11 ex-PSU football players critical of trustee
STATE COLLEGE — Eleven former Penn State football players including Franco Harris are calling for a fellow former player to be voted off the school's board of trustees because of how the panel handled the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, including firing longtime coach Joe Paterno.
The board member, former Nittany Lions linebacker Paul Suhey, said in a statement that while he made a “stunningly unpopular decision,” his obligation as a trustee was to vote his conscience.
In a letter dated last week and addressed to other former players, the group said the board's actions tarnished the reputation and legacy of Paterno, the football program and coaches and players who had nothing to do with the scandal. The NCAA levied severe sanctions on the program for the scandal, including strict scholarship cuts and a four-year bowl ban.
Among the signers of the letter were former running back Lydell Mitchell, quarterbacks Todd Blackledge and Michael Robinson and linebacker Brandon Short.
Suhey is one 39 candidates vying for three alumni-elected seats on the board, and one of two incumbents along with board vice chair Stephanie Deviney. The third seat is open. Voting begins on April 10 and closes May 2.
Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison following his conviction last summer of dozens of counts of abuse. The letter from former players began by saying they were horrified by Sandusky's actions, and that their thoughts and prayers remained with the victims and their families.
“Also horrifying has been the ensuing damage inflicted to the standing of our university due in large part to the failure of the Board of Trustees,” the letter said. “It is for this reason that we are compelled to step forward and oppose Paul Suhey's re-election to the board.”
The 11 ex-players wrote that they took action knowing it might cause division among the tight-knit community of lettermen. “It is not a role we relish, but it is one we believe is necessary to prevent any further damage to our university,” they wrote.
Suhey said in a statement late last week that one of the lessons passed down from his coaches was that good leaders can't be afraid of doing the right thing because it's unpopular. He said Paterno taught him the importance of integrity.
“My responsibility is to do what I think is right for the university that I love. I had to make what I knew would be a stunningly unpopular decision but I believed then, as I believe now for many reasons, that it was the right decision,” he wrote.
He concluded that he understood that there were others who believe the board made the wrong decision. “I am OK with that and I respect the opinions of others who disagree with me,” he said.
Besides the former players in the letter, some vocal alumni critics have been angry with Suhey and Deviney. The watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship has taken out ads against the incumbents.
In an email Tuesday confirming his statement, Suhey added that negative attacks against alumni trustees had no place at Penn State.