Ex-PSU conduct officer: Paterno sought special treatment for players
CHARLESTON, SC (AP) – A former Penn State official charged with enforcing discipline at the school said Tuesday that Joe Paterno’s players got into trouble more often than other students, and got special treatment compared with non-athletes.
Vicky Triponey, who resigned her post as the university’s standards and conduct officer in 2007, confirmed that she sent a 2005 email to then-president Graham Spanier and others in which she expressed her concerns about how Penn State handled discipline cases involving football players. The Wall Street Journal published excerpts from the email on Tuesday.
Paterno “is insistent he knows best how to discipline his players … and their status as a student when they commit violations of our standards should NOT be our concern … and I think he was saying we should treat football players different from other students in this regard,” Triponey wrote in the Aug. 12, 2005, email.
“Coach Paterno would rather we NOT inform the public when a football player is found responsible for committing a serious violation of the law and/or our student code,” she wrote, “despite any moral or legal obligation to do so.”
The email surfaced as Penn State is reeling in the aftermath of criminal charges filed this month against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach accused of molesting eight boys, some on campus, over a 15-year period.
But Tuesday night, a Penn State administrator who reported to Triponey and was directly responsible for overseeing student discipline noted that Paterno did not have the authority to change his office’s decisions when football players were sanctioned.
Joe Puzycki, who still works at the university, said in an email to The Associated Press that while Paterno was vocal in sharing his opinions, “we adjudicated athlete cases the same as we did any other student.”
The Sandusky scandal has resulted in the ousting of school President Graham Spanier and Paterno, whom trustees felt did not do enough about one accusation involving a 10-year-old boy. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university’s police department, has stepped down.
Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report to police, and Sandusky is charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse. All maintain their innocence.
Interviewed by The Associated Press at her Charleston home, Triponey said that throughout her tenure at Penn State there was “an ongoing debate” over who should deal with misconduct by football players.
Her 2005 email was sent the day after a heated meeting in which Paterno complained about the discipline process.
“He knew better than anyone how to discipline them. We wanted to show him the (disciplinary) data and suggest that ‘Well, whatever it is we’re doing, it’s not working.’ They’re getting into trouble at a greater rate than they should. We wanted to find a way to address that,” she said. “The meeting ended up being a one- sided conversation with the coach talking about his frustrations, his anger, his not being happy with the way we were running the system.”
Paterno’s lawyer, Wick Sollers, defended his client in a written statement.
“The allegations that have been described are out of context, misleading and filled with inaccuracies,” he said. “In the current atmosphere, it is not surprising that every aspect of Penn State University’s academics and athletics will be reviewed.”