Penn State's student member of the board of trustees is withdrawing as a plaintiff in the Paterno family's lawsuit against the NCAA, saying he was threatened with being removed from the group that's searching for the next university president if he didn't drop out.
Peter Khoury, a master's student, said Monday night that he didn't want to jeopardize the role in which he serves as the voice of more than 84,000 undergraduate and graduate students across all university campuses to the board. Court papers seeking his withdrawal from the suit will be filed soon, he said.
"My decision to come off of the suit entails looking at my unique position being a student who represents the university's interest and also looking at what would be best to continue ensured and effective participation of a student in critical university matters here," said Khoury, who declined to discuss the specific events that to led the ultimatum and his decision.
Penn State's board spokesman, David La Torre, declined to comment on Khoury's withdrawal and the threat. Penn State is not a party in the suit, though four trustees, with Khoury's departure, and four professors are plaintiffs.
Khoury's decision comes after trustees who are plaintiffs in the suit were pressured by the board to withdraw from it, trustees said. And last month at the board's executive session in southwestern Pennsylvania, football coach Bill O'Brien delivered a presentation about a plan to ask the NCAA to modify the sanctions, and one slide said that lawsuits will not help the university's cause.
The Paterno family and their supporters sued the NCAA in May to reverse the sanctions against Penn State.
Five trustees signed on, including Ryan McCombie and Adam Taliaferro, and two of them, Anthony Lubrano and Alvin Clemens, said they were asked to withdraw but won't back down.
"I'm disappointed that board leadership resorted to those tactics," Lubrano said. "I have no plans to withdraw from the lawsuit."
Clemens said he is continuing with the fight against the NCAA, calling the organization "out of control" for the way it handed down harsh sanctions against Penn State based on the Freeh report's findings.
Khoury, 23, of Allentown, is a member of the presidential search council, a group that includes 12 trustees tasked with selecting the successor to Penn State President Rodney Erickson.
Khoury said the support from student groups for his joining the lawsuit was "overwhelmingly positive," and he doesn't want his withdrawing from the suit to affect the other trustee plaintiffs.
"My original intent for joining the suit was to get the truth for how things developed with the NCAA, to uncover the truth," he said. "Certainly, the individuals who are participating in the suit have their hearts in the right place, in terms of going ahead and trying to uncover the truth and really work towards what is right.
"Just because I've come off of it, I hope that others can respect that others are still on it."