Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Paterno soon out at Penn State (5x UPDATED -- with report of perhaps 20 victims)

5th UPDATE: 7:47 p.m. EST: FOX29 in Philadelphia reports that several men who say they were sexually assaulted by Jerry Sandusky have contacted the state's attorney general's office
Fox 29 has learned the number of child-abuse in the Penn State sex-abuse scandal involving ex-coach Jerry Sandusky has more than doubled in the past day, and is closer to 20 victims.
And, as USA Today notes, the university's terrible method of crisis management is under scrutiny again because of the decision earlier today to cancel the scheduled Joe Paterno press conference.
"When you say nothing, when you cancel a press conference or say he won't speak about it, there's a perception there's something to hide," New York-based crisis consultant Mike Paul of MGP and Associates PR said.
Additionally, Paul and Jason Maloni, senior vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis management firm, say a hasty departure by Paterno is necessary to salvage the university's reputation.
Never mind the irony that in 46 years at the school Paterno bolstered its image or that his program steered clear of rules violations that have afflicted all but one other major college football program — Stanford.
4th UPDATE: 4:25 p.m. EST: At least one newspaper in Pennsylvania leaves no doubt that it believes it is time for Penn State to clean house. The Patriot-News delivered a blistering -- but fair -- assessment of what has happened in State College over the past three days in this front-page editorial.

Perhaps the boldest statement is this one:
So how did a college football legend, known nationally for the integrity of his program, respond to a report of “something of a sexual nature” occurring between his longtime colleague and a little boy?

And how did a university president responsible for the welfare of thousands of young people respond to the very idea that an older man was showering with a boy and engaging in “inappropriate conduct” on campus?


They banned Jerry Sandusky from bringing children on campus.


That was all.
I discussed in one of my classes yesterday and in another one today the roles that public/media relations people and organizations, and the news media play in these kinds of stories. Summarizing those conversations into a couple sentences, I reminded students that one of the critical (and flawed) decisions Penn State's leadership made was to not have a forceful comment from the university president within hours of the story breaking. That absence of a here-is-where-we-stand statement allowed for speculation that the administration was either indifferent to or assisting in hiding the horrible grand jury report and the indictments that developed from it. I added that in such an environment, the media will continue to probe and ask questions. They will add fuel to the image of an indifferent or incompetent administration.

This was a valuable real-world exercise.

3rd UPDATE: 1:18 p.m. EST: As is often the case when breaking news is involved, there are conflicting reports about what is known and what is believed known.

One of Joe Paterno's sons, according to at least two news organizations, "tweeted" a short time ago that the New York Times' report about a potential dismissal (my word, by the way) of Joe Paterno as Penn State's football coach was premature in its reporting.

Perhaps. But then one needs to also read a story posted at 1:11 p.m. EST by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The two highest-ranking officials left standing in the child-sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University may not make it through the week, The Chronicle has learned.

Graham B. Spanier, the university’s president, and Joe Paterno, its longtime football coach, are losing support on the university’s Board of Trustees, which plans to take up the issue in a closed-door session on Thursday, two individuals with close ties to senior leadership of the university said this morning.
“Any idea that the board is being placid or complacent is misplaced. The board is very concerned about this, and I believe the board will demonstrate its concern forcefully,” said one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because no official decision has been made. That individual has had contact with more than a dozen of the board’s 32 members.
If you've been following this story from its inception, then you know that there were calls as early as Saturday from some quarters that Penn State needed to clean house; the university, these individuals suggested, needed to dump the president, the athletic director, the football coach and anyone else who can be tainted by this scandal.

Right now, that appears to be the direction Penn State is moving.

And as you consider the known versus believed known, then also pay close attention to the reasons behind the cancellation of Paterno's planned press conference. The aforementioned Scott Paterno also "tweeted" that his father did not make that decision. Now there are tweets indicating Mr. Paterno plans to speak somewhere off campus.

Penn State and efficiency prior to today were terms that belonged in the same sentence. It now appears the opposite is true.

2nd UPDATE: 12:40 p.m. EST: ESPN is among many news organizations suggesting that Paterno's scheduled news conference today was canceled by the university president.

"Due to the ongoing legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today's press conference cannot be held and will not be rescheduled," assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said in a statement.
Paterno's son, Scott, told The Associated Press that the decision was made by president Graham Spanier's office.
Scott said that his father was disappointed and was prepared to take questions about the scandal as well as Penn State's upcoming Big Ten game against Nebraska.
The news conference was to be the first chance for reporters to ask Paterno about what he knew about Sandusky, his one-time heir apparent, who was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.
If President Spanier was integral in canceling the planned news conference, then it is reasonable to assume that he is involved in orchestrating Paterno's departure. Again, at this point I have no evidence to support that, but common sense as a guide leads me to that conclusion. 

1st UPDATE: 12:35 p.m. EST: If these reports that Paterno is being tossed out are true, then there are perhaps two conclusions that can be drawn:
-The Sandusky scandal provided the ammunition that a group of people wanted to get rid of him
-Paterno's actions were considered ethically vacant

In the first scenario, the scandal really didn't matter; people at Penn State wanted him out, and the sex scandal provided them with the excuse to make it happen.

In the second scenario, Paterno was (quickly) judged to have been incapable of seeing a problem and appropriately dealing with it.

Either way, Paterno's time at Penn State appears over.

ORIGINAL POST: The New York Times drops this bombshell in a news alert sent at 12:25 p.m. EST:
Joe Paterno’s tenure as coach of the Penn State football team will soon be over, perhaps within days or weeks, in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that has implicated university officials, according to two people briefed on conversations among the university’s top officials.

The board of trustees has yet to determine the precise timing of Paterno’s exit, but it is clear that the man who has more victories than any other coach at college football’s top level and who made Penn State a prestigious brand will not survive to coach another season. Discussions about how to manage his departure have begun, according to the two people.

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