In March 2012, Penn State’s board of trustees issued a unanimous statement to the effect that it fired coach Joe Paterno for “a failure of leadership” in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The recent depositions of trustees Kenneth Frazier and Keith Masser in state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s lawsuit against the NCAA show instead, however, that the board fired Paterno solely for public relations reasons.
Masser testified, “The decision to remove coach Paterno had nothing to do with what he had known, what he hadn’t done. It was based upon the distraction of having him on the sidelines would have caused the university and the current football team harm.”
The clarity we have from Frazier’s and Masser’s depositions is that they, and their colleagues as of March 2012 (including ex-Gov. Tom Corbett), not only scapegoated Paterno, but then lied about it to the public and to the organization to which they owed a fiduciary duty.
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As ex-trustee Karen Peetz put it after she said Paterno’s service was marred, “We have to step back and ask, what does that mean?”
First, it means these so-called captains of business, industry and agriculture crossed a line that shows them ethically capable of lying to stockholders, customers, employees, suppliers, clients and other organizational stakeholders.
More to the immediate point, however, is the missing Paterno statue that symbolizes Penn State’s academic and athletic excellence. The one that ex-trustee Paul Suhey directed ex-president Rodney Erickson to remove to pacify the NCAA.
William A. Levinson