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McQueary Put on Indefinite Leave; Erickson Announces Promise to Penn State Community

on November 11, 2011 5:25 PM

Interim Penn State President Rodney Erickson and acting athletic director Mark Sherburne have placed assistant football coach Mike McQueary on indefinite administrative leave, Erickson announced Friday afternoon.

He said McQueary will not coach or appear at Saturday's Penn State football game against Nebraska, to be held in Beaver Stadium.

"It became clear that coach McQueary could not function in this role under these circumstances," Erickson told reporters in a Nittany Lion Inn press conference. Pressed for more information, he did not get into details about why McQueary has not been fired, citing undisclosed complexities.

Erickson said McQueary is being compensated while he is on leave. Sherburne told McQueary of his leave Friday afternoon, Erickson said.

McQueary has become a lightning rod for public criticism since last week, when criminal charges were filed against former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of a prolonged pattern of child sex abuse going back some 15 years.

A grand-jury inquiry found that McQueary saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 2002 but did not immediately inform police, according to the state attorney general.

Two Penn State administrators -- Tim Curley and Gary Schultz -- have been charged with helping to cover up concerns about Sandusky. Curley was placed on administrative leave this week; Schultz returned to retirement.

In related action, the university trustees announced the departures Wednesday of football coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier.

Erickson broke a variety of other news at his Friday press conference. Among the latest developments:

  • Erickson said Spanier remains a tenured faculty member at the university. Spanier is a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Development and in the College of the Liberal Arts, Erickson said. "If Dr. Spanier were to resume a role of teaching and research in the traditional faculty sense, then he would return to his professional role in one or more of those particular units," Erickson said.
  • Erickson announced a five-point promise to the Penn State community. Those commitments:

-- "I will reinforce to the entire Penn State community the moral imperative of doing the right thing -- the first time, every time." That means the university will revisit all standards, policies and programs, to make sure they're law-abiding and meet university standards, Erickson said. He also will appoint an ethics officer and have an open-door policy, he reported. "Never again should anyone at Penn State feel scared to do the right thing."

-- "As I lead by example, I will expect no less of others." That means he will ensure "proper governance and oversight exists across the entire university, including Intercollegiate Athletics," Erickson said.

-- Penn State is committed to transparency "to the fullest extent possible given the ongoing investigations," Erickson said. He committed to providing meaningful and timely updates, and said he encourages dialogue within the Penn State community.

-- "We will be respectful and sensitive to the victims and their families. We will seek appropriate ways to foster healing and raise broader awareness of the issue of sexual abuse," Erickson said.

-- Finally, Erickson said, his administration will fully support a special Penn State committee investigating Sandusky's alleged crimes and the alleged cover-up at the university.

  • Erickson said he's heartened by students' effort to wear blue at the Nebraska game -- an effort to raise awareness of child sex abuse. Penn Staters also have begun raising money to help victims. "It is this kind of compassion and teamwork that really represent the best of Penn State University," Erickson said. He also thanked the "thousands of people" who've reached out to him.
  • Whether Curley, now on administrative leave, will be dismissed from Penn State is an ongoing topic of discussion, Erickson said. "I'll return to that next week," he said. He also said whether Penn State will keep paying Schultz's legal fees has yet to be determined.
  • Penn State will have extra security on hand for Saturday's Nebraska game. And the university "would ask everyone to be very mindful of what's going on around them," Erickson said. "I can assure that we've taken every precaution we possibly can. We have every indication that we will have a safe game-day experience."
  • There are no plans to honor Paterno at the Nebraska game, Erickson said. He said Paterno has left a tremendous legacy and that he expects the university, "in due course," will recognize that. "But now is not the time to get into specifics," Erickson said.
  • Erickson does not know if Paterno will attend the Nebraska game as a spectator. But "clearly he's welcome to come as any other member of the public would be," Erickson said.
  • Erickson also encouraged any Sandusky victims to step forward to authorities if they haven't already done so. And he encouraged Penn State students to "open up and talk about these kinds of issues, to bring it out in the open. We can't learn from this until" we do, he said. He said Penn State has an opportunity to take on the cause.
  • Erickson said he expects that Spanier will move from the Schreyer House, the university presidential quote on the north side of University Park. He indicated he has not given thought to moving into Schreyer House himself, nor to accepting the presidency on a more permanent basis.
  • Penn State students have organized a candlelight vigil -- for the victims of child sex abuse -- for 9:30 p.m. Friday. Erickson, told of the event specifics at the press conference, said he will "certainly" attend the vigil if he can.

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