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Paterno Family: 'Surprised and Saddened' by Board of Trustees Report Outlining Decision to Fire Coach

by on March 12, 2012 10:55 AM

UPDATE: 3:17 p.m.

The Paterno family, through its attorney, has issued a response to the Board of Trustees report outlining the decision to oust football coach Joe Paterno in wake of the Sandusky scandal.

The statement reads:

"The latest statement is yet another attempt by the board to deflect criticism of their leadership by trying to focus the blame on Joe Paterno. This is not fair to Joe's legacy; it is not consistent with the facts; and it does not serve the best interests of the university. The board's latest statement reaffirms that they did not conduct a thorough investigation of their own and engaged in a rush to judgment.

"At various times, university officials have said that they fired Joe Paterno. At other times they have said they didn't fire him. They have simultaneously accused him of moral and leadership failures, and praised him for the high standards he set for the university.

"The tough questions that have yet to be addressed relate not to Joe Paterno, but to the board. Two months ago, as Joe Paterno was dying, the board conducted a series of media interviews condemning him for 'moral' failures. Now they are trying a different tack and accusing him of 'leadership' failures.

"The question we would ask is simply this, when will the board step up and acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for this crisis is theirs? Everyone who cares about Penn State is longing for strong, courageous, honest leadership. Today's statement is anything but that."

Earlier: 10:55 a.m.

It’s been 125 days since the Penn State Board of Trustees removed former coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier from their positions as football coach and university president, respectively.

So, after an outpouring of demand by students, faculty, staff and alumni to know the exact reasons why these decisions were made, Penn State on Monday released a report — again — on why Paterno and Spanier had to go.

The report goes into a little more detail than simple words such as, “best interest of the university,” saying Paterno did not do more to follow up on a report of alleged sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, which constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.

It also sheds light on how the university plans to honor Paterno since his passing Jan. 22 because of complications from lung cancer treatments.

“It has always been the Board’s intention to fulfill his employment contract and to name him head coach emeritus,” the report states.

“Other options also are under consideration, but the Board feels it would be premature to make any final decision at least until the final report of the independent counsel Judge Louis Freeh is publicly issued in conjunction with the Special Investigations Task Force.”

As for why Paterno and Spanier got fired . . .

Joe Paterno

The unanimous decision to fire the coach of nearly 46 years came after the Board determined Paterno constituted a failure of leadership.

The Board reasoned Paterno should have called police after a graduate assistant told him he had seen Jerry Sandusky with a young boy in the Lasch Football Building showers.

The Board said that a Nov. 5 meeting was the first instance it had learned of Paterno’s sworn testimony from the Grand Jury presentment, where Paterno said Mike McQueary told him Sandusky was in the showers “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

The decision came at 9 p.m. Nov. 9, after hours of discussion the previous four days.

Because of a swarming media presence outside Paterno’s home, the Board sent Fran Ganter, the associate athletic director for football, to deliver a note to Paterno that said to call the Board. Ganter remains employed on the football staff under first-year coach Bill O'Brien.

The report said the Board planned to tell him, in order, that he would be fired, that it regretted having to do so over the telephone and that his employment contract would continue, including all financial benefits and continued status as a tenured faculty member.

Paterno hung up immediately after the Board said he was no longer the football coach at Penn State.

Graham Spanier

The Board determined Spanier failed to meet his leadership responsibilities to the Board by insufficiently informing it about his knowledge of the 2002 incident in the Lasch Building showers.

The Board said Spanier also made press announcements between Nov. 5-9 that were without authorization of the Board.

Spanier asked for a vote of confidence Nov. 9 but was denied one, and the Board also unanimously decided to fire him as president. He remains a tenured professor at Penn State.

Penn State also announced the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, joined by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, have agreed to co-sponsor a national forum with the university at Penn State on child sexual abuse.

Related coverage:

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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