O’Brien, Penn State respond to report
A furious Bill O’Brien lashed out Wednesday at a Sports Illustrated article questioning the medical care of the Penn State football program.
“To say such a thing is preposterous,” the coach fired back about insinuations made in the article that Penn State’s medical care has been lessened by changes in university personnel.
O’Brien also called the Sports Illustrated piece “a character assassination of Dave Joyner,” the school’s athletic director and a former member of the PSU Board of Trustees.
This week’s Sports Illustrated hits newsstands today and has a headline at the top of the cover that reads: “Do Athletics Still Have Too Much Power at Penn State?”
The headline inside is “What Still Ails Penn State,” and the six-page story focuses on the medical care of the football team. There are illustrations of Joyner and Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, the former team physician and orthopedic surgeon for the football program who was relinquished of those duties earlier this year but still oversees the university’s entire sports medicine department.
The article calls into question Joyner’s qualifications for the athletic director job and speculates he and Sebastianelli have had a long history of personal differences. Joyner also is an orthopedic surgeon by trade.
Penn State officials have been on the offensive since Tuesday night, when they began telling their side of the story in anticipation of the Sports Illustrated story.
“The article fundamentally distorts the facts,” the university said in a statement Wednesday. “There has been no change in the model of medical care for our student-athletes. The allegations on why the change in team physician was made is ludicrous.
“Worst of all, the article ignores the fact that Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the university’s entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics, including football.”
O’Brien angrily disputed the article’s assertions during a 20-minute teleconference with reporters. He said that since he took over the program, he’s been responsible for overseeing all aspects of the football operation and was charged with pointing out things he’d like to see changed.
“You think for one second I would jeopardize the health and safety of this football team?” O’Brien said. “With 65 kids on scholarship? That’s preposterous.”
He went on to add that his No. 1 priority is and will continue to be “their health and safety.”
“For anyone to suggest or perhaps outright accuse that anyone within Penn State’s athletic program would do otherwise is irresponsible, reckless and wrong,” O’Brien said.
Joyner also lashed out at the article’s assertions that he made the medical personnel changes for personal reasons.
“As athletic director for Penn State my first priority is the welfare of our student-athletes,” he said in a university statement. “All decisions are, and have been, made with that first and foremost as the goal. Any changes that were made were done for, and only for, the benefit of the student-athletes, the football program, and for Penn State.
“Any characterization otherwise is appalling, offensive, preposterous and completely untrue.”
The Sports Illustrated articles also focuses heavily on football athletic trainer Tim Bream and discloses allegations that he made decisions and provided treatment for things he’s not qualified for, because he’s not a doctor.
Several Penn State players took to Twitter to support Bream, as did quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.
“Tim Bream is an excellent trainer and very important to all the football players. It’s an honor and a privilege for us to have him. We are,” running back Akeel Lynch tweeted.
One of Penn State’s contentions with the Sports Illustrated article is that the school said it provided the magazine with comparative data showing its medical practices are similar and in some cases more thorough than other major football programs.
“It is the same, if not better, than everywhere that I’ve been and at numerous schools around the country,” O’Brien said of the school’s medical coverage.