SBD/November 10, 2011/Colleges

Penn State Trustees Announce Firing Of Paterno, Spanier In Wake Of Scandal

Surma fielded reporters' questions during news conference following trustees' decision
Penn State Univ.'s Board of Trustees in a news conference last night announced that Graham Spanier "was no longer the university’s president" and Joe Paterno "was no longer the head football coach," according to Danahy & Vanderkolk of the CENTRE DAILY TIMES. The trustees’ decision, "which the board said was unanimous, stems from the charges" against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as well as charges of "perjury against two administrators and accusations that university officials did not do enough when they became aware of one such instance of abuse by Sandusky." Following the trustees' announcement, "thousands of students filled the streets," chanting and "becoming increasingly belligerent as police donned riot gear and tried to control the crowds." PSU is investigating "how it handled the report by a one-time graduate student, now identified as assistant coach Mike McQueary." When asked why AD Tim Curley is being allowed to remain on administrative leave when Paterno and Spanier were fired, Vice Chair of the Trustees John Surma said, "There are a number of matters that over time will get resolved." Also yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it "will investigate whether university officials broke federal law by not reporting sexual abuse allegations" (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 11/10). In Pennsylvania, Ed Mahon reports PSU Exec VP & Provost Rod Erickson will replace Spanier in the "top position at the university until the board of trustees picks a permanent leader" (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 11/10).

FALL FROM GRACE: Spanier in a statement last night said, "Penn State and its Board of Trustees are in the throes of dealing with and recovering from this crisis, and there is wisdom in a transition in leadership so that there are no distractions in allowing the University to move forward." In Pennsylvania, Ganim & Frantz note Spanier "continued to defend his role in the Sandusky scandal." Spanier: "I was stunned and outraged to learn that any predatory act might have occurred in a University facility or by someone associated with the University." While Spanier's "ouster barely made an impression on the national media, or the students, the news that Paterno was fired came as a shock" (Harrisburg PATRIOT-NEWS, 11/10). In Philadelphia, Susan Snyder notes PSU "appeared to be stronger than ever under Spanier's leadership." As Spanier's departure "appeared increasingly likely, there was shock among the higher education world, where he was highly regarded among peers." American Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers Administrator Barmak Nassirian said the "responsibility has to be taken all the way up the food chain, and that's what seems to be happening" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/10). In Pittsburgh, Boren & Fontaine note supporters "worry the turmoil could deal a blow to Spanier's ambitious $2 billion fundraising campaign, the largest drive in Penn State history, as donors recoil from the university they love." There is a "great deal at stake in trying to preserve Penn State's football program." Education Department data indicated that the team "produced $72.7 million in revenue and had $53.2 million in profit during the 2010-11 fiscal year" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/10). In Philadelphia, Harold Brubaker notes earlier this week, PSU "postponed or canceled several events related to fund-raising, including the President's Tailgate before Saturday's football game against Nebraska" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/10).

WILL NCAA STEP IN? NCAA President Mark Emmert, when asked yesterday what the NCAA’s role may be in the PSU scandal, said, "We will just have to let this play out in the criminal justice system before we can see whether or not there’s any role at all in this for the NCAA. Today it’d be inappropriate for me to even speculate about that" (“The Scott Van Pelt Show,” ESPN Radio, 11/9). Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic’s Michael Jenkins said, "Some people have said, 'Well this is not an NCAA matter.' It is absolutely an NCAA matter when you're talking about guys on campus, running the football program, covering this up. I can't imagine at some point that college football won't do something" (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/9).

DOING THE RIGHT THING: A CENTRE DAILY TIMES editorial states, "The Penn State trustees have done the right thing. They acted to remove a cloud over Happy Valley that lingers in the wake of allegations of a child sexual abuse scandal, cover-up and silence" (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 11/10). In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes under the header, "Leadership Finally Makes Appearance As Penn State Trustees Do Right Thing" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/10). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes Spanier's "thoughtless, knee-jerk comments in defense of two disgraced Penn State officials," Curley and former interim Senior VP/Finance & Business Gary Schultz, "proved how he, too, had so completely misjudged the magnitude of the scandal that was to so swiftly bring down both men" (USA TODAY, 11/10). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel wrote PSU "now clearly has suffered from a void of quality leadership in recent years." Over the last few days, PSU has "suffered from a leadership void of any kind." Tramel: "Finally, some leadership appeared. The board of trustees made the only decision it could make" (NEWSOK.com, 11/9). In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes the "dismissal of Paterno and forced resignation of Spanier were necessary steps, if you put the victims first" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/10). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Paterno and Spanier "deserved what they got" last night (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/10).

ONLY OPTION: In Boston, Bob Ryan writes this is the "most scrutinized story college sports ever has known, and by allowing Joe Paterno to remain as head coach one second longer, the school authorities would have been telling the world that, rhetoric aside, they were not taking the issue as seriously as the rest of the world is." Paterno’s "immediate removal is a positive action speaking far louder than a trillion words" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10). CSNBayArea.com’s Ann Killion: “Everything before this pales in comparison. This to me is not only the worst scandal I’ve seen in sports, but one of the worst I’ve ever seen." Killion said the way Penn State has handled the situation has been ‘”one of the worst damage-control things we’ve ever seen” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/9). In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes PSU football "as we know it is officially over." It might "survive as primordial ooze." The program is "more toxic than radiation and its troubles will have nothing to do with losing 30 scholarships over the next three years." Dufresne: "There is no patching Penn State back together. The program will have to be rebuilt from scratch" (L.A. TIMES, 11/10). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes this is a "tragic, self-inflicted mess, reminiscent of other scandals that have occurred at powerful, insular institutions." A "predictable pattern has played out -- denial, delay, half-measures, and finally, a recognition of reality" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/10).

UPS & DOWNS: In Pennsylvania, Brittany Horn reports before Paterno's firing was announced, ticket demand for PSU's Saturday home game against Nebraska "skyrocketed." Ticketmaster, Penn State Athletic Ticketing Services and the Student Ticket Exchange for Penn State students "showed no tickets available for the game as of press time," though outlets like StubHub "yielded tickets varying in price from $170 to $9,999." StubHub Corporate Communications Manager Joellen Ferrer said that the company has "seen ticket prices continue to rise throughout Wednesday following Paterno’s announcement, with a 25 to 50 percent cost increase from the originally marked prices." But Ferrer said that she "expects ticket prices to drop as the game draws closer." It is unclear what effect the "firing of Paterno will have on prices" (DAILY COLLEGIAN, 11/10).

UNCHANGED RELATIONSHIP: Nike Senior Manager for Global Public Affairs Erin Dobson last night said that Nike has "no plans to change the name of the Joe Paterno Center, a child day care facility on the World Headquarters Campus near Beaverton." Dobson: "Our relationship with Penn State remains unchanged" (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/10).
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