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Are WE Penn State?

by on August 21, 2013 6:55 AM

It is the story that will not go away, that will not end.

The many tentacles of the Jerry Sandusky abuse story have continued to spread and untangling the truth is proving to be a significant challenge.

Getting true justice seems to be an even greater challenge. The University is forking over tens of millions of dollars to alleged victims of child abuse, some of whom have dubious stories and some of which are not even alleged to have involved the University in any way.

The University has bullied it's only student representative on its board to go against his conscience and stand down from what he believes is the right thing to do. These issues frustrate and embarrass me as a Penn Stater.

Meanwhile, the football program was featured on ESPN for a full hour Tuesday evening and you'd be hard-pressed to come away with anything other than a favorable impression of the kids and coaches -- and the equipment manager -- on the team.

And we've read excerpts from a book John Bacon is putting out titled "Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football." That soul is embodied by Penn State's own Michael Mauti.

Over the last two days, I have been vividly reminded of why I take such pride to say I am a lifelong Penn State fan, a Penn State graduate, a member of the Penn State community. I have also been reminded of how frustrated I am with the leadership or lack thereof at the University.

I have been reminded why it is that there is such resentment against the board and administration at this University. I have watched in utter disbelief at the way the university is run.

Instead of presenting their arguments in the light of day and openly debating the merits of their opinions, the most powerful and influential board members and administrators continue to suppress opposing views and silence dissenters. I submit to you that this is the very opposite of leadership.

I listen as Penn State spokesperson David La Torre, who has been paid millions to issue "no comment" after "no comment," tells us that "the University" sees a conflict of interest with Board members who sign on to a lawsuit that claims the University was wrongfully punished. Who exactly is "the University"?

For years, I thought we were all truly part of The university. The chant that so unified the Penn State community -- "WE ARE ..." -- I actually believed it meant Penn State was all of us, that the university was the alumni, the students, the professors and faculty, the employees and yes, the administration, the board of trustees and many others -- folks who simply identified with a program and a school that tried to things the right way.

A university that stood for doing the right thing, a football program that strove to produce a team that pursued the very best both in the classroom and on the football field. We were a university community so of course there would be diverse opinions, widely varying thoughts on what could and should be done to make us better.

But WE ARE ... was a unifying cry. We thought we all truly were Penn State. I still believe it, as naive as that thought must seem to David La Torre and a core group on the board of trustees.

Although the board of trustees is theoretically supposed to be part of a group that does govern the university (a mission in which you miserably failed for decades), you alone are not Penn State. So, when La Torre says the trustees who have joined the Paterno suit are doing so in conflict "with the University's position and interests," he is talking about the small influential group of trustees and a couple of administrators -- not the overall University community's position and interests.

This may seem an obvious distinction to some, but I believe it to be vitally important. Because, I believe the University -- the WE ARE ... university community, sees no conflict of interest or contradiction whatsoever.

And how does asking for the NCAA to abide by its own guidelines, bylaws and procedures, asking for victories that were earned to be recognized and asking for scholarships to be given to young men who have earned them through their abilities in the classroom and on the football field -- how exactly does that conflict with the best interests of the university?

I realize I may be accused of buying into that "football culture problem," but watching the ESPN Training Days piece reminded me why I had, and still have pride, in Penn State. To me, Bill O'Brien, Spider Caldwell, John Urschel and Mike Mauti are Penn State.

Reading the excerpts from Bacon's book and listening to La Torre's weak response to forcing Peter Khoury to recuse himself from the Paterno lawsuit against the NCAA makes me believe there is, in fact, a culture problem at Penn State. Where there should be leadership, there is none.

I am hoping La Torre will soon explain how fighting to get some scholarships and wins back for the football program makes one ineligible to possibly be of assistance in finding the best possible candidate to lead the university into the next era. How could one possibly believe the NCAA needs to follow its own rules and question a potential president on his vision for the university and its future? Yeah, seems like kind of a silly question to me too.

It isn't difficult to understand, folks. WE ARE extends beyond the five or six most influential and economically successful members of the board and the top administrators.

Somehow, some way, these members need to be removed -- or at the very least their power reduced and their accountability increased -- as they continue to act against the true best interests and positions of "the University."

ARE WE ... Penn State?



Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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