Posts filed under ‘Joe Paterno’
Those of us who work on The Penn Stater got together first thing this morning to talk about the latest development in the Sandusky scandal—the release of the Paterno family-commissioned rebuttal to the Freeh Report—and to figure out how to accommodate it in the next issue.
As I’m sure you know, ESPN devoted its Outside the Lines program yesterday to a new report in which four key figures, including former U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh and former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, blast the findings of the Freeh Report. (The other two experts are a Johns Hopkins expert on sexual disorders, Fred Berlin, and the Paterno family attorney, Wick Sollers.) The ESPN segment coincided with the launch of the website Paterno.com, where the newly released analysis can be found, and a segment on ABC-TV this afternoon in which Katie Couric interviews Sue Paterno ’62, three of the Paterno children, and two former Penn State football players, among others.
The Paterno family, in other words, is fighting back—fighting to get its side of the story heard and to refute the Freeh report’s claim that Joe Paterno helped cover up Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
Before this latest news hit, we had thought we were pretty much finished with the March/April issue. We were putting the final touches on two of the features and my column, while all of the other pages had already been put to bed. But this morning we agreed pretty quickly that we’ll need to rework the “Fallout” section, which is the department in each issue where we put ongoing news about the scandal. We’re adding a page to that section, and instead of leading off with Gov. Corbett’s lawsuit against the NCAA, we’ll push that to a later page and instead lead with the news of the Paterno family’s initiative.
Our story will most likely be just a recap of what’s happened in the past 36 hours or so, and it may or may not tell readers anything they don’t already know. But we’re unanimous in our feeling that it has to be there. From a credibility standpoint, if nothing else, we can’t imagine readers flipping through the March/April issue in a couple of weeks and not seeing a word about this.
Bimonthly print magazines generally aren’t the most nimble of media, and this isn’t the first time that developments in the scandal have forced us to scramble. But, to the staff’s credit, they just roll with it.
In the meantime, you can download the new Paterno analysis at Paterno.com. If you read nothing else, you might at least check out the section written by Clemente, the FBI guy; he talks quite a bit about how pedophiles operate and offers pragmatic advice for parents and others.
Also at Paterno.com, you’ll find Sue Paterno’s message to Penn State football lettermen, in which she answers the question of what the family hopes to accomplish by its newest efforts:
Is it the return of the statue? The restoration of Joe’s wins? His name on the football stadium? … Joe Paterno’s legacy wasn’t a statue, a winning record or public adulation. … His legacy is his family and you his players. How you live your life speaks louder than any report. The great fathers, husbands and citizens you have become fulfill the dreams Joe had. All that we want — and what I believe we owe the victims, Joe Paterno and everyone who cares about Penn State — is the full record of what happened.
It remains to be seen how much momentum the Paterno family’s efforts might gather. Early media reaction has been mixed at best; Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports and Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN are among those who have been critical, and the Harrisburg Patriot‘s David Jones argues that it’s not about a cover-up anyway—it’s simply about Paterno’s failure to do enough to stop Sandusky.
On the other hand, a Philadelphia media outlet reported today that one Penn State trustee, Alvin Clemens ’59, thinks the trustees should now take a fresh look at the Freeh Report. And Sollers, the Paterno family attorney, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of taking legal action of some sort. What happens from here is anyone’s guess.
Tina Hay, editor
Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77 didn’t waste any time. She didn’t beat around the bush. She stood up to speak Friday afternoon at Alumni Council, told members to “ask the questions you want to ask,” and began addressing the issues by saying: “Subject One. The Freeh Report.”
Which, of course, is one of the issues that has divided alumni the most in the past year.
The chair of the Board of Trustees hasn’t traditionally addressed Alumni Council. But this is the second straight session in which Peetz has given a report and taken questions from council members. Both times, she’s attended with President Rod Erickson, and both times, she’s said that doing so is an important part of the board’s outreach to alumni.
On Friday afternoon, she wanted to make a key point: That she understands that the recommendation to examine Penn State’s culture has been “one of the big sticking points” for some Penn Staters. But she added that the recommendation, controversial as it has been, is actually a good thing.
“I can recognize the discomfort it causes,” Peetz said. “We’ve all loved the culture. But let’s consider culture in the abstract first, and let me pose some questions. Do you, in your business, examine why your organization consistently succeeds in certain areas and maybe falls short in others? Do you ask yourself why you do or don’t retain certain types of employees? Or why everyone seemingly stays at work until midnight … or, alternatively, why you have to tread cautiously at 5 p.m. so you don’t get trampled by the mass exodus?
“These are the cultural issues of an organization. It’s the way an organization acts, and in my experience, the best of organizations have as an underpinning of the culture and their practice a process of continual improvement, which includes an examination of that very culture. As a world class institution, we need to continue to do this.”
Subject No. 2 for Peetz was whether the board understood that the Freeh report would be used by the NCAA as a justification for sanctions. She said she would not get into the NCAA’s rationale—“that’s unproductive at best, divisive at worst”—and encouraged anyone who doesn’t understand the decision to read the reasons Erickson gave for the decision and additional explanation from Gene Marsh, an NCAA expert who was retained by the university. The information is available on the Board of Trustees website in a transcript of the Aug. 16 meeting; you can get a PDF of the transcript by clicking here. Erickson’s remarks start on page 25; Marsh’s start on page 16.
She reminded everyone that “we were faced with catastrophe” and also that Erickson has called the decision the hardest he’s had to make in his entire career. “And he did not make the decision alone,” she added. “He consulted with the executive committee of the board.”
Peetz finished her prepared remarks by asking for two things from council members: their “understanding and tolerance” as the board and the university continue dealing with fallout from the scandal, and their “visible support” in continuing to “speak out for Penn State” as leaders in their communities.
When Peetz and Erickson finished speaking, there was time for a few questions. Greg Malone ’95, president of the Connecticut Valley Chapter, immediately asked the other question that has divided alumni: how and whether Joe Paterno will be recognized. He noted that the university has missed opportunities for a video tribute and for a moment of silence and added, “I believe this posture has been a real sticking point for alumni who are otherwise eager to move on.”
Erickson fielded this one.
“We’re hearing from a lot of individuals, a lot of alumni, on both sides of this issue,” he said. “And that suggests to me that there’s still a lot of divergence of opinion about what to do. I personally think that we need some more time, time for reflection. I personally think to do something right now will push us apart rather than push us together.”
Peetz added that any such commemoration would be university-driven, not trustees-driven.
Council member Liz Bligan ’91, ’98g asked another question that’s been on the minds of many alumni: “When will the Board of Trustees fight back, defend Penn State, demand due process? You have not done that, and we are anxious for you to do that.”
Peetz noted that Tim Curley ’76, ’78g and Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g will have due process; their trial is scheduled for January. “So, frankly, after all that is said and done, then we’ll have to say, ‘OK, what does that inform us about the situation, and what do we do at that point?’” Peetz said. “Who knows what will be at that point? I’m sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer, but the answer is: There’s more to come.”
Other notes from the session:
—The Blue White Vision Council, a group that will be facilitated by former University of Illinois president Stan Ikenberry and chaired by Peetz herself, is ready to begin meeting. The council, which includes faculty and students as well as trustees, will broadly examine Penn State’s mission and goals.
—Much of Erickson’s talk centered on Penn State’s enrollment. The Sandusky scandal did not have an effect on the current freshman class; Erickson said the current freshman class has about 7,700 students. But applications for next year are down between 10 and 35 percent so far, although Erickson also noted that “paid accepts” are holding pace with last year, and he assured council members that the quality of students hasn’t waned.
Some of the decline may be from the scandal, he said. But he thinks bigger changes in higher education—particularly students’ climbing debt loads and the lack of economic growth in Pennsylvania; possibly the rising application fees, which may be causing students to apply to fewer schools–might be additional causes. “We’re in a totally different era,” he said.
—Erickson also touched on fundraising. The Campaign for Penn State Students passed the $1.65 billion mark a few weeks ago, he said, and there are still 20 months remaining for the capital campaign to reach its $2 billion goal.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
It’s been interesting to see what’s happened to the site outside Beaver Stadium where Joe Paterno’s statue once stood. It’s just a grassy hillside now, but some people are treating the spot almost as if the statue is still there: They leave little mementos in the grass, especially on home football weekends.
The weekend of the Ohio game, someone put a tiny Bobblehead Joe in the grass. I think someone stuck a miniature cardboard Stand-Up Joe there at one point. And this past weekend there suddenly were flowers with notes, a ballcap, game tickets, and other items—along with a sign that said “KARMA HAS NO DEADLINE.” (See photo, below.)
Penn State art historian Brian Curran wouldn’t be surprised to see that, I don’t think. I interviewed Curran at the end of July, nine days after the statue came down, for a piece in our Sept-Oct issue. We ran it as a short Q&A in the magazine, and posted a longer version of it here on the blog. I sought him out for some academic, historical perspective on statues of heroes—from ancient Egypt, to ancient Rome, through the Renaissance and on up to present times.
I was especially interested in how various societies have dealt with statues of heroes who fall out of favor: In ancient Egypt, for example, (more…)
We asked our intern, Erika Spicer, to attend Joe Posnanski’s talk Friday at the HUB. We’ve read and written so much over the past 10 months about Paterno and his legacy, and we were interested in Erika’s perspective—both as an undergraduate, and in particular as a journalism major. Here’s what she came away with.
As I sat in my plastic chair in Alumni Hall waiting for Paterno author Joe Posnanski to speak, I mulled over the fact I probably wasn’t going to learn anything new.
I am so tired of listening to people rehash the events surrounding Joe Paterno, I thought to myself, feeling a twinge of guilt as I sat among some Paterno supporters. With the release of Paterno in the midst of a new era for Penn State football, I knew where a lot of this discussion was headed Friday afternoon.
As I predicted, questions like, “How do you think Joe Paterno would feel about the NCAA sanctions?” popped up when moderator Malcolm Moran, director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, which sponsored the talk, gave audience members the opportunity to ask Posnanski questions. Not that I could blame them –– after all, Posnanski not only spent (more…)
I just finished reading Pete Thamel’s excellent profile of new Penn State football coach BIll O’Brien in today’s New York Times. You really should check it out if you haven’t already.
It’s not the first profile to address the role that O’Brien’s son Jack’s disability plays in the family’s life; among others, our own Ryan Jones ’95 covered that in our July-Aug cover story. Nor is it the first to show that the family’s adversity gives O’Brien a special perspective on the challenges he’s now facing as Penn State’s football coach. But it’s just a very, very good profile. Among other things, I learned that O’Brien’s best friend is Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, and I got a different perspective on O’Brien’s seeming job-hopping over the years before arriving at Penn State.
And it was kinda cool to learn that Patriots coach Bill Belichick (more…)
First, his attorneys held a news conference in Philadelphia to blast the Freeh report. (You can watch that news conference in its entirety here.) Then, ABC announced that correspondent Josh Elliott had conducted an interview with Spanier and that the network would show excerpts on World News Tonight, on Nightline, and on Good Morning America. Yesterday afternoon The New Yorker published substantial excerpts from a conversation Spanier had with Jeffrey Toobin last month. And this afternoon the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a short article quoting Spanier from a telephone interview conducted earlier today.
Here are a few highlights from Spanier’s media interviews.
On the 2001 shower incident. Spanier says he never was told that the incident involving Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in the Lasch Building showers was sexual in nature—only that there had been “horseplay” or “horsing around.” He told ABC’s Elliott: ”I guess I was thinking back (more…)
Attorneys for Graham Spanier defended the former Penn State president in a news conference today, and blasted the Freeh report as “so infused with bias and innuendo that it is quite simply unworthy of the confidence placed in it.”
Spanier himself didn’t attend the news conference, held in Philadelphia, but he sat down for an interview with ABC News’ Josh Elliott. According to an ABC news release, portions of the interview will appear online on ESPN this afternoon, on World News With Diane Sawyer tonight at 6:30 EDT, and on Good Morning America tomorrow morning.
The ABC interview is billed as an exclusive—the first time Spanier has spoken publicly since he lost his job last Nov. 9—but just this afternoon, the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin published lengthy excerpts from an interview that he did with Spanier last month.
Tim Lewis, one of several attorneys representing Spanier, did most of the talking at this morning’s news conference. He described Spanier as (more…)
- Joe Posnanski had an impossible task. As he wrote before the book was published this week, he confronted an unprecedented challenge: writing a biography of someone who was suddenly engulfed in a national scandal—one that upended his reputation—and then died a few months later. I can’t imagine a worse scenario for a journalist.
- Joe Paterno was a complex, complicated guy—far more so than most of what’s been written about him would suggest. That includes my own work in two stints as a beat writer covering the team, and that’s been true since well before the Sandusky scandal broke. Paterno was tough to get close to.
Posnanski doesn’t shy away from either point. I admire that. (I should also note here that I’ve known Posnanski for years; we’ve shared press boxes and meals and a few jokes together. He’s a good guy.)
But if this isn’t the book Posnanski signed up to write—with the Paterno family’s explicit cooperation—in 2011, it’s also not the definitive account of Paterno’s life. It’s too soon for that book.
There aren’t any blockbuster revelations, and the choicest new details, about Paterno sobbing the day after he was dismissed, about how his family had to force him to read the grand jury presentment, about the “I Hate Jerry Sandusky Memo,” made their way into the media quickly through excerpts.
And, honestly, most of what was in the book, I already knew.
But keep in mind that I covered my first Penn State football game, for The Daily Collegian, in 1988, and that I’ve followed Penn State football and Paterno not only because I love college football and I’m a Penn State alum, but because my job required it. I’ve read every book written about Joe Paterno, even Joe Paterno: The Coach from Byzantium by his brother, George.
Some Penn State fans, I’m sure, will feel the same. This book covers a lot of familiar territory—far more pages are devoted to Paterno’s rise and his glory years than to the Sandusky scandal and aftermath, or even to the down years of the 2000s, which have been less well chronicled and deserve (I could say, need) a more full accounting. Posnanski is a lyrical, poetic writer, and he tells those familiar tales beautifully. He adds a few choice details. I expected nothing less.
The chapter about Rip Engle was terrific; I know a lot less about Engle than I do Paterno, so I found that particularly interesting. (Awesome tidbit: Engle didn’t like to say that a player “cheated” a step or two to one side in anticipation of a play, even though that’s totally legal, so he had players “fudge” instead.) I appreciated the occasional one-liners from Paterno family members, as well, including this gem from Sue, noting that their son David’s engineering aptitude certainly didn’t come from his father: “Joe couldn’t fix a sandwich.”
Posnanski also does an excellent job showing the toll that the pursuit of excellence can take on family life; particularly when Paterno is designing his new defense in the late 1960s, Sue and the kids are on their own.
It does, however, take a long time to get to the new stuff, and those parts of the book aren’t as richly reported. There’s a chapter on Paterno’s relationship with Jerry Sandusky that clearly spells out the differences between the two men and the fact that they weren’t friends; I think this will come as less of a revelation to anyone who’s followed the program closely, but that chapter is a good read. Scott Paterno, son and lawyer, and Guido D’Elia, friend and marketing genius, wrestle with the presentment and its aftermath; anyone who cares about Joe Paterno will be sad as they read those scenes.
Posnanski eventually recounts a conversation between himself and Paterno in which the coach asks for the writer’s take. Posnanski doesn’t let him off the hook; he tells Paterno he should have done more because “you are Joe Paterno. Right or wrong, people expect more from you.” Elsewhere, he writes, “It is certain that no one, Paterno included, was aware enough, courageous enough, or decent enough to stop a man who would be found guilty of forty-five counts of child molestation.”
Most reviews, however, have found Posnanski’s portrayal, as Dwight Garner of the New York Times called it, “breezy and largely sympathetic.” Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News calls it neither a “prosecutor’s brief” nor a “full-throated defense.” Beat writer Mark Wogenrich ’90 of The Morning Call in Allentown provides a great framework for understanding the book using an anecdote about Paterno’s recruitment of John Cappelletti. Guy Cipriano, the new beat writer for the Centre Daily Times, writes that Posnanski “whiffs” on this book because he didn’t make the most of his exclusive access to Paterno, and that’s a take well worth reading, too.
There aren’t many new insights here, but Posnanski does raise some fascinating ideas. At the end of a chapter in which he recounts both Joe’s courtship of Sue and then-Oakland Raiders coach Al Davis’ courtship of Joe (he wanted Paterno to be the offensive coordinator), Posnanski writes:
“She had fallen in love with State College the first day she arrived on campus as a student, and though Joe did not know it yet, the rest of his life would be guided by her vision. Joe was cocky, ambitious, principled, smart, consumed by football, and determined to win; those qualities and others would make him a great football coach. But he would become a legend by seeing the world through Sue’s eyes.”
Now that’s something I’d like to know more about. You can learn a lot about someone by understanding their relationships—particularly the choice of a life partner—and breaking down the Paterno marriage would have been insightful. But that thread is never picked up. And it’s not the only one.
In a few places, Posnanski zeroed in on the contradiction that I’ve never been able to understand: How was it that a man who spent his life preaching the value of education, preparing his football players to live a productive life away from the football field, wasn’t able to walk away himself and enjoy the other facets of his own life?
In recounting the program’s struggles in the early 2000s and Paterno’s refusal to consider retirement, Posnanski writes, “So why go on? Why keep coaching? There is no shortage of theories, but no one can know the depth of another man’s heart.”
I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to know a least a little more. Perhaps in another decade or so, enough time will have passed that more reporting can be done. For now, this book is as close as we’ll get.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Lately it seems like the gods are making sure that there’s always a steady stream of news coming out about Penn State. And I think we already know what next week’s news will be: Paterno, the new biography by Joe Posnanski. It’s due to hit bookstores on Tuesday.
There’s a fair amount of anticipation around the book’s release (it’s already No. 28 on the Amazon.com top-sellers list, for example) and in large part that’s because of the circumstances: Posnanski set out to write a biography of Joe several years back, long before anyone knew what was to come, and suddenly last November Joe Paterno was out of a job and the nature of the book changed completely.
There was a time earlier this summer when a lot of people questioned whether the book even mattered anymore. The release of the Freeh report—which harshly criticizes Paterno for not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky from abusing young boys—didn’t help. A July 22 New York Times story called the biography “perhaps one of the most unfortunately timed books of 2012″ and said it would “enter the marketplace at a moment when the name of Joe Paterno … has gone from revered to radioactive.” Posnanski’s book tour was cancelled, and now you can’t even find an official website for the book.
(The New York Times also wrote about the book this past April; that’s an article worth reading as well.)
On Wednesday of this week, Posnanski himself wrote in USA Today about the challenges the book presented. It sounds like the first sentence of his book sums up pretty well the extremes in people’s perceptions of Joe:
“This is the story of a man named Joe Paterno, who in his long life was called moral and immoral, decent and scheming, omniscient and a figurehead, hero and fraud, Saint Joe and the devil.”
Also on Wednesday, GQ magazine released some teensy tiny excerpts from the book—a grand total of 500 words’ worth. You can read those here. (And what the heck is Paterno, an avowed luddite, holding in that illustration? An iPhone?) Those are teasers from a longer excerpt that’s available in the September edition of GQ, which is on newsstands now. StateCollege.com’s Nate Mink ’11 bought a copy of the magazine and has posted a story about it, and Dustin Hockensmith ’04 of PennLive.com has a story as well.
Tina Hay, editor
I’ve been driving by the former site of the Joe Paterno statue next to Beaver Stadium for the past week or so, watching the transformation from “statue/plaza” to “construction zone” to “grassy slope with trees, where you’d never know a statue once stood.” The project is pretty much finished now, and the fencing came down the other day; the photo at right is how things looked this morning.
Below is a short slide show of seven photos I took, starting Saturday, July 21 (the last day the statue was standing) and ending this morning. Click on any photo to pause the slide show.
Yesterday I spent some time talking with Brian Curran, a faculty member in art history who is fascinated by statues, monuments, and memorials, and who sees the controversy over the Paterno statue from multiple perspectives: as a member of the Penn State community as well as a scholar and historian. We’re hoping to include some of his thoughts in our next print edition, due out at the end of this month, and I’ll probably post a longer version of the interview on the blog as well.
Tina Hay, editor