Lubrano, Harris Host 'Real Talk' Forum Following Trustees Meeting
They gathered fewer than 100 steps from those they scorn, the ones they say are responsible for unjustly firing Joe Paterno.
Tucked in a back basement wing at the Nittany Lion Inn, they sat, listened and questioned the actions of Penn State's Board of Trustees in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sexual-abuse scandal two months ago — the decision to oust the 84-year-old coach after 61 years of service to the university via a phone call, and the communication in the days, weeks and even months after the scandal hit.
They are the Paterno-loyalists, led by disgruntled donor Anthony Lubrano, whose name is plastered on the baseball stadium on the east side of campus, and Franco Harris, the former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers running back.
At the same time Lubrano and Harris hosted their "Real Talk" town-hall forum Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Corbett and the new faces of the board addressed the media down the hall, just past a football recruiting reception, following a three-hour meeting that ended with a change in board leadership.
Inside the small room, about 100 people shuffled in to take a seat, grab a cup of coffee or water offered in the back or mingle with friends. Stationed at the front of the room was a clunky 20-something-inch flat-screen TV, playing a video called "Success With Honor," with pictures of men such as Tim Curley and Joe Paterno. In the four corners of the room and at the entrance were white poster boards with famous Paterno-isms.
Lubrano called for the nine alumni seats on the board to be completely turned over, a process that would be staggered over years as only three seats are open this upcoming election. Then, the argument went, long-term restructuring of the board must occur, which could be even more far off and would have to involve new legislation or changing the school's charter and seeking approval through the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
Otherwise, talk focused on the events in the last two months, namely Nov. 9, when Paterno was fired, and the board's decision to offer no apology for its actions. Earlier, Steve Garban, the former chair of the board, said he had regrets from the last two months, but "one I don't have is that the board acted decisive and unanimously."
Audience members engaged in back-and-forth discussion, some drivel, some hearsay and some pointed remarks. "We're not looking to assign guilt; we're looking for due process," Lubrano said.
Lubrano, Harris and so many others indicated they have no intention of stopping their conversation.
"In order for you to heal, there has to be an acknowledgement for what causes the ailment," said Lubrano, a 1982 alumnus who also was a walk-on for the baseball team.
The board announced it will meet with alumni to answer questions in a forum similar to those that President Rodney Erickson hosted last week in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York. It will be a chance for Lubrano, Harris and hundreds of other alumni to ask the board about its actions during the university's darkest moment.
So far, all they've gotten is a chance to listen. Lubrano did so Friday, taking notes during the meeting.
Afterward, the new board chairwoman, Karen Peetz, announced she's going to continue the policy of transparency. Lubrano told his audience, and they laughed.
"We all know how that's going," he said.
- Peetz Pledges Support to Abuse Victims; PSU Board Adopts Recommendations, Hears from Corbett (Jan. 20, 2012)
- Joyner: Severance Pay for Former PSU Football Coaches Tops $4 Million; More Board Updates (Jan. 20, 2012)