From Mirror reports
The fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal has produced new accusations that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett was the most instrumental of Penn State's 32-member Board of Trustees in orchestrating the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
In an extensive article published earlier this week, ESPN's Outside the Lines, the network's investigative program, reported that Corbett pushed the board toward its controversial decision on Nov. 9, 2011 that fractured the Penn State community.
Corbett and some trustees deny the allegation.
Since becoming governor in January of 2011, Corbett is awarded an honorary seat on Penn State's board. Most governors do not routinely attend the board meetings, and Corbett missed the first four since he was elected.
But his staff booked rooms in State College for the fifth meeting, Nov. 11, and, according to ESPN, Corbett "lobbied for the ouster"of Paterno and school president Graham Spanier that week in the wake of sexual-assault charges against Sandusky, a longtime PSU assistant coach.
Corbett not only was successful in urging the dismissals, he bragged about it, according to one Penn State fan who spoke with Corbett and considers him a friend.
Bob Capretto, a 65-year-old former Penn State player who admittedly "loves Joe Paterno," told ESPN that he asked Corbett, "Who told the board to fire Joe and fire Spanier?"
"And the governor said, 'I told them to do it,'" Capretto said. "He was proud of it. I told him, 'You don't realize what you have created here. The damage to Penn State is enormous.'"
ESPN quoted several trustees and a senior faculty member off the record as supporting allegations that Corbett drove the firing.
Corbett refused to be interviewed for the article but issued a statement Wednesday night disputing its contents.
"ESPN's report from the grassy knoll merely adds another chapter to the growing list of conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandusky case," Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the governor, said. "It is a disappointment to read something so long, filled with so many errors, that offers so little by way of new or even real fact.
"The fact remains that Jerry Sandusky is charged with serious crimes of sexually abusing children, and that the evidence against him is overwhelming," Harley said.
ESPN also reported about a rift between Corbett and Spanier. Outside the Lines said Corbett did not appreciate Spanier spending time in the PSU president's box during the 2010 football season with Dan Onorato, a Democrat who was running for governor against Corbett.
Spanier told colleagues he was perplexed by Corbett's reaction, saying Onorato had not been his guest, and he had gone out of his way not to play favorites, ESPN reported.
After resigning as attorney general, Corbett was sworn in as governor on Jan. 18, 2011. Two months later, Corbett proposed cutting $182 million of state funding for Penn State, a 52.4 percent cut from the previous year's total.
Spanier and the Penn State administration were jolted.
"It was pretty clear that the governor didn't care for the president," state Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican who is head of appropriations, told ESPN. "Clearly during the budget battle, there was a sense of estrangement."
While some trustees -- off the record -- were critical of Corbett and his motives, others have defended the decision to end Paterno's 46-year coaching career when they did. They have done so several times as a group and individually since November.
The trustees interviewed reiterated they were particularly upset when Paterno told the board on Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, that he would resign at the end of the season and that the trustees "had more important things to attend to" than worrying about his future.
"We couldn't have him on the sidelines," trustee Alvin Clemens told ESPN, "acting like nothing happened."
"He kicked sand in our faces," Edward P. Junker, an emeritus board member and the retired vice chairman of PNC Bank Corp told ESPN. "After he made that statement, it certainly sealed the deal as far as the trustees were concerned."
Corbett never told us what to do," trustee Paul Silvis told the Centre Daily Times. "He voted and agreed with our decision."
Trustees Vice Chairman Keith Masser told the CDT, "The governor didn't influence the decision of the board."
ESPN reported that the trustees had grown weary of Paterno's unwillingness to retire between 2004 and 2011.
The article also said the Paterno family has yet to be paid $4.5 million owed from Paterno's last contract.
Though the vote to remove Paterno was unanimous, ESPN reported longtime trustee Mimi Coppersmith offered initial resistence, saying, "Coach Paterno is revered in State College."
ESPN reported board vice chairman John Surma responded by saying, "We're not going to drink the Kool-Aid," and then made the announcement about an hour later.
The entire ESPN article can be viewed on altoonamirror.com by clicking the link at the right.