PHILADELPHIA — Anthony Lubrano has donated millions to Penn State. The state-of-the-art baseball facility adjacent to Beaver Stadium bears the Chester County financial adviser’s name. But until the night of Nov. 9, he had no interest in how his alma mater was governed.
But ever since that surreal night, when the Penn State trustees dismissed Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions’ legendary football coach and Lubrano’s friend, the 1982 graduate has been obsessed with finding out why.
“I was horrified that night,” said Lubrano, 51.
In a telephone interview Thursday, just hours before Lubrano’s planned “counter- informational” session at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, where new Penn State president Rodney Erickson also was meeting with alumni, Lubrano spoke of what he’d learned in two months of “extensive work on this.”
Along with the firing of Paterno, the board at the same time accepted the resignation of former president Graham Spanier.
Lubrano said he has spoken so far to 17 of the 32 trustees who, in a unanimous vote, dismissed the coach — five days after his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on child sex-abuse charges. In addition, Lubrano also talked with administrators, fellow donors and, as recently as Tuesday, to Paterno himself.
As a result, Lubrano has become convinced the Sandusky scandal provided a convenient excuse for an administration that had been trying since 2004 to gently nudge Paterno out the door.
“His firing had nothing to do with Sandusky,” Lubrano said. “Nothing. ... He (Paterno) had become less involved in fundraising and there’d been some kind of falling out with Spanier. Spanier got to the point where he really wanted to replace him.”
The stunning dismissal came shortly after Paterno had announced he would step down after the season.
But according to Lubrano, Paterno had informed Penn State before the season of his intention to retire after 2011. The coach, he added, also provided administrators at that time with a list of four prospective replacements. One of the men on that list, Lubrano said, was Urban Meyer.
After news of the Penn State scandal broke, Meyer, who had retired in December 2010 after guiding Florida to two national titles and three Southeastern Conference championships in six seasons, instead accepted the head-coaching job at Ohio State.
“From what I’ve been told, Meyer wanted the job here,” said Lubrano.
Lubrano said Paterno was rebuffed when he attempted to meet with the board after the scandal surfaced, tainting the program Paterno had led since 1966.
The impetus for Lubrano’s Thursday night informational session, in a room just down the hall from where Erickson would answer scandal-related questions from alums, came after the university president held a similar meeting Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Lubrano termed the answers Erickson gave at the Pittsburgh session as “unsatisfactory.”
After that meeting, Franco Harris, the ex-Penn State star who has been among the most vocal critics of the university’s treatment of Paterno, called Lubrano and suggested they provide their own answers to alumni.
“I couldn’t let Franco be out there by himself,” Lubrano said.