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Sources: Spanier Volunteered to Step Aside at Penn State, Was Not Fired

on November 16, 2011 2:45 PM

National news media have said Graham Spanier was fired, dismissed, forced to fall from grace as the Penn State president.

But in fact, Spanier offered to step down as Penn State president well before university board leadership announced his exit Nov. 9, according to university sources.

He did so voluntarily and with grace, these sources said. In the process, they said, Spanier was trying to provide Penn State with a clear path forward.

"He really felt it would be in the best interests of the university," one source said.

The sources, directly familiar with Spanier's thinking, spoke to on the condition that they not be named, given the sensitive circumstances. They indicated Spanier is distraught over the public perception that he was ordered to leave the presidency, which he filled for 16 years.

Spanier remains a tenured Penn State faculty member in the College of the Liberal Arts and in the College of Health and Human Development, new university President Rodney Erickson reported Friday.

The university trustees elevated Erickson from his prior position -- as provost and executive vice president -- into the presidency last week. The board announced his promotion Nov. 9 in a campus press conference.

During the same gathering, board Vice Chairman John Surma announced Spanier's departure from the presidency and Joe Paterno's removal as head football coach. At the time, Surma said the board and Spanier had decided together on Spanier's exit from the presidency. (A statement released under Spanier's name on Nov. 9 is posted here.)

The board announcements came four days after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, accused of child sexual abuse, was charged with 40 criminal counts.

In connection with that case, two university administrators -- Tim Curley and Gary Schultz -- have been accused of lying to a grand jury and helping to keep quiet some concerns about Sandusky. They are charged with perjury and failure to report.

Neither Spanier nor Paterno has been charged with any wrongdoing, and state Attorney General Linda Kelly has said Paterno is not a target in an ongoing investigation.

Still, support for Spanier and Paterno waned among a number of university trustees, according to a source close to the board.

Paterno was told of an alleged sexual incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in March 2002, according to a grand-jury report. Paterno, as required by law, shared details with a supervisor, the grand-jury report says. But there's no indication in the report that Paterno ever approached police with the information.

Later, Spanier approved an internal order that banned Sandusky from bringing Second Mile children into a football building on campus, Kelly has said.

But he did so "without any further inquiry on his part," she said in a prepared statement last week. (The nonprofit Second Mile, founded by Sandusky in 1977, is a youth-service organization.)

Spanier and Paterno have limited their public remarks since charges were filed against Sandusky, Schultz and Curley. On Tuesday, Paterno family members collected and removed belongings -- including trophies -- from Paterno's former office on campus, a university source said.

Meanwhile, The Daily Collegian reported that Spanier has stepped aside from a number of other leadership roles. And Penn State announced Wednesday the appointment of trustee David Joyner as acting athletic director at the university.

Earlier and ongoing coverage is available through the page linked below.

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