Penn State Football: Despite Changes, Many Key People Still Remain From Paterno Regime
There has been a lot of buzz about all the changes involving the Penn State football program since Bill O'Brien took charge nearly five months ago.
And there have been many.
But in taking a closer look, a strong core of the Old Guard remains.
That's even after an investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh that has consumed several months, hundreds of interviews and mountains of digging into the relationship between the football program and the administration in wake of the Jerry Sandusky allegations.
So far, only one Penn State employee – former associate athletic director Mark Sherburne – has been fired in conjunction with the work of the Freeh group.
What remains is a big part of the framework that has helped make the Nittany Lions so successful – at least off the field.
Still part of O'Brien's team are the associate athletic director for football administration, the core of Penn State's defensive coaching braintrust, the team physician, the academic advising team, the heads of both football equipment and football facilities, the top PR guy and the head of sports marketing.
Here is what all has transpired since former coach Joe Paterno was fired Nov. 9 and replaced by interim head coach Tom Bradley for the final four games last season.
Gone, Part I: Bradley and five other assistants were let go in early January – Jay Paterno, Kermit Buggs, Bill Kenney, Dick Anderson and Galen Hall. Anderson and Hall were past retirement age for most other major college programs.
Gone, Part II: Outspoken White Out creator Guido D'Elia, the director of communications and branding for football since 2004, was fired in late February. He also served as a trusted adviser to Paterno and was never a full-time Penn State employee. Instead, he was a consultant while keeping his half-share in Mind Over Media, the firm that produced "The Penn State Football Story." Also released were the chief videographer and the team's speed coach.
New: The Nittany Lions have seven new assistant coaches on board, including John Strollo (tight ends), Charlie Fisher (quarterbacks), Stan Hixon (assistant head coach/wide receivers), Charles London (running backs/recruiting coordinator), Mac McWhorter (offensive line), Ted Roof (defensive coordinator) and John Butler (secondary). Craig Fitzgerald is Penn State's director of strength and conditioning, replacing John Thomas, and Tim Bream is the director of athletic training and head football trainer, replacing George Salvaterra.
Remaining: Full-time assistant coaches Larry Johnson (defensive line) and Ron Vanderlinden (linebackers) were the only two retained from Paterno's staff, ensuring Penn State's stalwart defense maintained two of its major architects. Johnson has been at Penn State since 1996, dating prior to the initial Sandusky allegations of 1998, and Vandy arrived in 2001.
Remaining, sort of: Assistant coach Mike McQueary is on administrative leave, and has sued Penn State, but he still is drawing a paycheck. So is athletic director Tim Curley, who is facing a perjury charge in connection with the Sandusky case.
Remaining, But Reassigned, Part I: Long-time director of football operations Tom Venturino, the guy who often drove Joe Paterno around in a golf cart during practice, has been reassigned to an unnamed position in athletic administration in the Jordan Center. He has been at Penn State since 1984, when he joined the staff as an assistant equipment manager and assistant strength coach.
Remaining, But Reassigned, Part II: Paterno's personal secretary, Sandi Segursky, also has been shifted to a new position in the Jordan Center. She now serves as an administrative support assistant for student-athlete services.
Other holdovers from the Paterno regime:
- Bill Kavanaugh is in the same spot as the assistant recruiting coordinator after assisting McQueary in that role a year ago. Kavanaugh briefly was promoted to wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator when Bradley took over late last year.
- Elijah Robinson, promoted from graduate assistant to administrative assistant by Bradley, holds down the same job on O'Brien's staff.
- Fran Ganter, a former running back, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach who has been on campus since 1967, has the same title as the associate athletic director for football administration that he had under Paterno. He also serves as a conduit between acting athletic director Dave Joyner, a former Penn State football teammate, and O'Brien.
- Greg Myford remains in the role as the associate athletic director for marketing and communications and plays a pivotal role in season ticket sales. On the Penn State food chain, D'Elia was more hands-on in the marketing of football, but D'Elia was a consultant, Myford – along with Paterno -- was ultimately in charge.
- Brad "Spider" Caldwell still takes care of the football equipment and has been with the program for quite some time. He also doubles as the facilities coordinator.
- Dr. Kristine Clark remains the director of sports nutrition and Dr. David Yukelson is the sports psychologist.
- Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli still serves as the director of athletic medicine. He was a long-time Paterno confidante.
- Kirk Diehl remains the coordinator of the practice facilities.
- Todd Kulka, in his 21st year with the Penn State football program, continues in his role as the academic counselor. And he is assisted by Brady Rourke, now in his sixth season.
- Jeff Nelson, who holds the title of assistant athletic director for communications, still is the main media football contact. He's been at Penn State since 1993.
- A handful of graduate assistant coaches and secretaries, plus an athletic trainer.
And most important of all, if you still believe college football involves athletes who also are students – a roster full of players remain.
There was never the mass exodus that some suggested after O'Brien was hired Jan. 6.
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