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Trustee Joel Myers Explains Vote to Oust Paterno as Head Football Coach

by on April 11, 2014 10:02 AM

Longtime Penn State Board of Trustees member Joel Myers explained why he voted to remove Joe Paterno as head football coach in November 2011.

Myers explained his decision during an interview Friday morning on WRSC-FM with fellow board member Anthony Lubrano. To listen to the entire interview, see the link below.

Paterno was ousted following the indictment of Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now a convicted pedophile.

Myers, a longtime board member who is currently seeking reelection, says the board voted unanimously to remove Paterno as head coach for two reasons – it was believed Paterno was unable to run the team in the climate created by the Sandusky scandal and Paterno's plan to retire at the end of the season circumvented the authority of the board.

Myers says there was "no practical way Joe Paterno could have run the football program that Saturday" with all of the news media attention that would be on the football program – including coaches and players.

"The fact is it was not possible for Joe to continue to run the football program with what was going on," Myers says.

Additionally, when Paterno issued a statement announcing he would remain head coach until the end of the 2011 season and then retire, Myers says that independent decision, without consultation of the board, essentially removed authority from the board.

Myers says Paterno's statement implied "that football is special, that the board let the football coach in effect operate on its own without any oversight."

"The football coach is telling the Board of Trustees hands off of the football program ... that's the antithesis of institutional control of athletics," Myers says.

Additionally, Myers noted the board has the authority to terminate university employees without "due process" to meet the needs of the university.

Myers says the decision was not intended to indicate Paterno was guilty of any internal cover-up of the Sandusky abuse.

In the aftermath, Paterno released a statement saying in part, "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Later, former state investigator Frank Fina said in an interview with 60 Minutes that the evidence shows Paterno was not part of the alleged criminal cover up. Still, Fina agreed, Paterno should have done more to report the abuse.

"I don't see any need to judge him beyond his own words," Fina says. "He said it best, 'I didn't do enough. I should've done more.'"

At the same time, three former Penn State administrators, including former President Graham Spanier currently face criminal charges for  allegedly trying to cover-up the Sandusky scandal. The board decided to terminate Spanier in the wake of the scandal.

Myers says Spanier had too much authority at Penn State.

"Here we had a situation where the board had to act over a couple of days and it became obvious Graham Spanier hadn't kept the board informed," Myers says. "Graham Spanier had a lot of authority, he had in retrospect far too much. ... Obviously he didn't keep the board informed with things they should know about."

In response, Lubrano challenged Myers saying the board should be held responsible for allowing Paterno and Spanier to have too much power. Myers argued the board took responsibility with its actions to remove Paterno and Spanier as well as moves to reform the communication and organizational models of the board and administration.

Lubrano also praised a decision issued this week by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that deemed a state law known as the Endowment Act as constitutional. The law targets the $60 million fine the NCAA leveled against Penn State as a result of the Sandusky scandal and says the money must be spent in Pennsylvania.

Lubrano says the decision calls into question the NCAA consent decree as a whole, which Penn State agreed to with the NCAA. The consent decree included unprecedented sanctions against the football program, including a four-year ban on post-season games.

"I was pleasantly surprised (with the court's decision). I didn't anticipate that they would go to this extent. They're highly focused on due process. They were deeply troubled by how the NCAA imposed these sanctions and failed to follow due process," Lubrano says.

Myers says he did not support the consent decree university President Rodney Erickson signed.

"I objected and did all I could behind the scenes to argue the university. The president was not in a position to sign for the board and that's really what this is about," Myers says. "I think the NCAA was wrong. I've said that all along, they didn't have the authority to do what they did."

However, he says the university was obligated to comply with the terms or face further sanctions.

"You have to deal with the shape of the world, the world's not flat, it's round. You have to deal with reality," he says.

Editor's Note: Joel Myers is the father of Dan Myers. Dan Myers is the owner of Lazer Pro Digital Media Group, the parent company of StateCollege.com.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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