Exclusive Q&A: Dave Joyner Discusses O’Brien, Paterno, Empty Seats and Investigations at Penn State
This is the second part of an exclusive two-part interview held earlier this week with Penn State Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner.
Dave Joyner’s first big hire as Penn Sate’s acting athletic director was picking Bill O’Brien to replace Joyner’s former coach, Hall of Famer Joe Paterno, on Jan. 6.
“We saw his passion for this university and his passion for coming in as a coach and really making a difference,” Joyner said of O’Brien.
Joyner then weighed in on Paterno, who was fired Nov. 9 in wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. His comments came during a sitdown on Wednesday with Ron Musselman, editor-in-chief of StateCollege.com.
“The guy did an unbelievable job,” Joyner said of Paterno. “He is the greatest college football coach of all time – 409 (wins) will never be reached in your lifetime, my lifetime or anybody’s lifetime."
Joyner went on to address the various investigations involving Penn State.
“I think these last six months are going to be great preparation for what’s going to come in the next six months. I don’t know what will happen – you get surprised sometimes by certain things causing certain other things to happen,” said Joyner, who resigned from the Board of Trustees to accept his new position on Nov. 16.
And he also touched on Penn State’s sagging season-ticket sales.
“Obviously, with the events of the last six months, it probably has had an affect on the STEP program. But I remain very optimistic about the future,” Joyner said.
The rest of the interview follows:
StateCollege.com: Are you surprised by how much energy Bill O'Brien has and the fact he is on every stop on the Coaches Caravan?
Joyner: It would probably knock me down. That being said, I’m not surprised. We saw that in him. We saw his energy. We saw his commitment. We saw his passion for this university and his passion for coming in as a coach and really making a difference.
He wanted to do these kinds of things from Day One – we didn’t drag it out of him. It’s just who he is and I think it’s a great tribute to him and all the other coaches from our other teams that are going with him.
StateCollege.com: There were a lot of empty seats at Beaver Stadium last season. I know a lot of people are concerned about the STEP program and about season ticket sales this year. Are you worried?
Joyner: I think what I’ve heard in the last week or two is that ticket sales are accelerating. And I think the Blue-White Game probably has had a positive effect on that because people finally got to see the new product on the field. I think the Coaches Caravan is going to create a lot of positive excitement about the program.
Winning solves a lot of problems. Obviously, with the events of the last six months, it probably has had an affect on the STEP program. But I remain very optimistic about the future. I think Bill O’Brien is the right guy, right now, and I think we’re going to see positive things.
StateCollege.com: What’s the feedback you’re getting from people when you are out at events around the state or out-of-state? Is there still a negative perception toward Penn State because of the scandal?
Joyner: I think it’s waning a little bit. We don’t want to ever forget what’s gone on. We don’t ever want not be reverent and not be respectful of what’s gone on. But you either lay there or you get going -- and we got to get going. I think our fans and our people as a whole, are not forgetting, but they’re moving on and they’re paying attention to the business that we need to do as a fan base, too.
StateCollege.com: What are your feelings about Joe Paterno, who was your coach and did a lot for the university before being fired?
Joyner: The guy did an unbelievable job. He is the greatest college football coach of all time – 409 (wins) will never be reached in your lifetime, my lifetime or anybody’s lifetime. The legacy he left of academic success and athletic success is profound and it’s never going to change.
Whatever happened in the last six months and what has come to light … I think Bill O’Brien respects what’s going on here and what went on here.
StateCollege.com: How hard has it been to move on? This fall could be a mess, with the Louis Freeh investigation, football season, the NCAA inquiry and perhaps even the Sandusky trial.
Joyner: The NCAA and Big Ten, my last information with that -- and that has been quite a while ago -- is that they’re in a holding pattern, they’re still watching what’s going on and looking at everything that’s happened. Obviously, the Attorney General’s Office is doing what they do.
The Dept. of Education was up here at the end of last year in regards to the Clery Act, and I haven’t seen them back, but that’s obviously still out there. The Freeh thing still is ongoing ... and they have talked to many of our people.
StateCollege.com: Are you expecting the worst?
Joyner: I think these last six months are going to be great preparation for what’s going to come in the next six months. I don’t know what will happen – you get surprised sometimes by certain things causing certain other things to happen.
But this year, there are going to be some other things going on in June with the trial, and Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, as we get into whenever that is going to be, and the Freeh report. All those things are going to cause certain things to happen.
StateCollege.com: You grew up in State College and you played football for Joe Paterno. How hard has all this been on you personally?
Joyner: It’s a tough situation. ... It’s a no-win. I’m very saddened by the events that have occurred for the university, for everybody that’s been involved. That’s the human part of it. … I’ve known everybody involved in this process for a long time, so there is a personal side. It would be hard to find somebody in Pennsylvania or Centre County that didn’t know the people involved.
StateCollege.com: You gave Michigan permission to interview women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington a few weeks ago and then held a news conference to say she was staying. Can we expect to see new contracts for her and wrestling coach Cael Sanderson in the future?
Joyner: I didn’t say there weren’t any extensions, I just said that I don’t talk about contracts. On the other hand, I will say this – we always are in discussions with coaches about trying to do the right thing for the university and the coaches. Those discussions will continue and are ongoing.
StateCollege.com: Hockey is coming to Happy Valley for both men and women. How big of a hit do you think it will be?
Joyner: There’s a ton of excitement. I said it at the groundbreaking ceremony, `Penn State needs to be a hockey place because it is a hockey place.’ Pennsylvania is a hockey hotbed as you know. It may not be like Minnesota, but we're going to catch up to them.
I mean, we have a great (AHL) hockey program here with the Hershey Bears. And we are centrally located between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and that will be great because of all the fans we have here who love the Penguins and the Flyers. I think hockey is going to do great here.
I think this arena is a real landmark, I mean, (Terry) Pegula’s gift is going to enable you to build something that is really going to be special. And it’s on schedule to be ready in early September of 2013.