Penn State: Paterno's History of Fighting for Students to Not Be Punished

In the wake of a stunning child abuse scandal that has rocked the program and the university, the WSJ's Reed Alberghotti has a chilling story which reveals more facts about the way students on the football team were disciplined for years at Penn State 

Specifically, their coach Joe Paterno often butted heads with administrators because he wanted his boys to play, not to be punished. The conflict got so intense that a university official (a woman) in charge of disciplinary matters ended up resigning:

...An Aug. 12, 2005, email to Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier and others, Vicky Triponey, the university's standards and conduct officer, complained that Mr. Paterno believed she should have "no interest, (or business) holding our football players accountable to our community standards. The Coach is insistent he knows best how to discipline his players…and their status as a student when they commit violations of our standards should NOT be our concern…and I think he was saying we should treat football players different from other students in this regard."

The confrontations came to a head in 2007, according to one former school official, when six football players were charged by police for forcing their way into a campus apartment that April and beating up several students, one of them severely. That September, following a tense meeting with Mr. Paterno over the case, she resigned her post, saying at the time she left because of "philosophical differences."

It appears that Paterno was in favor of a sort of old-school under the rug "run their rear ends off" strategy rather than, you know, holding his players to the same standards that other students were under.

Just before she arrived, Penn State faced an episode in which Mr. Paterno had decided to let cornerback Anwar Phillips play in a bowl game, even though he had been charged with sexually assaulting a woman and had been temporarily expelled from school. Mr. Paterno declined to field questions about the incident at the time. Mr. Spanier referred to it as a case of "miscommunication." Mr. Phillips was acquitted of the charge in a subsequent trial.

In 2004, after several incidents involving football players, Mr. Paterno told the Allentown Morning Call newspaper that the players weren't misbehaving any more than usual, but that such news was now more public. "I can go back to a couple guys in the '70s who drove me nuts," he said. "The cops would call me, and I used to put them in bed in my house and run their rear ends off the next day. Nobody knew about it. That's the way we handled it."

Similarly, Dave Zirin noted how Paterno reacted to another player's suspension due to alleged sexual assault (kids will be kids):

Paterno’s response, in light of recent events, is jaw-dropping. He said, “There’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do? Geez. I hope—thank God they don’t knock on my door because I’d refer them to a couple of other rooms.” Joanne Tosti-Vasey, president of Pennsylvania’s National Organization for Women in Pennsylvania, was not amused. With chilling unintentional prescience, Tosti-Vasey responded, “Allegations of sexual assault should never be taken lightly. Making light of sexual assault sends the message that rape is something to be expected and accepted.” 

This sounds like a demonstrated pattern of behavior.

More stories on the case:



AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at November 22, 2011, 4:40am

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