On the evening of November 9, 2011, the Penn State Board of Trustees held a late-night meeting to decide on the fate of then head football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It was a tough night for the board, for more than just the waking scandal. The board would have the duty of terminating a living legend, an icon. Recently, members of the board revisited that day with Pete Thamel and Mark Viera of the New York Times.
It was a tiring for Penn Staters everywhere, but especially for the trustees. The board had not spoken publicly since its decision was made, but as Thamel and Viera write, it was a trying time.
"It was hard for us to want to get to the point where we were going to say that," said Ira M. Lubert, a board member who works in private equity. "I was laying in bed that night shaking. And I couldn't sleep, thinking: We just terminated Joe Paterno."
While many scrambled to defend Paterno, arguing that he wasn't at fault for what happened, those seemed to miss the bigger picture. Kenneth Frazier explained why the board's decision was so important.
"To me, it wasn't about guilt or innocence in a legal sense. It was about these norms of society that I'm talking about: that every adult has a responsibility for every other child in our community. And that we have a responsibility not to do the minimum, the legal requirement. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can take every effort that's within our power not only to prevent further harm to that child, but to every other child."
One of the most surprising issues for the board was that its members, according to their account, found out about all of the news as the rest of the country did. They were caught off-guard, according to trustee member Mark Dambly. "There was a lack of information being provided to us. We found out about it when the rest of the world found out about it," Dambly told the Times.
Overall, the piece by Thamel and Viera is an eye-opening look into the critical decision the board was forced to make on that night. In many ways, the board was charged with firing a hero to many and a living legend. It's also rather surprising that, according to the report, former Penn State Graham Spanier essentially just glossed over the grand jury testimony for the board and left it in the dark.
We'll have more on the scandal in this StoryStream, but for more on Penn State football please visit Black Shoe Diaries.