Penn State students rallied at Old Main and elsewhere last night in support of coach Joe Paterno, even as The New York Times reported that Paterno would soon be ousted by the university’s board of trustees.
Trustee Paul Silvis confirmed the trustees were meeting Tuesday night — largely by telephone — to discuss the allegations that former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused eight boys, and that administrators made aware of one instance of abuse failed to report it to law enforcement. Another trustees meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today.
“The board of directors is very concerned about the chain of events that have occurred,” said Silvis, a Centre County resident and founder of Restek.
“We’re making sure we put processes in place so that we never have anyone in a position of trust ever violate young boys ever again,” he said. “It’s just shameful what happened. We need to focus not on football, not on Paterno or any of that crap. It’s about putting systems, procedures, checks and balances in place so this can never happen ever again.”
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Following the meeting, the trustees issued a statement saying Friday they would appoint a special committee to investigate the circumstances detailed by the grand jury, determine what failures occurred, who is responsible, what must be done to insure it never happens again, and to ensure those responsible “are held fully accountable.”
“We cannot begin to express the combination of sorrow and anger that we feel about the allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky,” the statement reads. “We hear those of you who feel betrayed and we want to assure all of you that the board will take swift, decisive action.”
The New York Times cited two anonymous sources as saying that trustees were planning Paterno’s exit. Several trustees contacted by the Centre Daily Times said they had no knowledge of such a plan.
However, one source close to the board said “there’s no question that support for Paterno on the board is eroding.”
This issue of Joe Paterno’s departure has come up periodically in the past few decades, the source said, but “this is not usually an issue that’s voted on by the board of trustees.”
The source said a decision about Paterno’s future could be made by Friday.
“Theoretically, it’s up to the president of the university to make a decision about the football coach,” the source said. “However, we are now in a difficult situation because of the sexual (abuse) allegations, so that could change the playing field.”
As much as the allegations against Sandusky, suggestions of a cover-up have rocked Penn State. According to a report issued by the grand jury, Sandusky was seen in 2002 by a graduate assistant — now assistant coach — Mike McQueary having sex in a Lasch Football Building shower room with a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old.
McQueary reported what he’d seen to Paterno the next morning, and Paterno reported the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business, who oversaw university police. Both Curley and Schultz denied being aware that the incident was sexual in nature, or being aware that a crime had occurred.
No report was made to law enforcement or child protective services.
State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and others have suggested that the people involved had a moral obligation to contact law enforcement.
Hundreds of reporters and photographers, waiting outside Beaver Stadium for an opportunity to question Paterno about that situation at his weekly press conference were greeted by Jeff Nelson, athletic department spokesman, who informed them the press conference had been canceled.
Paterno’s son, Scott, said via Twitter that it was Spanier, not the coach, who canceled the press conference.
Paterno seemed to corroborate that when he spoke to a throng of reporters gathered outside his home when he left shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday to go to practice.
“I know you guys have a lot of questions,” Paterno said to the group. “And I was hoping I was going to be able to answer them today. ... But we’ll try to do it as soon as we can.”
Scott Paterno also tweeted: “NYT report premature. No discussions about retirement with (Joe Paterno).”
Reached Tuesday night by phone, McQueary’s father, John, confirmed that Mike McQueary was back in town after a weekend recruiting trip. The CDT confirmed that McQueary attended Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
“The attorney general in Harrisburg told us, because we are witnesses, they told us not to make any comment whatsoever,” John McQueary said.
Penn State on Tuesday also announced that the 35th annual Renaissance Fund dinner, originally scheduled for this evening, had been postponed. Spanier and his wife, professor of English Sandra Spanier, were to be honored at the dinner. According to a statement from Penn State, Spanier asked for the postponement of the dinner until spring, because “our attention is so heavily focused right now on the troubling charges.”
Also Tuesday, an order was issued by Centre County Judge Thomas Kistler on behalf of three of Sandusky’s grandchildren. The order states that the children, who live with both their parents in a shared custody arrangement, cannot be in the presence of, or at the home of their grandfather without supervision, said county Prothonotary Deb Immel. There also are to be no overnight visits at Sandusky’s home.
Two members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation weighed in on the Sandusky scandal Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking Duncan to investigate whether federal law was broken in the failure to properly report allegations of sexual abuse.
“These allegations of misconduct are incredibly upsetting and disturbing,” said Meehan. “Aside from the charges against individuals — we need to look at whether a federal law that requires colleges and universities to report crimes on campus was broken.”
“It’s an ongoing prosecution, and I’d say very simply that anyone involved in this, whether by accident or by cover-up, or any complicity at all, should get long prison sentences,” said Sen. Bob Casey. “It’s as simple as that. It’s horrific what happened.”
Regarding Paterno’s fate, he said “This investigation isn’t over, so we’ll have to see.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that another potential victim has contacted authorities.
The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky’s arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.
State police at Rockview, and the Attorney General’s Office, would not confirm the report. The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News, said the man is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from The Second Mile charity and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.
About 200 Penn State students rallied in a show of support outside Paterno’s State college home, and more than 100 students, also in support of Paterno, rallied outside Old Main after hearing reports that trustees were meeting.
Penn State supporters speculated about what the scandal will mean for the university and its football program.
“It’s already tarnished,” former PSU football broadcaster Fran Fisher said of the program. “It’s a question of what happens at this point forward.
“I have every confidence in the ability of Joe to handle anything. This is probably the most difficult challenge he’s had, I would suspect.”
Bryce Jordan, who was Penn State president from 1983 to 1990, and now lives in Austin, Texas, said he heard no allegations against, or rumors about, Sandusky during his tenure.
“First and foremost, I’m sad for the children who may have been damaged ... The second thing is — I’m concerned about a great institution that I love, and one that (his wife) Barbara loves,” Jordan said. “It’s an institution that gave me the best professional experiences of my life. So that concern is with both of us. And third, and I really feel this, I know that Penn State’s foundations have been and are going to continue to be deep and solid.”
CDT staff writers Mike Dawson, Cliff White, Ed Mahon, Anne Danahy and Chris Rosenblum contributed to this report.