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Penn State trustees explain firings of Paterno, Spanier - abc27 WHTM

Penn State trustees explain firings of Paterno, Spanier

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WHTM) -

Penn State University's Board of Trustees has issued a statement explaining its reasons for firing legendary football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier.

In the statement issued Monday, the Board said its Nov. 9 decision was "guided by our obligation as trustees, always, to put the interests of the university first."

"We share the grief of the entire Penn State family at the passing of Coach Paterno," the Board said. "We also continue to respect and appreciate Dr. Spanier's and Coach Paterno's lasting contributions to Penn State. We especially honor the great legacy of Coach Paterno in making his football program a model for his emphasis on academic as well as athletic performance and for his generous support of Penn State through the years.

"We offer this report guided by one overriding commitment going forward—to remember the children who may have been victims of sexual abuse on or near the University Park campus over the last 10 or more years and to support their healing process as best we can."

Regarding Spanier, the trustees said they determined he should be removed because he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities and took insufficient action after learning of a 2002 incident involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a Penn State facility.

"This failure of leadership included insufficiently informing the Board about his knowledge of the 2002 incident," the Board said. "He also made or was involved in press announcements between Nov. 5-9 that were without authorization of the Board or contrary to its instructions."

"On Nov. 9, Dr. Spanier asked the Board for a vote of confidence. Since for the reasons cited above we were unable to provide it, we voted that evening unanimously to remove him as president and informed him of that decision. Dr. Spanier remains a tenured professor at Penn State."

Regarding Paterno, the trustees said their most important reason for firing the coach flowed from his testimony before the grand jury investigating Sandusky. Paterno in 1999 was told by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary that Sandusky had been in a locker room shower with a young boy.

"While Coach Paterno did his legal duty by reporting that information the next day, Sunday, March 3, to his immediate superior, the then Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, the Board reasonably inferred that he did not call police," the Board said. "We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno."

The trustees also apologized for firing Paterno over the telephone, but said they saw no better alternative.

"Because Coach Paterno's home was surrounded by media representatives, photographers and others, we did not believe there was a dignified, private and secure way to send Board representatives to meet with him there. Nor did we believe it would be wise to wait until the next morning, since we believed it was probable that Coach Paterno would hear the news beforehand from other sources, which would be inappropriate," the Board said.

"Thus, we sent a representative of the Athletic Department to ask Coach Paterno to call us. When the coach called, the Board member who received the call planned to tell him that (1) the Board had decided unanimously to remove him as coach; (2) the Board regretted having to deliver the message over the telephone; and (3) his employment contract would continue, including all financial benefits and his continued status as a tenured faculty member. However, after this Board member communicated the first message, Coach Paterno ended the call, so the second and third messages could not be delivered."

"Many alumni, faculty, staff and students are inquiring about how we plan to honor Coach Paterno's many contributions to the University. It has always been the Board's intention to fulfill his employment contract and to name him head coach emeritus. Other options also are under consideration, but the Board feels it would be premature to make any final decision at least until the final report of the independent counsel Judge Louis Freeh is publicly issued in conjunction with the Special Investigations Task Force."

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