Dear Penn State Board of Trustees:
I graduated in 1987 and again in 1991. I was your Drum Major for five years from 1982-1987. I have had a solid business career, having been Chairman and CEO at two successful software companies. My ties to Penn State have never been stronger and my heart never more broken. I continue to teach at Penn State annually in the Strategy Class for Don Hambrick in the MBA Program. I love doing it. In 2008, I was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award in the Smeal College of Business – the first ever undergraduate winner. My family and I have established two scholarships at Penn State. The first scholarship was for the Drum Major and the second in the Smeal College of Business. We are considering a 3rd scholarship. My wife and I were married on campus in the Eisenhower Chapel.
My father graduated from Penn State in 1950 and was a 4.0 Mechanical Engineer. Our love for Penn State is strong. Football is a part of it, but it goes so much deeper than that. We cheer for all of the sports and all of the honors bestowed upon Penn State. But it is first and foremost about Success with Honor. We care less about the wins than we do about the graduation rate. We are so proud of the athletes who graduate and go on to have successful careers and speak so highly of their Penn State experience. And we are honored to have known the man that helped create this one-of-a-kind environment.
No one in our family thinks the BOT should ratify the consent decree as it currently exists. Here’s why:
Points of Contention with the Consent Decree
1. No NCAA Investigation: The NCAA did not perform their own investigation as they have in all other cases to my knowledge. Why would there be an exception here? Would the consent decree hold up in a court of law? What if evidence in the Freeh Report is someday shown to be incorrect? Is there recourse? Why is there no opportunity for appeal? With these questions in mind, I believe the sanctions were handed out prematurely and should be appealed.
2. Administrative, Not Athletic: The crimes committed were only indirectly related to football/athletics and should be handled in the criminal courts. The NCAA should have little jurisdiction here. Penn State made aggressive moves on their own to solve the administrative problems including firing the Coach, terminating the President and suspending the Athletic Director, commissioning the Freeh Report and removing the Paterno statue. The NCAA should have acknowledged these moves and acted incrementally, rather than piling on 10x harder.
3. No Cover Up: There is a big difference between not solving a crime and covering one up. Why would we expect a football coach in his 70s to solve a crime when so many others, including trained professionals, missed it? I do not believe that the evidence shows that our leaders tried to cover it up. True, they tried to minimize the impact by managing it internally and that was a mistake. But this does not constitute a cover-up. It’s no different than the fact that you as a Board did not dig deeper to understand what was going on. Does that constitutes a cover up as well? Everyone could have done more. Some were Penn Staters; many were not.
4. Due Process: Due process is still incomplete – we need to hear from Tim Curley, Gary Schulz, Graham Spanier. Let them speak. Cooler heads need to prevail. Remember Iraq and WMD?
5. The Freeh Report is Not Comprehensive and Lacks Hard Evidence: As I understand it, The Freeh Report was not intended to be an exhaustive investigation, but to be solely focused on how Penn State handled the situation and offer corrective actions. Allowing Freeh to make Reasonable Conclusions was extremely harmful. Accepting the report and its “reasonable conclusions” without deep consideration and caution was also a mistake. There needs to be a larger investigation. I am hopeful that the FBI or other able-bodied organization performs one.
6. Punishing the Innocent: The NCAA sanctions that punish the innocent should be repealed. These include Scholarship Reduction and Ban on Post-Season Play. I would propose increasing the sanctions that focus on the guilty and/or aid the abused. For example, redirecting revenues from Bowl games to charities supporting Child Abuse. Elimination of scholarships reduces the opportunity for athletes to get a great education. Why would the NCAA want that? Isn’t that the whole point? This appears to be more anger being dumped on Penn State to weaken its ability to compete on the field. The NCAA seems to think this will change our culture? I think history has taught us that punishing the innocent does not dismantle a culture, it galvanizes one.
7. Immediate Transfer: Allowing players to transfer immediately to other schools, even those under NCAA sanctions, is mean-spirited. Again, this shows the intent of the NCAA was to hurt us on the field. We needed to pause and discuss the implications of these and other sanctions with the BOT and other experts before accepting them. No reason we can’t ask for that pause now. If the NCAA over-reacts and kills our program, they will look ridiculous. I don’t believe they would do that.
8. Vacating wins: To be honest, I could care less about the wins. But it does show that the NCAA was extremely vindictive. Joe never got his day to speak. And he was abandoned during his greatest time of need by his own people, many of whom he developed. But at least someone should have questioned why the wins would be vacated back to 1998? Acceptance of this is preposterous as Sandusky was investigated and cleared of any wrong-doing. Even if Joe did know, what was he supposed to do, fire a Coach for being wrongly accused of a crime? Isn’t that illegal? The date of vacated wins should, at a minimum, be adjusted to align with the timing of the second incident. With that said, vacating wins is petty.
9. NCAA Bullying: Negotiating and consummating a deal without speaking with the Board was a move that I cannot support. As a CEO, Board member and Chairman of multiple companies, this is incomprehensible. I can only assume this was a Bully Tactic used by the NCAA to assure there could be no appeal. The NCAA was undoubtedly aware that Board Consent was required.
10. Lack of Leadership and Partnership: I was disappointed to see the manner in which the NCAA handed out the sanctions against us. What I would have expected was to see Rodney Erickson on stage with Dr. Emmert explaining the need for sanctions, our acceptance of them and our plan moving forward. We needed a helping hand, not a kick in the gut. The $60M should not have been positioned as a fine, but as an Endowment created by Penn State to be distributed in Big10 communities to help combat Child Abuse - hand in hand, working together with the NCAA and our other Big10 partners. This was an opportunity missed. Instead, we were publicly given 60M lashes. I found it particularly embarrassing.
What do we tell our children?
• We are not free to speak: The media has crushed us in the world of public opinion. Anyone who defends Penn State or Joe Paterno is considered an advocate of a Child Abuser. I wore a Penn State shirt the other day and a man with a cane said to me, “You have a lot of nerve wearing that shirt around here.” My kids were with me.
• Due process is not important: The NCAA decided to use the Freeh Report against us… with our permission. This was comparable to acting as our own attorney and subsequently incriminating ourselves. Our whole judicial system hinges on due process. Why would it not apply here? This is a very scary precedent to set.
• Joe Paterno is bad and conspired to enable a child molester: I don’t believe this. We should be willing to fight to the death to get the whole truth and not cut a single corner. If he missed it, okay. People make bad decisions. But we need to do a complete job of understanding exactly what did or did not happen. The Freeh Report came up way short and it should have pointed out.
• All Penn Staters are guilty: Why else would we accept these devastating penalties without even trying to amend/find a middle ground?
• Sometimes It’s Better Not to Fight for What You Believe: I guess you believe that it is better for us to take this punishment and move on. Is that what each of you would do if you were a victim? Or if you were Tim Curley? If each of you had the threat of jail time looming over you, would you give up then? I can only assume you are either, 1. Afraid of the death penalty and the economic implications, or 2. Tired of dealing with the issue and want to move on. As I see it, if we fight and are subsequently handed death penalty, the NCAA will be even more exposed as the corrupt, bullying organization they now appear to be. If they are allowed to act in this manner unilaterally and without due process, who’s next? Is this really the way our system is supposed to work?
I can’t support these ideas, nor should you. I would rather fight to the death, than accept that which I do not believe. This leaves me to tell my children that our system and our values are not what we preach them to be. That Penn State got a raw deal and accepted it. That Joe Paterno is a great man and he was abandoned by Penn Staters. That the Board was unwilling to stand up and fight for what was right.
There is nothing wrong with the Penn State culture. Please do not allow the NCAA to continue to cast that shadow upon us without retort. Our culture is fantastic. Maybe there is a cultural problem on the Board or in the Administration, but as students, athletes and alumni, I don’t see the problem. We didn’t hurt anybody. We do great things for people and for each other. Even when we cheer, we say “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Further, there is nothing wrong with the balance at Penn State between Athletics and Academics. In fact, there is no better model in the country. Please do not allow the NCAA to make statements to the contrary. Remind them of our graduation rates, our research, etc.
I feel horrible for the victims. But I also feel horrible for the players, coaches, fans, alumni, blue band members, trustees, and on and on. We can feel badly for both; it’s not mutually exclusive. And we can support both; it’s not one or the other. You need to make that clear to everyone, every day. You have to get Penn Staters feeling good about wearing their colors again. Right now, it’s not fun. In fact, it feel a bit dangerous.
The key to moving forward is Partnership and we will need a master of diplomacy to carry that out effectively. We must leverage our partners to assist us. That includes our Big Ten counterparts and their Presidents. It includes our sponsors (Pepsi, NIKE, etc.) It includes our opponents. And, of course, it should have included the NCAA. We should rarely appear alone in the media. Whenever we are talking about the good things we are doing, we should have a partner by our side. It will give us more credibility and look less like an obvious attempt to win people back. No one is listening to us at the moment. Remember the Wind and the Sun fighting to get the man to remove his jacket. We need to be the Sun and not the Wind. Rodney E. and Dave J. and Biil O. should appear with partners as much as possible… other Presidents, Other ADs, Other Coaches … and let the others guys do most of the talking…
I still have faith that one day there will be apologies coming, which we will of course, accept graciously. I envision the day when we restore the legacy of great human being who was treated unfairly. I hope I see his statue resurrected. He made me a better Student, Drum Major, Businessman, Coach, Husband, Father and Person.
BOTs: Stand up and fight for due process, truth and the greatness of Penn State.
For the Glory of Old State,
Penn State 1987, 1991