Writing in the September 21, 2012 issue of Blue White Illustrated, Penn State historian Lou Prato is the latest knowledgeable figure to condemn the much maligned Freeh report, its premature acceptance by the University, and its being used as a basis for draconian punishment by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference, as well as an “accreditation warning” by the Southern Commission on Higher Education. The essay is entitled “Jumping to conclusions” and it appears on pages 56-58.
“ …the report stated that a ‘senior Penn State official referred to Curley as Paterno’s errand boy.’ That derogatory remark was out of line and should not have been included in a report from an experienced, high-profile professional like Freeh…” —Lou Prato
I recommend that anyone appalled by the media spurred rush to judgment against Penn State beg, borrow, or steal a copy of BWI. Reading it in the wake of all the other critiques solidified my feeling that the Freeh report is a piece of shoddy, biased garbage, a waste of $6.5 million. It is almost as if the BoT stated its mission to Freeh thus: “Here’s what we want, a hatchet job on Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Shultz — now make it look good and make it your idea.”
Prato doesn’t quite reach that conspiratorial conclusion, but he does tear the report apart quite convincingly. Although he personally takes issue with a plethora of issues, he dwells on three areas. In his words:
” … there are three areas that caught my immediate attention because they epitomize for me the deceptive nature of the document: 1) the reliance on information about discipline from the Office of Student Affairs without any rebuttal; 2) the interpretation of the crucial 1998 child abuse investigation that never reached the criminal court; and 3) an uncalled for cheap shot aimed at the working relationship of Curley and Paterno.”
I think we all have concerns about those subjects and we’re pretty familiar with the rebuttals against the report’s conclusions in those areas. However, Prato adds some information about the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) connection that is new to me, albeit a subject of my conjectures.
Regarding the notorious Vicky Triponey and her involvement in the 2007 off-campus fracas involving several members of the football team, Prato writes:
The footnote credits the head of the OSA at the time – Vicky Triponey, who is not mentioned by name – as telling the committee she “perceived pressure from the Athletics Department, and particularly the football program, to treat players in ways that would maintain their ability to play sports,” and that Spanier later reduced the sanctions OSA imposed on the players. Since the scandal broke, Triponey has been saying this and more to a susceptible media unwilling to seek out a countering view. Thus far, no one has publicly rebutted her. One who might – Curley – cannot talk about it now for legal reasons. If Spanier told the committee anything about the disciplinary situation in 2007 during his interviews, it isn’t mentioned. And, of course, Paterno isn’t alive to tell his side of the story.
There is no indication the investigators talked to anyone who might have a different opinion or looked into Triponey’s credibility – which is suspect. Almost from the day she was hired, she battled constantly with the university’s student leaders, not just the athletic department and Paterno. Those student leaders were so angry about her dictatorial style they set up a Web page that still exists: The Vicky Triponey Timeline of Terror.
Furthermore, even before her arrival, the Judicial Affairs branch of the OSA was considered by a large segment of students and local attorneys to be a “kangaroo court.” In fact, what really precipitated Triponey’s sudden departure – she only recently admitted publicly that she was fired – was an extensive review of Judicial Affairs in 2007 by a campus-wide academic committee that Spanier had commissioned. When Triponey strenuously objected to the committee recommendations that Spanier adopted, she was given the opportunity to resign or be terminated.
Anyone can read that committee report at safeguardoldstate.org. Obviously, Freeh and his committee didn’t.
If you are a new reader of the Turkey, you need to know a couple of things about Vicky Triponey and her connections to the Penn State debacle. When NCAA president Mark Emmert was at the University of Connecticut, he hired Triponey. Now, Triponey works at The College of New Jersey, where her boss, R. Barbara Gitenstein, is also the president of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accreditation body that recently issued Penn State a warning about its accreditation being in jeopardy. Because Triponey started mouthing off about Penn State immediately after the Sandusky scandal broke, two things were apparent: 1) she still had sour grapes about being forced out at Penn State (i.e., losing to Paterno) and Vicky vitriolically vied to vindicate her view of the evil football program, and 2) she had a lot of influential and connected players in the media, the NCAA, and the Big Ten in her address book, and she took the opportunity to haul out the heavy artillery. Her media blitz resulted in articles that lionized her (pun intended) as the woman who took on Joe Paterno and won.
Of course, the media and other influential entities are still piling on, given that Penn State is in such a vulnerable position, especially when they all know they can play the outrage and sympathy card by bringing up the victims of Sandusky’s crimes.
Prato sums up by stating that Penn Staters are aware of the deceit, but it is too bad that we have to endure the continual media and public bitterness to prove our points.