Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney have made some changes to their federal lawsuit against Penn State.
Lawyers for the two former assistant football coaches filed an amended complaint Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The new filing adds a fifth count to the suit, charging breach of contract.
According to the documents, the two men claim that Penn State’s human resource manager for intercollegiate athletics, Erikka Runkle, “orally agreed in mid-December 2011 that each plaintiff would be paid their full salary through the end of the academic year (i.e., through to the end of June 30, 2012).”
That was a month after Joe Paterno was fired as head coach in the wake of public outcry over retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest for sexual abuse of young boys. The longtime coach died in 2012, after the university hired Bill O’Brien to lead the program.
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The issue arose due to the way in which the staff was hired. Like public schoolteachers who work with students for nine months but can opt to spread their checks over a full year, the football coaches’ schedule was top heavy from July until December or January. In the filing, they say that it was Penn State’s practice, instituted by Joe Paterno, to pay 18 months of severance pay for coaches released without cause, beginning July 1.
While they claim Runkle agreed to that, it was not what happened. They say that severance started immediately when O’Brien elected not to retain the two men for his coaching staff, effectively shorting them six months pay.
The document also picks up the thread of other Penn State-related cases in recent weeks by citing emails involving the NCAA made public in Commonwealth Court. Specifically, it cites the internal NCAA email between executives discussing “bluffing” Penn State into accepting the consent decree and its historic sanctions. Also referenced are documents that point to possible collaboration between the NCAA and Louis Freeh’s investigators on the Penn State-commissioned investigation of the scandal.
“Specifically, the Freeh (f)irm provided frequent briefings to the NCAA, contacted the NCAA’s representatives to discuss areas of inquiry and strategies and further cooperated with the NCAA, all with the purpose of injuring plaintiffs to deprive them of their procedural rights, or at least acting in reckless disregard of substantially certain injury to plaintiffs with no legitimate purpose,” the filing stated.
They also allege “a collaboratively designed effort by Penn State and the NCAA” to have a “unified message,” and that message damaged their reputations without any recourse.
The court also filed an order in the case Monday, granting a request by the plaintiffs to cancel a December hearing in the case.