Such is the stature of college football that, amid a spiraling child sexual abuse scandal, the career prospects of the man who coaches the Penn State Nittany Lions has overshadowed the fate of the university’s president.
Joe Paterno, a football coach of sufficient renown that his name is known even to many who do not follow college athletics, announced today that he will retire at the end of the season. One of his former defensive coordinators, Jerry Sandusky, faces 40 criminal counts of sexual abuse, and questions are now being raised about how the matter was handled by Paterno and everyone else up the chain of command.
Paterno’s departure has spawned much speculation about the Nittany Lions and the remainder of their football season. The team is part of a high-stakes, high-revenue annual ritual of nationally televised championship games.
But there is also the matter of Penn State itself, an institution of nearly 100,000 students that is commonly ranked among the nation’s top public universities.
Graham Spanier has been Penn State’s president since 1995, which is a long time for a university president, although his tenure isn’t nearly so long as Paterno’s. (The man known as JoePa has coached the Nittany Lions since 1966.)
An online petition calling for Spanier’s ouster has collected nearly 2,000 signatures. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in a blog post yesterday that support for the president is “eroding” on the Penn State board.
“The board is very concerned about this, and I believe the board will demonstrate its concern forcefully,” on trustee told the Chronicle.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, too, reports today that Spanier’s “tenure may also be near an end.”