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As Joe Paterno Retains Tenure, Graham Spanier Gains Emeritus Status; Futures Unclear

on December 05, 2011 6:12 PM

Like former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former head football Coach Joe Paterno retains his status as a tenured faculty member at the university.

Confirmation came late Friday from Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers, who said Paterno has been tenured at Penn State since 1957.

A university employee directory still lists Paterno as a professor of physical education, though the Penn State trustees terminated his 46-year role as head coach effective Nov. 9.

"His possible continued service to the university in that capacity (as a tenured faculty member) has not been determined at this time," Powers wrote in an e-mail message.

An inquiry sent to Paterno's son Scott, who has addressed reporters in recent weeks, was referred Friday to Washington, D.C.-based attorney Wick Sollers. Sollers, representing Joe Paterno, had not responded by Monday evening.

Meanwhile, more information about Spanier's status at Penn State has come to light, too.

New university President Rodney Erickson confirmed Nov. 11 -- two days after Spanier's 16-year presidency ended -- that Spanier remains a tenured faculty member. He is tenured with the faculty titles of university professor and professor of human development and family studies, sociology, demography and family and community medicine.

Powers noted Friday that Spanier also has the title of president emeritus, though the process by which he received that title was not immediately clear. (Spanier was a Penn State faculty member in the 1970s and early '80s, before he returned to the university as president in 1995.)

Another point of interest: Powers reported that Spanier's ongoing sabbatical, announced earlier by the university, "was provided for in his employment contract."

"Whether he will teach next fall has not yet been determined," Powers wrote.

Chew that over again:

The two people to have departed their primary jobs -- thus far -- in the wake of the Sandusky criminal charges could, in fact, both retain significant presences at Penn State.

Spanier and Joe Paterno have had a complicated -- at best -- relationship in years past, according to sources with direct knowledge of their interactions. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center seemed to illustrate that well.

I was there to cover the event that day, in August 2010. I remember thinking it unusual that Spanier, attending such a high-profile event, appeared to have such little open interaction with members of the Paterno family -- and vice-versa.

Alas, the university's top two former kingmakers may not be entirely rid of each other yet.

But little public comment is emerging from the men's respective camps, so it's tough to imagine the odds that either will stick around on campus.

As with so much else these days, clarity may arrive only in time.

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