Erikson Hides, Paterno Hasn’t Been “Fired”- and PSU Still Hasn’t Found Its’ Conscience

Jo Pa Has Not Been Fired. Penn State has not yet Found Its’ Conscience.  Circling the Wagons. Chair Surma plays it Cute. PSU higher-ups play Goldman Sachs. Schultz, Curley, Paterno, the Board: none have suffered any financial disadvantage. None have lost employment. This is a nationally-defining moment, and PSU continues to act like a scurrying grey mouse. Clean House, now. Fire some higher-ups.

At a November 9 PSU’s Press Conference,  Board Chair John Surma stated that Joe Paterno was “no longer the head football coach, effective immediately.”  And at their Dec. 2 “Emergency” meeting (called, according to PSU press release  just to “dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s)  the PSU Board’s Executive Committee  “ratified” that earlier Nov. 9 action, stating that the BOT determined that “Joe Paterno will no longer serve as the football coach, effective Nov. 9.”  

And every press account since then has described the events as involving a “firing” of Paterno. 

Well, sports fans, this ain’t no firing.  Yes, Paterno’s clearly no longer PSU’s Head Football Coach; nor is he — based upon an apparently quite justified avalanche of stinging, sour national publicity — any longer legitimately to be considered the Sun God of Happy Valley.  But based on what we’ve been told about the situation by a PSU administration (which must’ve hired the same muck-footing PR firm to whom Ohio State paid $750,000 for apparently mostly wretched advice rendered during the first six months of 2011) Paterno’s status is the same as that of AD Curley: he’s just on paid leave.  He gets paid weekly (or monthly – whatever is customary.)  He (and PSU) contribute to his retirement plan.  He accrues vacation and sick time. He enjoys health insurance (and, presumably, other insurances) through PSU.   He has access to PSU facilities.  He remains entitled to full retirement benefits. That’s what we know. By all appearances, by every objective measure, Paterno remains an employee.

Here’s why this matters:  PSU “formerly-Interim-but-suddenly-Permanent” President Erikson made much explicit and affirmative fuss, when he first got the Interim job, about his and PSU’s commitment to “transparency” and “the truth.”

But, to quote A. Carnegie, the older I get, the “more I watch what men do, not what they say.” And what Erikson and PSU have done since is show a solid commitment to obfuscating and hiding the truth:   they (and they is ALL the characters on the Board pre-scandal, including that Merck CEO who masterminded the cover-up about the massive fraud and litigation-scorched-earth perpetrated upon its’ Vioxx patients) have circled their wagon, hid the truth, and maintained – for all those who served on PSU’s Board before the scandal hit — a stranglehold on the investigation and the  facts revealed to the public.

This, the grand-daddy of all collegiate sports scandals, still screams out for a swift and complete PSU House-cleaning — even if one assumes, with blinders on about the pressing need to consider as paramount the need to young people — that the sole future interests requiring protection are those of the  insular PSU Board and PSU’s inept administration.  These people are showing them selves as amateurs, and PSU is going to run straight into more upheaval and stain on its’ character, as the disgusting details, and the complicity of PSU Board and administration members, becomes more clear with each passing hearing, deposition and trial.

What’s been offered by Erikson and the PSU Board so far is a Tom Sawyer whitewash:  they apparently think that if they hire a New York PR firm, and start spinning hard, all the while protecting the existing income of every single top-levl person involved — including even Jerry Sandusky, who appears to retain all rights to his retirement income — and all the while protecting the oh-so-precious reputations — and “honorary” jobs of all those Board members who served — then the public will believe that a house cleaning has occurred.

The Penn State house is still filthy.  And this scandal still has “legs”, and will continue to grow more legs, as every tawdry, disgusting detail about an apparent pedophile and his enabling bureaucracy — with their peacock, holier-than-thou Sun God Joe Paterno at the helm – leaking out over the coming months.

PSU needs to fire its’ New York PR firm, and hire someone plain-spoken, like Sam Ervin, the Watergate-era Senator from North Carolina, for advice.  Or maybe the ghost of Johnny U.  Lenny Moore?  Not Matt Millen.  Someone who will tell them the kind of old coal-country advice Johnny U — or maybe even Joe Namath of Beaver Falls — might tell them:  get rid of all those smarmy’, snivelling, dollar-worshipping eunuchs on that Board who can’t call out evil when they see it.  CLEAN HOUSE. Fire some people. Don’t pay them another dollar.  We’re watching what you DO, not what you SAY.

Instead, what signs do we have that the PSU Board has a commitment to cleaning out the rot? A newly annointed full-time permanent President Erikson (what happened to the touted “national search?”), who just so happens to have huge culpability because he was on the Board when this all unfolded; a temporary Head Coach Bradley, who is a long-time Paterno assistant and erstwhile roommate of PSU former Paterno quarterback and Assistant-who-rocketed-up-the-Coaching-authority-chart-after-he-allegedly-witnessed-the-then-surpressed-child-rape-in-PSU-football-showers Matt McQueary.

In fact, as regards all of the high-profile PSU characters associated with the scandal, all but former VP Schultz have the very same “continuing employee” status as that described above for Jo Pa. (And Schultz just up and retired, so he’s suffered no financial loss.)  More to the point:  not one person involved has suffered one dollar of loss of income as a result of the staggering breach of duty which is made plain by the sickening last decade of events. 

Remind you of Goldman Sachs?  Everyone in silk ties, still living high and mighty?  Well, it’s not a precise parallel, and here’s why.  As regards Goldman, we’d all say:  what about the common man?  If he had to suffer from the economic blow-up, why should Goldman continue to make exorbitant profit?   But, as regards PSU’s Board, and PSU’s higher-ups, including Paterno, Bradley, McQuery, the question is not, What about the Common Man?  The question is much uglier, much more profound: What about the common, gullible, innocent BOYS?

Yes, Spanier “resigned” on November 9 from his position as President — but he remains a full tenured professor/employee  of PSU.  And, according to Erikson, “on sabbatical” this coming twelve months!  On Sabattical!  This is the kind of “time off to do research and thinking” which historically, over the last 250 years, has accrued to those in academia who have shown a solid pattern of scholarship and contribution t0 the community.  Sabbatical? For Spanier?  Someone needs to get in Erikson’s face about this one.

And AD Curley? By all appearances, he remains on an “administrative leave” which assures him all the benefits, pay and rights of an employee, and at least suggests that he may return, at some point in the future, to his former status as a fully-functioning AD.

[But wait, you say, what about the notion of “innocent until proven guilty?”   NOT.  This standard (the extraordinarily high criminal one) has zero relevance, and here’s why.  We don’t NEED to determine guilt as regards a crime. It’s MUCH more simple than that: all we need to know — and we already know it — is that someone like Jo Pa failed to take simple, decent action which would have been required of any decent person — action which would prevent a perceived risk of harm from coming to fruition — which would have been damned sure to prevent any such perceived risk of harm from happening.   Note:  perceived risk of harm is a MUCH lower standard than determining that the harm occurred.  Any reasonable person, whether told by McQuery about a child-rape — or solely about a naked Sandusky showering with a naked 10 year old boy –  should have immediately concluded:  over my DEAD body will Sandusky ever have access to this entire Penn State Campus!  That’s what Jo Pa should’ve done – and that simple decision was one of ordinary simple, everyday risk analysis.

Back at the March 8 OSU Press Conference, Jim Tressel, on a hot seat, but still dissembling, nonetheless let slip, in reference to the actions of his players to go trade trinkets for money, the need for every person to pay attention to what he called the “Little Sensor” inside which reminds a person about the need to act affirmatively to avoid or correct wrongdoing.  Tressel ignored, for nine months, his own Little Sensor, and lied outright to everyone around him, repeatedly.

PSU is still floundering about, looking to find its’ own “Little Sensor”, which would allow them to understand that they need to BOOT EVERYONE OUT.  The entire PSU Board needs to go.  Start over.  Here’s the final reason: its’ more than the PSU community which demands good vigorous moral decision-making. This scandal – like it or not, justified or not — is a “nationally-defining” moment, just as were 9/11, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, and the OJ trial.  Kids learn moral lessons from these nationally-defining moments. If PSU continues to act like a grey mouse, rather than Johnny U, or Sam Ervin, then they’ll teach the young people of Pennsylvania and the entire country that its’ OK to act like grey mice.  Stand up, take your hits, PSU, and pay attention to you “Little Sensor.”

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
This entry was posted in Jerry Sandusky, Jim Tressel, Jo Pa, Joe Paterno, PSU Board, PSU football, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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