Karen Peetz Speaks at BOT Meeting on Jan. 20
In one room, the new leaders of the Penn State University Board of Trustees held a press conference to discuss moving forward from the events of the last two months. In another room, two prominent alumni were holding their own public meeting to spread their anti-Board of Trustees movement.
The trustees met Saturday in the Nittany Lion Inn ballroom. Any discussion of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal was about moving forward. Former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris wasn't so sure the board is moving forward.
"The real problem is that when (the trustees) made that decision that week of Nov. 5, they are still stuck in that week of Nov. 5," Harris said. "They still believe in that week of Nov. 5 and they still believe in all the information that they got on Nov. 5."
The week of Nov. 5 was arguably the darkest in Penn State's history. The grand jury report on Jerry Sandusky was released, the perjury charges were filed against then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and then-VP of finance Gary Shultz, Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier were fired.
New chairwoman of the Board Karen Peetz and new vice chairman Keith Masser held a press conference after the meeting along with President Rodney Erickson, Chairman of the Special Investigation Committee Ken Frazier and Governor Tom Corbett.
In the assembly room down the hall, Harris and prominent PSU donor Anthony Lubrano, held their own session called "Real Talk with Franco Harris and Anthony Lubrano."
Harris and Lubrano are in full support of Paterno. The session had the feel of a religious gathering with Paterno as the god. The room played a DVD of Paterno's career highlights and was decorated with blown up posters of Paterno's greatest quotes. Mentions of Paterno being a good man and doing the right thing were greeted with cheers and applause. Mentions of the trustees making bad decisions were greeted the same way.
"They're the ones who hurt this university," Harris said referring to the Board of Trustees.
Harris said Paterno was wrongfully fired and he wants the legendary coach to be reinstated for the first four games next season.
"Where was the due process? The process seems flawed," he said. "They might think they had a good process but I think when the truth comes out, they'll find out that they really didn't."
Down the hall, Peetz invited trustee Anne Riley to the podium to speak about the week of Nov. 5.
"This was the hardest decision I've ever been a part of," she said.
Riley is a State College native. Her father, Ridge Riley, was a sports writer who graduated from Penn State in 1932 and became friends with Paterno. She knew Paterno since the age of 8, she said.
And Spanier? "I vacationed with Graham and Sandy," Riley said.
Riley was very emotional as she spoke. She pointed out that she was unscripted. She spoke from the heart while holding back tears.
"Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno and their families are both personal friends of mine," she said. "And that is true of several many of the trustees."
But Riley's relationship was different than the other trustees. Her father had a heart attack while he was with Paterno. Joe tried to revive him. Ridge Riley died in Paterno's arms. Anne recalled that when she was notified, she and her mother first thought about Paterno's children and the traumatic event they witnessed. That's how close the Paterno and Riley families were.
Riley also spoke very highly of Spanier.
"What a wonderful mentor he was to his students," she said. She went on to say that Spanier once saved her life on a white water rafting trip in Costa Rica.
Spanier saved Riley's life and Riley's father died in the arms of Paterno. In that week of Nov. 5, Riley had to come to grips with her duties as a trustee.
The decision to dismiss Spanier and Paterno was a unanimous decision by all 32 members of the Board. Riley was among them.
"It was my duty to come around," she said about her struggle to have to remove her two friends. Riley spoke of the "anguish" of having to vote. "It took every single minute of those days on Nov. 5 through the decision on Nov. 9."
In the assembly room, Lubrano tells the crowd of alumni that the fact that all 32 members voted to fire Paterno "tells me there were 32 followers and no leaders."
Anne Riley could have been that leader. She became a follower. The Board needed to move on. The university needed to move on.
The rest of the press conference was about moving forward. Peetz said the Board will hold town hall meetings to gather input from the public.
"We have all learned a lot in the past two months," Peetz said. Because of that, the Board will focus on change, reform and transparency, she said.
They have put together a plan to put that week of Nov. 5 in the past.
In the assembly room, alumni are still showing their support for Paterno and their disgust towards the Board. Franco Harris wants Joe back. Anthony Lubrano brings up the name "Urban Meyer" and how he has "100 percent certainty that Urban Meyer was on Paterno's written list of replacements before the 2011 season" before the scandal.
The Paterno supporters seem to want to go back and change things that have already happened. They are stuck in the past.
"(Erickson) keeps using the word 'Penn State tragedy.' I'm shaking my head," Harris said. "Linking Penn State to this? Like I said, these people are stuck in the week of Nov. 5 and they want us to move on but they haven't moved on."
The football team, the university and the university trustees are now all under new leadership. They have moved on. Harris and everyone else should follow suit.
"Why would they make decisions against Penn Staters who have been a part of Penn State for so many years the way they have?" Harris asked.
He wants answers. He's confident the answers will come out, but the answers he wants are to questions in the past - things that cannot be undone.
"Eventually we'll hear the truth," Harris said.
For eventually to come, one must move on. Instead, he's the one that's stuck in the week of Nov. 5.
Patrick Woo is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.