“Tens of thousands of former Vioxx users sued Merck after it withdrew the drug, alleging Vioxx had caused them to suffer heart attacks and strokes. Frazier, then the company’s general counsel, declared Merck had done nothing wrong and refused to settle. “We’ll fight every case,” he declared, and hired top-flight law firms in several East Coast cities, in the South, in Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as a prominent New York firm to coordinate the overall strategy.”
Mark Battaglia was the starting center on the 1982 National Championship Football Team. The first of Penn State’s many National Championship Teams (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, and 1994) to be recognized as such by the AP and UPI polls. I was fortunate enough to spend a week of fly-fishing in Montana with Mark back in 2003 and we’ve been friends ever since.
On March 15, 2013, Mark addressed the Penn State Board of Trustees at the meeting in Hershey.
Here are his words: “Thank you. And thank you for the opportunity to address the Board today. My name is Mark Battaglia and I was fortunate enough to be on the 1982 National Championship Team.
At a press conference afterward, Penn State Lettermen who played for Paterno gave the board their own prescription for moving forward:
* A formal apology to legendary former head football coach Joe Paterno‘s family for his firing-by-telephone days after Sandusky’s arrest.
* Restoration of the monument outside Beaver Stadium that paid tribute to Paterno’s teams. The concrete wall was removed with Paterno’s statue last July, causing deep hurt to many of the players from Penn State’s most successful teams and their fans.
* Joining the pushback, currently led by Gov. Tom Corbett, against the four-year program of NCAA sanctions against Penn State football, a regime of penalties that the letterman said are unfairly punishing players, students and fans who had nothing to do with Sandusky.
They also seconded trustee Anthony Lubrano’s request for a board meeting with former FBI Director Louis Freeh, so that members at large can have their first opportunity to confront him with their questions.
Board members gave no indication that they are ready to act on those demands Friday – to date, only a small minority have expressed public misgivings about Freeh’s findings that Penn State’s top administrators and Paterno – gave cover for Sandusky in 2001.
Sandusky, Paterno’s longtime defensive coordinator, was convicted last year of sexually abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. He has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in state prison.
The university, meanwhile, is now trying to negotiate civil settlements with 30 men who claim they were abused by Sandusky over the last 35 years.
Freeh’s findings have largely been echoed in a statewide grand jury presentment last fall that resulted in criminal obstruction of justice, child endangerment and other charges against former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two of his top administrators. (However, Paterno was not implicated in this presentment).
For the first time several trustees actually engaged in a direct discussion about Freeh’s findings, with Lubrano reiterating his concerns and Ken Frazier, chair of the special committee that hired Freeh, defending the report.
And after the meeting, Trustees Chairman Keith Masser said that he felt the board’s legal committee, where Frazier touched off this week’s Freeh discussion Thursday, has an obligation to consider Lubrano’s request.
“Whether it comes out of the committee (with a positive recommendation) is another question,” said Masser, who also sits on the Legal Committee. “But we can make sure that it gets addressed.”
Masser declined to offer his own opinion on whether the board should revisiting the reports. “It’s not appropriate for us to pre-empt committee discussion,” he said Friday.
The lettermen who set the tone for the public comment period, however, said afterward that in their mind, this is the only path back to respectability for this board after, in their view, betraying Paterno and Penn State for 16 months.
“They have an opportunity for a second chance… because a new viewpoint of what happened at Penn State with Jerry Sandusky has come out,” through the Paterno-financed critique of the Freeh Report authored by former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, said former player Tom Donchez, now of Bethlehem.
“Let’s see what they do. Let’s see if they come out and do something for this university.”
The players said they are not worried that their continuing crusade against the Freeh report and the NCAA sanctions effectively validates concerns cited by NCAA President Mark Emmert and others that Penn State does have a football-first culture.
That’s because, they said, any fair examination of the record shows that Paterno himself was so much more than football.
Mickey Shuler, an East Pennsboro High School star who played for Paterno, noted the coach’s role in elevating the entire university through his fundraising, demands on the trustees and expectations of his players.
As a player, Shuler said, Paterno’s expectations were that everyone was “responsible and accountable to one another, the team and most importantly, the university… representing that university in a positive light everywhere you go.
“And that concept,” added Shuler, who now lives in Marysville, “just became contagious… His was an example that the whole university, I think, feels they have to live up to his expectations.”
For instance, board members will be expected to support board decisions and not speak out against them. They will be prohibited from acting on his or her own behalf. And they will need to fulfill their donation pledges to Penn State on a timely basis.
When Lubrano heard on Friday the proposed changes, which originated in a governance committee, he asked if these were being dubbed the “Lubrano rule.”
Trustee Linda Strumpf appeared to give Lubrano a cross look, and she mouthed something at the same time as her gesture, but it was not clear what it was.
Lubrano said he wanted all the trustees held to the same standards.
The governance reforms were brought up during Friday’s board meeting for a fuller discussion by all 32 trustees. Lubrano was the only one who made comments.
“I believe that we are entitled to look at the words and contemporaneous emails and other documents that draw the conclusions that we need to draw as a university. We are not subject to the criminal beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, and you’re a lawyer, so you can stop pretending that you think we are. We can take employment actions, we can take corrective actions without any need to resort to the so-called due process, reasonable doubt standard, and I don’t care if they are acquitted. And you know the difference. If you cared about that, you are one of the few people in this country that looks like you who actually believes the O.J. Simpson not guilty verdict was correct. The fact of the matter is, those documents say what they say, and no amount of hand waving will ever change what those documents say.”
Before the fireworks Friday, when former Penn State football lettermen have promised to lay into the board of trustees, a handful of board members will convene Thursday to pave the way for ground-breaking changes to how the 158-year-old university is governed. The board’s committee on governance and long-range planning is expected to review and recommend reforms for a vote of the full board on Friday in Hershey. Exactly what those reforms are, though, will not be known until the meeting, because its agenda is confidential, and a university spokesman could not provide firmer details about which reforms will be up for consideration.
The committee meeting is at 1 p.m. This will be streamed live on WPSU.com
Regardless of the uncertainty, the result will be unprecedented because of the long tradition of university and board governance, which became a lightning rod for criticism after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Politicians, elected officials and alumni have been calling for reform and changes, and the board of trustees continues to bear the brunt of the anger from seething fans and alumni over its handling of coach Joe Paterno’s ouster and the NCAA sanctions. Some groups want to purge the board of those who voted to remove Paterno as coach, while others want the size of the board reduced, a different composition or certain members stripped of their voting ability.
The best hints about what reforms to expect Thursday are from the committee’s last discussion on the topic in January, when the members reviewed the long list of reforms suggested by former Auditor General Jack Wagner.
Among the reforms that were discussed: whether the Penn State president or the state’s governor should have voting powers, whether the president will be the board’s secretary or whether retired university employees have to wait a few years before they can run for a board seat.
The committee is chaired by James Broadhurst and includes the former chairwoman Karen Peetz and Joel Myers, who fired off an email a few weeks ago criticizing the NCAA and the Freeh report.
Peetz and Myers were supportive of removing the president’s voting powers, and the committee sounded in favor of stripping the governor’s voting powers, too. Broadhurst said he first wanted to discuss the latter one with Gov. Tom Corbett.
A reduction in the president’s powers was one of Wagner’s core recommendations. The former auditor general also recommended reducing the size of the board from its size of 32 members
Some 30 Penn State lettermen are planning to roast the university’s board of trustees at their meeting Friday afternoon in Hershey.
The lettermen have registered to speak during the public comment period during the meeting, and they plan to hold a press conference after the meeting.
“We want to look the trustees in the eyes and tell them that their actions over the last 16 months have brought great harm upon Penn State, our beloved program and the innocent players and coaches who now occupy our locker room,” Brian Masella, a tight end and punter from 1971 to 1975, said in a statement.
The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 302 of the University Fitness and Conference Center at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center.
The players hope to secure all 10 slots during the public comment session in the hope of persuading the trustees to reconsider the conclusions of the Freeh report and the unprecedented NCAA sanctions.
The board just began offering a public comment period this academic year, and university spokesman David La Torre said the “(b)oard looks forward to hearing from all parties who will speak.”
“Now that Sue Paterno has come forward with the exceptional and thorough work of Gov. Dick Thornburgh, FBI expert Jim Clemente and attorney Wick Sollers, we stand united with her and her family in decrying the absurd conclusions of Louis Freeh,” the players said in a news release. “He didn’t know Joe.
“We knew Joe.”
The players’ statement said the trustees should have had the courage to speak to Paterno in November 2011 before forcing him out as the coach.
Trustee and former Nittany Lion lettermen Paul Suhey disputed that Paterno was fired and said the coach was “retired three weeks early.”
Suhey said the board regrets that it was carried out by a phone call.
“People are still so hurt by that, and you know, damn it, we screwed it up,” Suhey said.
The terms are up this year for Suhey and fellow alumni trustee Stephanie Deviney, who are facing a hostile environment for re-election.
Posted on March 10th, 2013 in News and Commentary
“Let me be clear – we got this wrong.”
“None of us are proud of how we handled this.”
by Bill Keisling
Penn State trustee Stephanie Nolan Deviney is up for reelection to the school’s governing Board of Trustees. On March 9, on her webpage, she responded to the following question: What was your thought process with respect to Coach Paterno?
“PLEASE NOTE: THE THOUGHTS BELOW ARE MY OWN, NOT THAT OF THE BOARD. EACH BOARD MEMBER HAS THEIR OWN REASON FOR MAKING THE DECISION. I DO NOT SPEAK FOR THEM. ALSO, I AM NOT TRYING TO LAY BLAME OR MAKE EXCUSES. I AM ONLY TRYING TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS YOU HAVE ASKED.
“Saturday, November 5, 2011, I received an email from a fellow PSU grad at approximately 3 p.m. with a messaging along the lines of ‘I bet you never thought you signed up for this!’ There was also an email from the university scheduling a conference call. Realizing something was going on I googled ‘Penn State’. This is how I learned the news.
“I immediately searched the web and found the presentment. I read the entire thing by our 5 p.m. call. When I read the presentment my initial reaction was that we needed to determine who knew what and when. The Presentment stated that Coach Paterno had been told of activity “of a sexual nature” between Sandusky and a young boy. During our call we planned a meeting for 7 p.m. the next evening.
“When I arrived at Old Main I was given a press release that had been issued by the Paternos. I asked if the press release had been run by anyone at the university before it was issued. I was told it had not been run by the university. When the decision was made to cancel the regularly scheduled press conference, there was no agreement with this decision. Instead, the press was told to stay tuned as plans were in the works for an off campus press conference (no such conference ever took place).
“At that time it was clear that the university’s interests and Coach Paterno’s interests were not aligned. We should have been working together on this issue – the biggest crisis the university had ever faced. Rather, we were two ships not communicating with one another. I did not think these actions were in the best interests of the university. My decision to remove Coach Paterno as head coach was largely based on the events that transpired after the presentment was issued.
“The trustees had a call on Tuesday night during which time I thought we would decide what actions to take with respect to Coach Paterno and Graham Spanier. However, many trustees thought that such a decision could not be made over the phone. Rather, we needed to be face to face, to look each other in the eye, to read each other’s body language in making such a monumental decision. We agreed to make the decision on Wednesday night when we met in person.
“I could not sleep that night as the decisions weighed heavily on my mind. I did not know what other trustees were going to decide. I appreciate all this University has done for the Commonwealth. I appreciate all Joe Paterno has done for Penn State. I understood what Penn State meant to so many people. I understood the magnitude of the decisions we would make the next day. No matter what we decided, we would forever change people’s lives, Penn State, and history. This decision was left in the hands of 32 people. I was one of them.
“On Wednesday Coach Paterno announced his retirement without consulting with the university.
“By Wednesday evening none of the trustees thought that the football season could go on “business as usual” with Coach Paterno on the sidelines and in front of the press. As such, we made the decision to remove him as head coach for the remainder of the season. We did honor his contract. Yes, I have seen the letter that Cynthia Baldwin sent to him. It should not have been sent to him.
“It seems so clear now that the university and Coach Paterno should have been speaking to each other and working with each other during those five days. Looking back it seems unbelievable that neither side communicated with one another. I often think of how things might have been different if any small changes were made that week. Posnanski recently wrote that after reading the presentment, Coach Paterno’s own family told him that he might have to face the possibility of never coaching another game. Under such circumstances it saddens me that we didn’t find a way to handle this better. We both should have been working together. When we made out decision, it was around 9 p.m. at night. It has also been widely reported why we made the decision to call his home. First, there were news vans and students surrounding his home. We did not think it was appropriate to have such a message be delivered so publicly. It surely would have been caught on camera. No one would have liked that either. Second, we did not think we could wait until the morning as many details of our meetings that week were reaching the press. The last thing we wanted was for Coach Paterno to hear the news from the press. Let me be clear – we got this wrong.
“I agree 100 percent with Sue Paterno’s statement – Joe Paterno did deserve more.” (sorry, Stephanie, too little too late–where have you been for the past year and a half? Why were you and Paul Suhey not out there with McCombie and Lubrano asking the important questions?)
“Every board member has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for all that Joe Paterno and his family did, and continue to do, for our university. He influenced and molded countless men. He and Sue were generous with their time, money, and talent. You may wonder how we could all feel this way and still remove him as head coach but as fiduciaries we had to make the decisions in the best interests of the University.”
editor note: it is my opinion that the Board of Trustees (John Surma) had a vendetta against Joe Paterno to not only fire him but to destroy his reputation, and that was the goal (not necessarily known by the general board membership).
Penn State trustee Paul Suhey admits relieving Joe Paterno of his head coaching duties in November 2011 over a late-night phone call was not the right tact. Stephanie Deviney, another trustee, is certain the whole board feels that way.“We apologize, we screwed it up as far as how we delivered the message,” Suhey said Friday in an interview. “Our decision, we’re not going to go back on. But we messed that up big time.“People are still so hurt by that, and you know, damn it, we screwed it up.”The Paterno decision will go down in the annals as the trigger of when Penn State alumni and diehard fans turned against the board, and the anger has not relented. They email the trustees, write letters — even call them out in advertisements in this newspaper. But, four trustees, in an interview with the Centre Daily Times’ editorial board, said they are committed to turning the corner, opening up and building on the progress the university has already seen in responding in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal. The trustees — Suhey, Deviney, board Chairman Keith Masser and Paul Silvis — said they hope the university community will meet them in the middle as part of moving forward.
Editor note: It took them a year and a half to say this?? Shame, shame, shame on them.
for more information on John Surma‘s role in destroying Joe Paterno, go to:
Several lawmakers engaged in the fight against the NCAA penalties that flowed from its findings lightly grilled President Rodney Erickson for letting former FBI Director Louis Freeh‘s narrative stand last summer as the official word on the university’s management of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
That act of omission, Freeh and later state prosecutors have alleged, helped set the stage for assaults on several other boys over the next seven years.
Erickson ducked, arguing it is “not appropriate for me to comment on that question here in this kind of forum.”
Noting there are pending criminal and civil cases that still have to play out, Erickson said, “I think it’s appropriate that we let the investigative and the judicial process take its course Mr. Chairman, with all due respect.”
And Corman pounced.
“But when Penn State decided to release this report without any review or due diligence it already entered into the fray of these criminal trials and to the public discourse of how this matter is treated….”
Corman then acknowledged the pressures the university was under at the time, noting “there is no manual to walk yourself through this.”
But, he concluded, “I guess I wish you would have taken that same position prior to the (release of the) report, which has been used not only to punish Penn State” but to frame the public narrative of the case.
On the whole, it was a gentler version of similar critiques Erickson has already received at various alumni town halls, or that he and trustees routinely field at public board meetings these days.
But given that Corman is perhaps Penn State’s most influential ally in the state legislature, today’s back and forth was another forceful reminder that the Sandusky wounds have not yet healed.
Erickson fielded other questions during today’s hearings about the Freeh report from Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne County, and inquiries about the NCAA fine from Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland County