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The Penn Stater Daily — Feb. 5, 2014

We’re running a little late today because of the two-hour delay, thanks to the snow/ice storm that arrived overnight. Onward State notes this is the third time in two years that Penn State has had a weather-related cancellation/delay. But there’s still plenty going on:

National Signing Day festivities: It wasn’t that long ago, really, that reporters had to scrounge around for information about Penn State football’s latest recruits. No more. As a warm-up to this evening’s Signature Event, which will (virtually) introduce Penn State’s recruiting class, media were invited to hang out this morning at Lasch Building as the newest Nittany Lions faxed in their letters of intent and were added to the big board. The event featured Blue Band trumpets, balloons (no word on who blew them up), and an omelet station manned, at least temporarily, by offensive line coach and social media sensation Herb Hand. (I’m pretty sure that when I committed to the College of the Liberal Arts in 1987, there was a similar celebration in Burrowes Building.) How will tonight’s event top that? Well, James Franklin tweeted that he’d be wearing a “classic all-white leisure suit,” adding the hashtag #swaggedout. Mark Wogenrich ’90 further reported on Twitter that Franklin called the suit “uncomfortably tight.”

Teaching “Failure 101:” Jack Matson, professor emeritus of engineering, has a nifty cameo in this New York Times piece about how colleges are working to teach—not just celebrate—creativity. Matson, who was the lead instructor for one of Penn State’s first MOOCs, Creativity, Innovation, and Change, also teaches a freshman seminar that he calls “Failure 101.” Among the activities: “constructing a resume based on things that didn’t work out” and “finding some cultural norms to break.” An example of the latter: cartwheeling into the library. This is a fascinating read, and now I’m wondering if it’s too late to add Matson’s class.

Flat funding: Gov. Tom Corbett released his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015, and it includes $229.7 million for Penn State, the same amount the university received last year. Penn State had asked for an additional $14.7 million. The budget gets debated by the state legislature for a couple of months, so this isn’t yet official. The Centre Daily Times has the most Penn State-centered coverage, but you’ll probably need a subscription to read it.

Women’s volleyball honored. Again: This time, praise came from the floor of the U.S. Senate, in the form of a resolution from both Pennsylvania senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, that recounted how the Nittany Lions won their sixth NCAA women’s volleyball title and how two players, Ariel Scott and Maggie Harding, received academic honors, too. Read the full text of the resolution—which uses one of my favorite old-timey words, “whereas,” five times—in this Penn State news release.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

February 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 29, 2014

BfGr0zhCQAE5ZN4Feeling good: David Glen, a sophomore forward on the hockey team, tweeted this photo Tuesday from his hospital bed, where he’s recovering after donating bone marrow to a stranger. “12 hours and a couple pokes later I’m all done!!! Can’t express how thankful I am for all the support,” he wrote.  He also thanked the staff at Geisinger—and his mom, of course—for “babying me all day.”

Preparing for a new era: Joe Paterno famously claimed he didn’t even read the newspapers, let alone anything online. Bill O’Brien made no secret of his disdain for “Spacebook and Tweeter.” But the new regime in Lasch Building is social media savvy, and Bill DiFilippo of Onward State compiled a list of Twitter handles for everyone on the football team, from head coach @coachjfranklin through the rest of the coaching staff, the starters, the reserves, and the recruits. It’s kind of amazing.

Engaged scholarship: This interesting piece from today’s Collegian by Genae Salinas discusses how “out of classroom experiences” (or engaged scholarship) has become a topic of conversation for a university-wide committee discussing requirements for new general education standards. The committee’s chair, Beth Seymour, who said she requires community projects in her classes at Penn State Altoona, explained, “These experiences are going to help broaden their intellectual maturity.”

Pennsylvania. The capital of snacks: This news release from Penn State public information notes how many of the snacks we’ll be consuming while watching the Super Bowl come from our state, including four brands of potato chips. I heartily concur with Penn State professor of food science Greg Ziegler, who ended a list of said snack items by saying, “Then, obviously, pretzels. And then in the best of all worlds: Chocolate-covered pretzels.”

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 29, 2014 at 10:51 am 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 22, 2014

Remembering Paterno: Joe Paterno died two years ago today, and there’s a lot of material to read and reflect on whether you’re heading to tonight’s vigil in his memory at the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center (if you’re going, dress warm!) or not. Matt Brown ’10 of Sports on Earth writes a smart piece about Paterno’s complicated legacy and the dividing line that is College Avenue. Charlie Thompson of The Patriot-News delves into the behind-the-scenes editing of Paterno’s Wikipedia page. Kevin Horne of Onward State reprints Paterno’s 1983 speech to the Board of Trustees. Have you found other good pieces? Let us know in the comments.

In Memory of Sandy Hook: Phil Clark ’87 had always intended, someday, to establish a scholarship. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School accelerated his plans. The founder of Claris Construction, which is based in Newtown, Conn., site of the school, has established the Penn State Sandy Hook Scholarship to help graduates of Newtown’s high school enroll in Penn State’s College of Engineering. Clark helped to assess the site of the former elementary school, which was razed, and is consulting  with the architectural firm designing the new school.

Penn State’s connection to the Baseball Hall of Fame: That’s John Montgomery Ward, who didn’t let being thrown out of Penn State for helping a friend steal chickens derail his baseball career. This story by Onward State’s Jessica Tully details his life from a Penn State star who’s sometimes credited with inventing the curve ball—that’s erroneous, but he apparently did throw the first curve in Penn State history, on the Old Main lawn—to someone who was honored for helping to lead a revolt against baseball’s board of directors. After his death, his role in reforming labor practices got him elected to the Hall.

Hear a Genius pianist: Jeremy Denk, a classical pianist who received a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, better known as a “genius grant,” is performing as part of the Center for the Performing Arts’ series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Eisenhower Auditorium. But you can also catch him at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at a special “coffeehouse” performance at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. He’ll play a few pieces, and he’ll converse with guests, too. For more info, click on this news release and scroll down to the bottom.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

One More Update from the BOT

You can read most of our updates from Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting on this post from Friday evening, but here are a few more for your Monday morning:

—Presidential search update: Board chair Keith Masser ’73 opened the meeting with an update on the presidential search process, which was rebooted in November. He said simply that the process is continuing and that “we are on pace to name the next president of Penn State in the months ahead.”

There is a deadline: President Rod Erickson is retiring at the end of June. Or, as he put it two Saturdays ago when a reporter at the news conference introducing James Franklin asked Erickson if he had any update on the search: “My last day of work is June 30, 2014.”

Click here for a piece by Charlie Thompson of The Patriot-News that gets a little more in-depth on the search.

—A new Joe Paterno statue: Joel Myers ‘61, ’63g, ’71g, chair of the outreach committee, didn’t have a committee meeting to report about Friday; the outreach committee meeting was off the agenda (along with the student life committee meeting) to allow enough time for a retreat with governance consultant Holly Gregory. Myers did ask if he could read a brief statement. The topic: that it is time to unite the various factions of Penn Staters.

That’s a theme Myers has sounded periodically, but this time, he quoted Abraham Lincoln (“A house divided cannot stand …”) and proposed that “now is the time” for there to be a statue of Fred Lewis Pattee and Joe Paterno to be erected in front of the library. The Centre Daily Times has full coverage with a story and text of the speech.

—BOT nominations continuing: There’s still plenty of time—until Feb. 26—for alumni to submit their nominations for one of the three alumni seats up for election in 2014. (If you’re a member of the Penn State Alumni Association or have donated to the university within the past two years, you should have received a nomination form in your email. If you’re an alum and would like to request one, click here.)

Mike Dawson ’02 of the Centre Daily Times checked in with the three incumbents—Myers, Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, and Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62—during the meeting to ask whether they are running for re-election; all said they hadn’t decided yet. None of the alumni trustees who were on the board in November 2011 have been re-elected.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 20, 2014 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

BOT Chair Re-Elected and Other Meeting Highlights

Also at today's BOT meeting: new football coach James Franklin stopped by; here, he's welcomed by board chair Keith Masser.

Also at today’s BOT meeting: new football coach James Franklin stopped by; here, he’s welcomed by board chair Keith Masser.

This was old school. A two-hour Board of Trustees meeting. No contentious votes. Only one participant in the public comment session. An uncontested election for board chair.

The media covering the meeting joked that we didn’t have much to write about.

Partially, of course, that’s because there’s more discussion and fleshing out of ideas during the committee meetings, held the day before the full board meeting. Flat out, there’s just more to write about from those. Partially that’s because the major issue confronting the board these days is governance reform, and that’s something they talked about in an executive session yesterday with governance consultant Holly Gregory.

And it’s not like nothing happened. Here’s a quick rundown:

Masser re-elected board chair: This is a short term, just six months, because the board previously voted to change its annual meeting—at which officers are elected for one-year terms—from January to July. Just this once, the board needed to have a stopgap election to fill the six months from January to July. Incumbent Keith Masser ’73 was unanimously voted in. Also voted in were the other board officers, Penn State staffers. Vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g was elected in July to fill a vacant spot, so he already had six months remaining in his term.

Executive committee spots filled: The three trustees put forth by the governance committee—Kathleen Casey ’88, Donald Cotner ’71, and Richard Dandrea ’77—to join the executive committee as at-large members were approved. There was no discussion, and no one nominated anyone else.

Public comment: The number of speakers at public comment continued to dwindle with only one—Wendy Silverwood, whose anger at the Freeh report and trustees was palpable and who asked the board to marginalize the Freeh report and apologize to those harmed by it, including the Paterno family, lettermen, and Penn State community. She also suggested that Louis Freeh speak this spring at the third annual conference sponsored by the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being. He could be part of a panel, she said, with some of the people quoted in the Paterno family’s report—former attorney general Dick Thornburgh, Jim Clemente, and two doctors.

“The Freeh report missed a critical opportunity to educate the public on the identification of child sexual victimization and instead used the platform created by this scandal to sensationalize the blaming of Joe Paterno,” she said. “This was a terrible disservice not only to Penn Staters, but also to all parents, grandparents, and children in our state.”

Susan McHale speaks about the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.

Susan McHale speaks about the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.

Network for Child Protection and Well-Being: Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Institute, presented an informational report on the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being (which is housed in her institute). She built off an introduction from provost and executive vice president Nicholas Jones, who noted other examples of Penn State’s commitment to children, including the Children, Youth, and Families Consortium that was started in 1998. But when the Sandusky scandal broke, Penn State had “less than a handful” of experts in child maltreatment, and the university immediately began to remedy the situation. It made a cluster hire of 12 faculty to beef up what the center could do.

Application numbers rising: In his report to the board, president Rod Erickson said that undergraduate applications are up 19 percent at University Park and 7 percent at other campuses. The university has also received a record number of applications to the Schreyer Honors College: 3,277 students have applied for 300 spots.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 17, 2014 at 7:28 pm 4 comments

The BOT’s Governance Consultant Speaks

Holly Gregory wanted to clear up one thing right off the bat. The lawyer hired to facilitate the Board of Trustees’ discussion about the more difficult parts of governance reform—the size of the board, the constituencies represented on the board, the qualifications needed to serve on the board, etc.—opened the trustees’ retreat Thursday afternoon with, as she put it, a disclosure:

She’s not a Penn State graduate.

That was a soft opening, to be sure. But as Gregory continued, she laid out her philosophy of good governance and how she sees her consulting role. She explained the focus of her law practice—working with boards of directors and trustees, at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and said that includes other universities.

She acknowledged the progress Penn State has already made in governance reform, but she added, “There are a number of areas where observers have continued to call for change. We have to listen.”

When governance committee chair Keith Eckel announced the hiring of Gregory in November, he stressed that he was looking for not for an expert in the field, but a facilitator, someone who could guide the board—which is divided—in what he has called the ongoing and continuous work of determining how best to govern the university.

He reiterated that Thursday, when he introduced Gregory and opened the retreat:

“The right model for Penn State will be the Penn State model,” he said. “It is within every one of our hands, the ability to shape that. Holly is the expert, and I have great confidence in her ability. But perhaps her most important talent is one of facilitation.

“There may be differences among us, but I am convinced there is one thing that unites all of us, and that is that we want the best for Penn State. Our viewpoints may differ in what that definition is, but we want the best for Penn State. And this effort is to create and in many cases reaffirm processes we may already have as the best Penn State model.”

And Gregory immediately picked up one of Eckel’s main themes: “Governance is a work in progress,” she said. “It never really ends. You never really say you’re done. You continually need to think about how this board functions and operates and the rules it has in place to guide it.”

The first part of the retreat was open to the public; by my count, 12 people—including me, four other reporters, and two Penn State public information staffers—attended the session, which lasted for about 40 minutes. The trustees were in one room; we watched a video hookup from the room next door that showed whoever was addressing the trustees. The rest of the retreat took place in a closed executive session.

Among the points that Gregory made in the public portion of the retreat:

Fiduciary duty: As a lawyer, she sees fiduciary duty as the underpinning of everything a trustee does. “Not as an ending,” she said, “but as a starting point.”

Disagreements are OK: Tensions in “key relationships” at an institution that has undergone a crisis are not unusual. “In fact,” she said, “they are the norm.”  Gregory called herself “agnostic” on the Sandusky scandal and aftermath and stressed that “disagreement isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s something to be valued.”

Speaking with “one voice:” That said, she also stressed how important it is that the board speaks publicly with one voice. They key, she said, is to figure out a way to get the “benefits of vigorous debate”—meaning, in private—“without causing harm to the university.”

Three duties of trustees: She laid out three duties that should guide trustees: obedience, meaning that everything the trustees do should be tied directly to the university’s mission as described in the charter and bylaws; care, meaning to put in the time needed to fully understand issues and to do due diligence; and loyalty, meaning avoiding conflicts of interests—or identifying ones that can’t be avoided and protecting the university’s reputation. “After all,” Gregory said, “that’s one of a university’s primary assets.”

She continued: “The good news is that perfection is not required. These duties, they expect a very, very high standard from trustees. But the law recognizes that the board, acting in real time and in response to real emerging issues, will not always make the best decision. You’re going to get it wrong. You’re going to make mistakes sometimes. As long as you’re acting with reasonable and prudent care, you as trustees will not be held liable.”

A culture to strive for: Gregory characterized the culture the board should strive to meet with these phrases: Mindful of fiduciary duties. Future-focused: anticipatory, not reactive. Revitalizing, not entrenched. Diverse and inclusive.

She ended with this: “I can’t emphasize enough the value that comes from having the opportunity to debate a variety of viewpoints.”

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 17, 2014 at 9:44 am 2 comments

BOT Election: Boosting Alumni Participation

At the November meeting of the Board of Trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee, the discussion centered around how to increase participation in the alumni trustee election. At the committee meeting today, the committee made clear it wants to broaden participation even further.

The committee wants to automatically send ballots to all alumni with email addresses on file with Penn State, and it further wants to send snail-mail postcards to alumni who have only a mailing address on file. Those postcards would explain how to obtain a ballot.

In previous elections, ballots have been sent automatically only to alumni who have been members of the Penn State Alumni Association within the previous two years and alumni who donated to the university within the previous two years. Other alumni needed to request ballots.

Unlike the changes made in November, this change requires a revision of the university charter, which must be voted on by the full board. That requires a 30-day notice, so a vote will be taken at the March trustees meeting. So while this policy will not be in effect for the nomination process, which has already started, if passed it will be in place for the election, which runs April 10 through May 8.

The committee voted enthusiastically to recommend the change to the full board for a vote.

While we’re at it, this is probably a good time to define who, exactly, is an alumnus or alumna of the university—a definition that will be tweaked in the proposed charter change. Obviously anyone who’s received a degree—associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate—counts. But according to the charter, so do “former students … who have satisfactorily passed one semester’s or two terms’ work, or more,” in any program that requires at least two years of study.

The proposed changes would clarify that those programs requiring at least two years of study must end in a degree—basically, that people completing one of Penn State’s certificate programs are not eligible to vote.

More news from the committee meetings:

Executive committee nominations: One of the governance committee’s roles is to recommend at-large members for the board’s executive committee, and the recommendations that will be put forth Friday—if  board chair Keith Masser ’73 is re-elected—are Kathleen Casey ’88, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013; Donald Cotner ’71, an ag trustee since 2012; and Richard Dandrea ’77, appointed as a business and industry trustee in 2013.

Those names were put forth by Masser and governance chair Keith Eckel; Masser said he chose Casey because she is vice chair of the human resources subcommittee and the compensation committee, Cotner because he is vice chair of the finance and business committee, and Dandrea because he’s a lawyer and because Ken Frazier ’73 (who has a law background) has decided to step down from the executive committee. (The board chair, board vice chair, immediate past chair, and standing committee chairs are automatically part of the executive committee.)

Barbara Doran ’75 noted that Casey is a lawyer, filling that need, and that none of the nominees were elected by alumni. She nominated Ryan McCombie ’70, who was elected by alumni in 2012. Because there were four nominees for three positions, the committee voted: Casey, Cotner, and Dandrea each received a majority of the vote; the totals were not released.

If Masser is not re-elected as chair, Eckel said, he will confer with the new chair before the governance committee puts forth nominees for the executive committee.

First compensation committee meeting: The first in-person meeting, that is. The committee, which was created at the November board meeting, did meet via conference call Saturday morning to approve compensation for new football coach James Franklin, a process that committee chair Linda Brodsky Strumpf  ’69 said was “interesting.”

Strumpf had served on the predecessor to the compensation committee, an ad-hoc group that was convened when circumstances warranted it, but this was the first time that details of the contract were reported during the process. The speed was potentially problematic—the bylaws stipulate that the committee must give three days public notice before meeting, but they were able to use the provision that if all committee members agreed to waive the three-day requirement, 24 hours notice would suffice.

The committee also approves compensation for nine other university employees (see below for the list), but that process is usually far from the spotlight. “People are really interested only in the football coach’s salary,” Strumpf said. “That’s the world we live in, I suppose.”

Under operating guidelines approved by the committee Thursday morning, the committee has responsibilities for four tiers of university officials. (Click here for the draft; see page 5 for the complete list.) The president is alone in Tier I as the only compensation the full board must approve.

The compensation committee approves compensation for five officials in Tier II—executive vice president and provost, senior vice president of finance and business, senior vice president for health affairs, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, and vice president and general counsel—and four intercollegiate athletics employees who are designated Tier IIA. That’s the athletic director, football coach, and men’s and women’s basketball coaches. For Tier II employees, the full board is informed, but does not vote.

That’s standard practice, said Jason Adwin, vice president of Sibson Consulting, who is working with the committee. “Executives govern,” he says. “Administrators manage.” And managing, he says, includes deciding on compensation.

The committee also voted to recommend to the full board that it approve an executive compensation strategy (click here for the draft) developed in consultation with Sibson; Strumpf said the hope is to vote on the strategy at the March meeting.

Sibson plans to conduct a study that’s sponsored by Penn State and will survey 60 institutions, 30 of which will be peers of Penn State, to compare how the university’s salaries, bonuses and incentives, retirement, and deferred compensation compare.  The report is expected to be ready by May, which Strumpf said is good timing because the committee will begin reviewing salary increases in August or September.

The report will not be made public, for two reasons. First, the sensitivity of salary numbers; vice president of human resources Susan Basso says a public release would deter other institutions from participating. Second, Adwin said, because institutions pay for the data.

Trustees retreat: The typical committee meetings ran on a different schedule today (and the student life and outreach committees did not meet) because of a retreat with Holly Gregory, a lawyer and consultant hired by the governance committee to facilitate discussion of further governance reforms. The first 40 minutes of the session were open to the public before the board went into executive session; I’ll have a piece on Gregory’s introduction later.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 16, 2014 at 6:46 pm 3 comments

The Penn Stater Daily—Jan. 15, 2014

We’re a little late today, sorry. Lots of meetings. Productive meetings, fortunately, but they took a lot of time. Anyway, here are some good stories you might have missed over the past few days:

BOT nominations open: It’s that time of year again, with preparations beginning to elect three alumni  members to the Board of Trustees. If you’re a Penn State Alumni Association member, if you’ve donated to the university within the past two years, and/or if you requested a ballot in either of the past two years, you should be receiving today a nomination ballot for the election. You can nominate up to three candidates. If you don’t submit them right away, you can return and add names to your list; once you submit, you’re finished. Here’s our earlier piece on the process, which has instructions on how to request a ballot if you didn’t get one, and here’s today’s Centre Daily Times story on the election. Which, by the way, will run April 10 to May 8. The nomination period ends Feb. 25.

A new book on the murder at Pattee: Forty-four years after Betsy Aardsma was stabbed in the stacks at Pattee, her case is still open—that is, never solved. Journalist David DeKok is researching a book on the subject to be published in September, and he answered questions from Onward State’s Jessica Tully. It’s a fascinating interview, especially when DeKok goes beyond the case and discusses how he researched it.

Looking to lose weight? If your New Year’s resolution to do so is becoming a struggle, you might want to check out the Volumetrics diet, developed by Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences and Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutrition. It was just named the sixth best diet in U.S. News and World Report‘s 2014 Best Diets Overall Ranking, and it was recognized several other times in the magazine’s report. The main idea: By lowering the calorie density of your meals, you can feel more full but consume fewer calories. Rolls has written several books—with recipes—on the diet.

New pricing structure for football tickets: Starting next season, it will cost less to see the non-marquee teams on Penn State’s football schedule than it will to see top rivals like Ohio State. The university announced a variable pricing structure on Tuesday; this FAQ from the athletic department explains the details. The Nittany Lions will become the fifth Big Ten school to use such a system, The Patriot-News reports. Cheapest tickets? MAC teams Akron and UMass: There are end-zone seats available for $40. You’re going to need to shell out for the Buckeyes: The least expensive ticket is $100.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

The Football Coach Doesn’t Need Much Sleep. Here’s Why.

James Franklin, on the job at 5:07 a.m.

James Franklin, on the job at 5:07 a.m.

For most people, it seems, the takeaway from James Franklin’s introductory news conference on Saturday was his cute daughters, his enthusiasm for college football, and/or his pledge to “dominate the state” in recruiting. But this is what stood out to me:

Someone asked Franklin about what his message to Penn State players would be, and that caused Franklin to launch into a tale about how hard he’ll be working—and when. He said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do in a very, very short period of time, and it’s time sensitive because of the recruiting process as well. Basically when we leave here probably until 2 in the morning, and we’ll be back up at 3 or 4 in the morning getting going again. Luckily, I’m fortunate I’m not a guy that needs a whole lot of sleep. My wife does. We always have those discussions. She’s amazed that I can get by on five hours sleep. That’s just kind of who I am.”

This caused me to listen closer because I had just put the finishing touches on a feature for our March/April issue—a Q&A with Alan Derickson, professor of labor and employment relations and history, about his new book: Dangerously Sleepy: Overworked Americans and the Cult of Manly Wakefulness. I love the title, and better than that, the topic is really interesting. Derickson traces hundreds of years of American history, looking to explain how sleep deprivation came to be seen as a virtue. Among the culprits: Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Charles Lindbergh … and football coaches.

Derickson focuses on steelworkers, Pulllman porters, and long-haul truckers to explain, in real terms, the problems of insufficient sleep. Stay tuned for the upcoming Q&A. In the meantime, you can check out this Harvard Business Review piece to get a sense of Derickson’s research.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 8, 2014

Two of the running jokes around the office involve me: (1) Every time I go on vacation, big Penn State news breaks and (2) Every time it’s my turn to do The Daily, there are scandal and/or legal-related updates. I was wine tasting in Sonoma when when Bill O’Brien left to coach the Houston Texans, and today, my first day back on Daily Duty, there’s so much scandal-related news that there’s barely any coverage of what’s probably the most interesting part of it—the judge’s decision in the NCAA lawsuit, released late afternoon Tuesday. I hate to be a cliche, but I guess there is a pattern.

Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers arrives at the Oct. 29 hearing in this photo by Nabil K. Mark of the Centre Daily Times.

Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers arrives at the Oct. 29 hearing in this photo by Nabil K. Mark of the Centre Daily Times.

Paterno lawsuit going forward: More than two months after retired Potter County judge John Leete heard arguments as to whether the lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the Paterno family along with some faculty, trustees, former lettermen, and former coaches should go forward, he released his decision—a nuanced, detailed 25-page document that I had to read twice before I began to fully understand it. The upshot is this: the legality of the consent decree (breach of contract) will not be litigated unless Penn State itself joins the lawsuit because Leete ruled that the university is an “indispensable” party, but other parts of the lawsuit, including several defamation claims and a civil conspiracy claim, will go forward. Wrote Leete: “Penn State’s absence does not require dismissal of the entire Complaint. Plaintiffs’ tort claims stand on a different footing than the contract claims because they do not require rulings affecting Penn State’s rights in any significant way.”

I don’t know anyone who thinks that Penn State is suddenly going to change its mind and sue the NCAA, so don’t expect any movement on the consent decree. But this decision does mean that the discovery phase will begin, and that means that subpoenas could be forthcoming. In a statement, Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers called the decision a “significant victory” and added, “With this ruling the bright light of legal discovery will finally shine on the facts and records of all parties involved.”

Coverage of this has been scant so far, but my friend Mike Dawson ’02 of the Centre Daily Times did a nice job, getting NCAA reaction, as well, and Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann has some quickie analysis on his Twitter feed (you have to scan down and expand to see the conversations). Among McCann’s observations: “My instinct is NCAA now pursues settlement w/Paterno family, but I could see family saying no deal unless NCAA publicly says sorry.”

Sandusky pension hearing: Jerry Sandusky ’67, ’71g testified via video link for about three hours Tuesday in an attempt to get his Penn State pension restored. He lost  it because of a state law that allows for the forfeiture of pensions for people convicted of certain crimes, but he is maintaining that he was not a Penn State employee when the crimes occurred. Mike Dawson ’02, who had a really busy day, has the strongest story, which details how much of the testimony weirdly recounted Sandusky’s performance as a defensive coordinator.

Spanier v. Freeh: As if that weren’t enough legal news, there was another hearing Tuesday morning about whether Graham Spanier needs to file more than an intent to sue Louis Freeh for defamation. Spanier’s attorney contends that’s enough given that the criminal case is proceeding. Freeh’s attorneys said more details about the potential lawsuit are required.

No coach yet: And, yeah, the search for Penn State’s next football coach continues. The Patriot-News has a ton of coverage, ranging from an interview with Bill O’Brien’s right-hand guy, Jim Bernhardt, by Audrey Snyder ’12 to David Jones’ column on why Penn State needs stability in its next coach. For the latest rumors and hand-wringing, of course, go to Twitter.

9590029RIP Mary Jo Haverbeck: Like all of my friends and colleagues who cover Penn State sports and/or women’s sports, I’m mourning the death of Mary Jo Haverbeck ’76g, retired associate sports information director and the first woman inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Hall of Fame. Mary Jo worked behind the scenes, but she’s one of the main reasons that Penn State’s women’s sports teams became so prominent, as Centre Daily Times sports editor Walt Moody points out in a lovely tribute to Mary Jo. I’m one of the many, many people Mary Jo went out of her way to mentor, and I can’t say enough how much she taught me and what a nice person she was. I’ll try, though, in another blog post within a day or two.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

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