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Joyner: Severance Pay for Former PSU Football Coaches Tops $4 Million; More Board Updates

on January 20, 2012 12:16 PM

Severance pay for the seven Penn State assistant football coaches not retained under Bill O'Brien will amount to nearly $4.5 million, acting athletics director David Joyner said Friday.

Speaking before the university trustees, Joyner said the expense will be covered with monies from an athletics reserve fund. The severance tally does not include any money for former football Coach Joe Paterno, whose financial contract is being honored by Penn State, according to the university.

O'Brien, named the new Penn State football head coach this month, retained only two members of Paterno's nine-member assistant-coaching staff: Larry Johnson and Rob Vanderlinden. The trustees fired Paterno on Nov. 9 as criminal sexual-abuse allegations against a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, emerged.

The trustees are meeting Friday at the Nittany Lion Inn, their second regular gathering since the Paterno ouster and the resignation of Graham Spanier as president. Their morning session included reports from Joyner and Rodney Erickson, the new university president.

Among Joyner's other remarks Friday:

  • He said the athletic department is working daily on adherence to the federal Clery Act, which requires many federally supported colleges and universities to disclose on-campus crime.
  • It appears that Penn State football has lost one sponsor in the wake of the Sandusky charges, Joyner said. "But that may have been one that was up for renewal," he added. He said athletics staffers are continuing to meet with sponsors on road trips.
  • "Having Coach O'Brien on board has been a positive influence on the staff" in athletics, Joyner said. To his knowledge, he said, no recruits have been lost.
  • The athletic department is taking a wait-and-see approach to football season-ticket sales, Joyner said. He said the majority of the department's correspondence from fans has been upbeat since O'Brien's inaugural press conference this month. It hadn't been so positive in the weeks prior, Joyner noted.

Penn State moved the board meeting from its regular location, on the basement level of the Nittany Lion Inn, to the inn ballroom Friday. The ballroom is set up to accommodate roughly a couple hundred observers -- many more than what the basement-level space would allow.

Nearly all of those seats appeared to be filled for the board's morning session, which ran about an hour. Many of the observers are alumni, some of them planning to run for board seats. A relative handful of demonstrators appeared outside the inn during the morning, as well.

Board members are scheduled to reconvene at 1:15 p.m. for the afternoon session, which is to include the appointment of board officers for 2012. The session will be open to the public.

The meeting is scheduled to conclude by 3 p.m.

Among Erickson's remarks in the morning session:

  • "Openness and frankness have served me well in my 39 years of higher education, and, frankly, that's the only way I know how to operate," he said. "I also believe openness and communication are the best way to move Penn State forward. There's a perception that Penn State hasn't always been as forthcoming as we might be,and I'm actively working to reach out to our constituencies, to listen, to be more accountable, and to candidly respond to questions to the extent that I have the answers, recognizing that there are many questions which remain as yet answered."
  • Erickson also emphasized Penn State's emboldened commitment to sexual-abuse prevention, awareness and treatment. The university, he said, is "revisiting a wide array of policies and programs to ensure that we go above and beyond the legal requirements. We're widely disseminating information about sexual abuse and the reporting of assaults and harassment so that our faculty, staff and students understand the legal and moral imperatives and how to act in response."
  • Penn State continues to see increases in undergraduate applications, thus far seeing a three percent jump over the record logged last year, Erickson said. Research expenditures are up nearly four percent this year, as well, he said. And while it's too soon to assess the impact of the scandal on fundraising, Erickson went on, the number of contributors to the Penn State Annual Fund is "essentially" unchanged from last year. Alumni Association membership is up two percent over last year, he added.

The full text of Erickson's remarks, including his stated objectives for 2012, is available via Penn State Live.

Among those attending the Friday meeting is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who, by virtue of his position, is a Penn State board member. He said he's "tremendously impressed by the work of students in calming the situation after the events of November.

"Unfortunately, I think they've been a lost story" in the news media, Corbett went on. But "I think they deserve a round of applause from our Board of Trustees."

The board obliged. Said Erickson: "I couldn't agree with you more, governor. They really have set the tone in terms of spirit and moving on."

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