penn State’s recruiting class ranks in the top 25 of one scouting site. The promise of reduced scholarships means those talented players will have a chance to play right away.  He thought that taking $60 million in fines would help further the educational purpose of the university. Oh, that’s right. It doesn’t. That’s a fairytale.

“May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name.  May our lives but swell they fame, Dear Old State, Dear Old State.”

But on Saturday night, amid the swirling snow, Christmas came early to Nittanyville. A courageous team wearing number 42 on their helmets and belief in their hearts fought against all of the adversity they had faced this season. Led by a group of seniors who held the team together, they were honored with their number, 2012, painted in the stadium’s ring of honor. It wasn’t for a championship, it wasn’t for an undefeated season, no, it was because they were not defeated by the rancor of the NCAA and the rest of the world. It took overtime to take care of the possible Big Ten champions, Wisconsin, but they did it.

In front of 93,000 faithful supporters, this team celebrated something that was bigger than a bowl game. The NCAA Grinch sought to take away something he didn’t understand. He thought it was about a coach. He thought it was about winning seasons and bowl games. He thought it was about the tailgating, the apparel, the decorations, and the even the fans in the stadium. But it was not. It was about a group of young men and their leaders who believed in them sticking together in the face of adversity. It was overcoming obstacles one week and one game at a time. It was about playing for something bigger than themselves. They stayed and played for the man standing next to them. It was about honoring a university that had given them an opportunity and an education.

After  their triumph, they stood arm-in-arm in front of the Blue Band, much like the Whos in Whoville, who joined together around the tree on Christmas morning. As they swayed together they sang in unison words that have a newfound meaning,

“May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name.

May our lives but swell thy fame, Dear Old State, Dear Old State.”

Instead of the bells of Christmas, those who stayed and watched heard the loud dongs of the Victory Bell and the dawning of a new era in Penn State football. An era began that was forged from the bonds of a group of young men of character whose spirit will stay with us in Nittanyville forever.  It is this legacy that will draw recruits and run-ons much like the lore of the roundtable brought knights to Camelot. I hope that the NCAA Grinch was watching on television. I hope his heart grew two sizes Saturday night. And NCAA’s Max? I hope he never has to pull the Grinch’s sled again

Fiesta Bowl Team of the Week–Go Penn State!

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; November 26, 2012 – Penn State has been named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl‘s National Team of the Week, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), following the Nittany Lions‘ Senior Day 24-21 overtime win over Wisconsin.

With the thrilling victory over the defending Big Ten champions, Coach Bill O’Brien’sNittany Lions won for the eighth time in their last 10 games and finished with a 6-2 Big Ten mark and 8-4 overall. O’Brien became the first Penn State first-year coach to win eight games in the 126 years of the program.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Team of the Week announcement was made this morning on “College Sports Today” on SiriusXM Channel 91.

The Nittany Lions are the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl’s National Team of the Week for the third time. The previous times were after victories against Ohio State in 2005 and 2008. Penn State is the first Big Ten team to earn the weekly honor this season

Penn State President to be Charged in Sandusky Case

HARRISBURG — Former Penn State president Graham Spanier is expected to be charged today in connection with the investigation into child molestation allegations against Jerry Sandusky, making the once-respected leader the fourth person to be indicted in the scandal.

Former university administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are already awaiting trial on perjury and failure to report abuse charges from the indictment last year that rocked the community.

The Spanier development comes five days before Election Day, which features a hotly contested race between two newcomers for attorney general. Current attorney general Linda Kelly is not running.

It is not immediately clear how the new charges would affect Curley’s and Schultz’s trial, which is set for jury selection in Harrisburg on Jan. 7. Attorneys for both men have filed a slew of motions, asking the judge to try their clients separately as we’ll as delaying trial. Curley and Schultz have maintained their innocence.

The expected charges bring about another twist in the nearly yearlong fallout of the Sandusky scandal, which has Penn State working to rebuild its tarnished reputation in the wake of the criminal cases against Curley and Schultz, unprecedented sanctions by the NCAA on the football team, and the firing of head coach Joe Paterno and Spanier

The Book, Paterno–

Paterno,” Joe Posnanski‘s biography of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, will be released on Tuesday.
The book, which was started well before charges were filed against Jerry Sandusky in November, talks at length about a relationship between the two men that was contentious from the very beginning.

The book delves into key moments in Paterno’s coaching career and addresses his role in the Sandusky scandal in the Overture and in later chapters.
Posnanski calls Paterno and Sandusky “polar opposites.” As Sandusky’s Penn State career neared its end, members of Paterno’s family described what they called the coach’s “Why I Hate Jerry Sandusky Memo.”
Sandusky’s retirement after the 1999 season was also discussed in great length, and the book draws the same conclusion as former FBI director Louis Freeh‘s investigation: It appeared to have nothing to do with a 1998 incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in a Penn State shower.
Regarding a 2002 incident in which then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky in a Penn State shower with a boy, Paterno told Posnanski a similar story to what he told a grand jury.
“Did you consider calling the police?” Posnanski asked.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t,” Paterno responded. “This isn’t my field. I didn’t know what to do. I had not seen anything. Jerry didn’t work for me anymore. I didn’t have anything to do with him. I tried to look through the Penn State guidelines to see what I was supposed to do. It said that I was supposed to call Tim [Curley]. So I did.”
Among some of the other excerpts of note:
On people saying he protected Sandusky over children
“How could they think that?” he asked, and no one had the heart to answer. “They really think that if I knew someone was hurting kids, I wouldn’t stop it?”
They looked at him.
“Don’t they know me? Don’t they know what my life has been about?”

On Jerry Sandusky
In 1993, Paterno wrote what the family would sometimes call the “Why I Hate Jerry Sandusky Memo.” In it Paterno complained that Sandusky had stopped recruiting, seemed constantly distracted, had lost his energy for coaching, and was more interested in his charity, The Second Mile. “He would gripe about Jerry all the time,” one family member said.
On son Jay Paterno
Did he hope that someday Jay would replace him as coach? It’s hard to imagine a father not thinking along those lines, but Joe insisted that wasn’t in his mind. “Are you kidding me?” he scoffed. “You think I would want Jay to have to deal with that?”… “Jay’s a good coach, a darned good coach. And I think a lot of people refuse to see that because his name is Paterno.”
On the Paterno statue
Paterno disliked the statue. Not  because of the craftsmanship or the dimensions or anything like that.  The statue and the stone wall behind it and the words carved into the  stone, it all felt like a celebration of self, a mausoleum. But even  these were not the reasons for Paterno’s distaste. The reason was a  single finger, the index finger, the statue of Joe Paterno raised to the heavens. We’re No. 1.
On The Second Mile
Paterno would say again and again that he did not see anything perverse in Sandusky’s dealings with children. His problem with The Second Mile was much simpler: the kids annoyed the hell out of him. … He did not want kids around when there was work to do.
On a 1998 investigation
There is reason to believe that, whatever Paterno was told, it did not make much of an impact on him. The coaches’ meeting that leads this section was held on May 26, 1998 — precisely at the time Sandusky was being investigated — and his detailed and pointed notes make no mention of the investigation. Also, by the late 1990s, he had explored numerous options for removing Sandusky from his coaching staff. … If Paterno did know the details of the 1998 investigation, he might have used it as a way to get rid of Sandusky. He did not.
On Sandusky’s retirement in 1999
[Paterno] told Sandusky he would not be the next head coach at Penn State. Sandusky mentioned the early retirement package, and Paterno suggested it might be a good time for him to take it. Both men later said that the 1998 incident was never discussed.
On Sandusky’s retirement package, which included access to Penn State facilities
When I told Paterno that people would find it hard to believe the could not have influenced Sandusky’s retirement package, he said, “People like to give me too much power. That’s Tim’s department. I told Tim how I felt. He worked out the deal as he saw fit.”
On conclusions of the Freeh report
The general media takeaway from this email chain [discussing how Penn State officials should handle McQueary’s testimony] was that Paterno had convinced Curley to back off reporting Sandusky and to handle this in-house. Others familiar with the emails believed instead that Paterno had demanded they confront Sandusky.

Penn State adds defensive back prospect

By Guy Cipriano — State CollegeCentre Daily Times

Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class has returned to double digits.

Jordan Smith, a defensive back from Washington, D.C., orally committed to Penn State on Saturday. Smith is the first addition to the 2013 recruiting class since the NCAA levied major sanctions against the school  on July 23.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Smith also held offers from Colorado, Kansas and Hawaii. His commitment increases  the 2013 recruiting class to 10 players. Smith, rated a two-star prospect by Rivals.com, and Northview (Fla.) High School safety Neiko Robinson give the class two defensive backs.

Smith will play at H.D. Woodson High School this season. He had 64 tackles and two interceptions while playing for Archbishop Carroll of the Washington Catholic League last season.

NCAA appeal a losing battle? Experts: PSU has little recourse, risks reviving negative message

By Anne Danahy adanahy@centredaily.com — State College – Centre Daily Times

 When it comes to the NCAA, due process and other standards of a court of law don’t apply.

That’s according to one expert in NCAA regulations and enforcement. David Ridpath, associate professor of sports management at Ohio University, said Penn State doesn’t have to be a member of the NCAA if it doesn’t like the sanctions the organization imposed on the university for its role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But, in this case, Penn State President Rodney Erickson already signed off on the penalties.

Ridpath said the 1988 case of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, basketball coach versus the NCAA gave the NCAA a huge amount of latitude. That case, involving a basketball coach who fought his suspension, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the NCAA isn’t a state agency.

“That court case gave them license to say, ‘If you want to be in our club, you have to follow our club rules,’ ” Ridpath said.

Ridpath, who had his own run-in with the NCAA as an athletic administrator at Marshall University, said he doesn’t like the way the NCAA handled the Penn State situation, but he thinks those fighting it need to take their complaints to the university.

“Their beef is with Penn State,” he said. “Penn State didn’t need to accept those sanctions.”

Several entities — at least one trustee, the family of Joe Paterno and a group of former players — have filed notices of appeal with the NCAA for the sanctions it imposed on Penn State for its role in the Sandusky scandal.

Although on Friday, that trustee said in an email to the board that he was refraining from further legal action while the matter is under consideration.

They argue, in part, that the NCAA was wrong relying on the findings of the Louis Freeh report. Penn State commissioned the former FBI director to complete that report on the university’s response to the former football coach who has been convicted of sexually abusing boys on campus.

Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, said if Penn State wants to get past the crisis it will have to find a way to get those appealing the decisions to stop. Otherwise, Grabowski said, from a communications perspective, the continuing story will be disastrous for the university.

“It keeps everyone thinking and talking about the past and old wounds, rather than moving forward,” he said.

He compared it to Republicans wanting to talk about Watergate. He said while there may be more nuances and precise facts than have come out, the big truth is wrongdoing took place.

“The university needs to make a public call for moving forward, taking the penalties and asking everyone to come together,” Grabowski said.

That may be what happens at 5 p.m. today, when trustees vote via teleconference on supporting accepting the NCAA sanctions.

Gary Roberts, dean and professor at the Indiana University Robert McKinney School of Law, Indianapolis, said he thinks the only entity that would have a legal standing to challenge the decision with the NCAA or in court would be the university itself.

“Having said that, who is the university? That gets kind of tricky,” Roberts said.

He said that would depend on factors such as the university’s governing documents, structure and tradition. In any case, a challenge would have to come from a majority of the board — not just a single member.

“Certainly I think a strong argument could be made that the NCAA did not have the legal authority to do to one of its members what it did because its own rules don’t provide for it,” Roberts said.

Roberts, a sports law expert, said he thinks the NCAA knew the legal risks, but was hoping Penn State wouldn’t challenge them. The association assumed and appears to have been proven correct that the president and most trustees wouldn’t want to put the university through a lengthy legal battle.

Fight on State! Some Trustees Have Guts!

Joel Myers, a long-time Penn State trustee, expressed support for new trustee Ryan McCombie’s appeal Monday of the NCAA sanctions leveled against Penn State.

Myers, the founder, president and chairman of the board of State College-based AccuWeather, told StateCollege.com the NCAA’s sense of fair play failed.

“(Ryan) served his country and I support what he’s doing,” Myers said of McCombie, a former Navy SEAL. “He wrote about fairness and justice and I support what he said – it’s fundamentally unfair.

“The whole process was unfair and un-American.”

McCombie was elected to the Penn State Board of Trustees this past May and started his term July 1. On Monday, he sent a letter to the entire board and a notice of appeal to the NCAA.

By Monday afternoon, a group of fellow trustees had already expressed support for McCombie’s actions taken to appeal the sanctions dealt to the Penn State football team, which is facing a four-year postseason ban and scholarship reductions.

Myers said while the appeal is important, the board has also expressed sympathy for and pledged to aid the victims of Jerry Sandusky.

“We feel for the victims … we have great compassion for them and what they’ve gone through. We’ve taken action as a board and as a university to acknowledge that.”

Myers said the NCAA’s action is now making victims out of those who neither knew about or had anything to do with Sandusky’s serial abuse.

“My belief is the NCAA ‘s sense of fair play failed,” said Myers, the father of Dan Myers, Publisher and Owner of Lazerpro, the parent company of StateCollege.com.

On July 25, the board met behind closed doors at the Penn Stater for three hours to discuss Penn State President Rodney Erickson’s acceptance of the sanctions, something he moved ahead with sans consent from the full board.

No action was taken at that meeting and board chairwoman Karen Peetz released a statement Aug. 1 saying the board and the university intend to comply with the sanctions and support Erickson.

McCombie’s appeal is the second to challenge the NCAA sanctions.

The Paterno family announced Friday they would be filing an appeal to in an attempt to reconcile the “enormous damage” done to Penn State.

NCAA Vice President of Communications Bob Williams said later Friday on Twitter that “the Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal.”

Penn State Needs a NEW Board of Trustees

excerpted from Harrisburg Patriot News

A professor of sports history, Ron Smith, taught at Penn State from 1968 to 1996. He worked alongside former President Graham Spanier, Paterno, Sandusky, Curley and Schultz.  Smith said the university has its work cut out for it in transitioning out of its top-down administrative ways. “It dictates from the top, and you better go along with it. It’s been that way ever since I was there,” he said.

A change agent for a university like Penn State and others like Tennessee, Alabama and Michigan, where football is pre-eminent, is more likely to be a streak of losing seasons and the loss of football luster, as opposed to dictates from independent authorities.

“It’s an ingrained culture. It doesn’t change just by its own nature,” said Smith, who is researching the presidential papers of about 80 universities.

“Revolutions change. But there isn’t going to be a revolution in intercollegiate sports unless something more drastic than what happened in Penn State happens, and it’s drastic enough here,” Smith said. “But you don’t change culture quickly and the culture of students and the dominance of football and having stadiums the size of 100,000.”

A former athletic director at three NCAA Division I schools doesn’t think the hearts and minds of fans need to change.  “Why shouldn’t people who are Penn State graduates be proud of their institution, be supporters of that institution in many different ways?” asked Dave O’Brien, director of the sports management program at Drexel University. “The failure isn’t that 100,000 people come to the stadium. That can be a good thing.

“The question has to be asked, why did the leadership of the university fail to act in a moral and legal manner with regard to suspicions and evidence in front of them regarding Sandusky conduct?”

The challenge before Penn State is doable, O’Brien said, pointing to scores of universities that have football programs as big and as laudable as Penn State’s that are not mired in NCAA violations or criminal scandals.

“I understand athletics can sometimes play a more prominent role than it should at a university, but I also know that with proper leadership, athletics can play a suitable role and not an expanded one within a university culture.”

Academic oversight of sports

One sure way to foster change is to return athletics to the purview of academics, said Smith, who in the 1980s served on the committee that moved Penn State athletics to the finance department.  He said the then-vice president for finance and operations, Steve Garban, who recently resigned from the board of trustees, argued vehemently to have athletics moved from academics and placed under his office.  Smith argued it should remain under academic oversight, something Vanderbilt University has done successfully.  “It was a good model. It was a model other institutions had followed,” he said.  Paterno backed Garban’s proposal to move the athletic program away from academics, and the move was sealed.  A new football culture was ushered in, Smith said.  “A lot of people don’t think that makes a lot of difference, but I do,” Smith said. “That can be changed and that would have changed the culture because the culture was changed when it was put under a money person that had no academic credentials. I think it changed it a lot.”  The football program became isolated and insular.

“Once you get isolated from other people, the tendency is to hide anything that might be bad,” Smith said. “Instead of fixing it, you hide it. I think that’s what happened.”  For more than three decades, the Penn State community basked in the prestige and money-earning engine of its football program.

A lot of people are focusing on Joe Paterno, but it’s much deeper than just Paterno,” he said. “I think the failure of Penn State was administrative, presidential and at the board of trustees level. As we look at trying to prevent this kind of scandal from happening again we have to take an honest assessment of everybody’s role.”

A lawyer and previous athletic director at Temple, Northeastern and Long Beach State universities, O’Brien said all parties involved with those offices must be held accountable in the Sandusky scandal.

To date, he said, little discussion has taken place with regards to the failure of the board of trustees.  The fact that Garban resigned should serve as a bellwether for other board members.  “They need to do soul-searching about what level of complicity they have with regard to the scandal,” O’Brien said.

Change will fail, Sestak said, if the university relies on a new president to set a new tone. Key positions and department heads must also all buy in and be granted leadership.

“It’s emphasizing that you not just follow rules, people need to feel a valued part of the membership.”

Erickson promises change

Penn State President Rodney Erickson has vowed that his university, while it cannot undo history, can become an agent for change and reaffirm its “core values of honesty, integrity and justice.”

“I promise you, we will learn from our past and take the steps that will allow us to emerge and grow into a stronger, better university.”

Those who have walked the classroom hallways — as well as sat on the Nittany Lions sidelines — say it will be a difficult task for the university to find a new tone for the role football plays on campus.

Change is inevitable for Penn State. Penn State must rededicate itself to its true mission — that of nurturing and protecting young lives. And for the university to fulfill the directives from the Freeh Report, it must put in place new leadership and a new board, and both must abide by the new mission.

“This is a large effort, and it doesn’t change overnight,” he said. “There are those that argue, ‘You’re going too far. This is going to harm the ethos, the warrior ethos that we need.’ That’s the issue at Penn State.”