Penn State (again) defends firing Paterno, Spanier

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2011 file photo, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno arrives home, in State College, Pa. Penn State's trustees say late coach Joe Paterno's failure to follow up on a sexual abuse allegation against former assistant Jerry Sandusky "constituted a failure of leadership" that ultimately led to his firing in November. A report issued Monday, March 12, 2012, by the trustees says the board ultimately decided to fire Paterno after learning the details of his testimony before a grand jury when charges were filed against Sandusky. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2011 file photo, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno arrives home, in State College, Pa. Penn State's trustees say late coach Joe Paterno's failure to follow up on a sexual abuse allegation against former assistant Jerry Sandusky "constituted a failure of leadership" that ultimately led to his firing in November. A report issued Monday, March 12, 2012, by the trustees says the board ultimately decided to fire Paterno after learning the details of his testimony before a grand jury when charges were filed against Sandusky. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (Matt Rourke)
Posted: March 12, 2012

Penn State's Board of Trustees on Monday morning once again defended its decisions to fire former President Graham B. Spanier and Joe Paterno as football coach in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal.

There was little if any new information in the board's statement posted on the universty's website. Its release coincided with a pre-trial hearing for Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach accused of molesting boys on and off campus and igniting the scandal that has rocked the university since November.

But the move by the board to post the statement illustrates the continued pressure trustees are facing for ousting the university's iconic coach, who died in January of complications from lung cancer.

"Our decisions were guided by our obligation as trustees, always, to put the interests of the university first," said the statement posted on the university's web site.

The trustees voted to remove Spanier, the statement said, because he "took insufficient action after learning of a 2002 incident" involving Sandusky. In that incident, former assistant football coach Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, reported that he had seen Sandusky having sex with a young boy in a campus shower. Spanier had said it was reported to him as "horsing around."

"This failure of leadership included insufficiently informing the board about his knowledge of the 2002 incident," the statement said.

Spanier early on also defended the actions of athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz without board authorization. Both had been charged with perjury by the Grand Jury investigating the Sandusky case.

The trustees ousted Paterno with only three games remaining in the 2011 season because he didn't do enough upon learning of the 2002 incident, the statement said.

They cited the grand jury report that quoted Paterno on what McQueary had told him - that McQueary had seen Sandusky "in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to 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 statement 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 board said it has intended to name Paterno head coach emeritus and take other steps to honor him, but will hold off on taking that step until the conclusion of the university internal investigation of the scandal.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com or on Twitter @ssnyderinq

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