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Dark Clouds Over Happy Valley

Posted on: August 1st, 2012 by Larry

When you think of Harvard or Yale, you think of academics. When you think of the Universities of North Carolina or Kentucky, what comes to mind? They may be fine schools, but chances are you think of basketball. And when the name Penn State comes up, you used to think football. Unfortunately, the first thought about that school now is probably the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way

Vickey Triponey became the head of student affairs at Penn State in 2003. Two years later, she was butting heads with legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. They disagreed about discipline for football players who violated the student code of conduct. And in 2007, she says things came to a head over the discipline for six players who had been arrested at a brawl at an off-campus apartment complex. Several students were injured. One was beaten unconscious.

It quickly became clear that the success of Paterno and the football program were more important than treating all students equitably. The top administrators took Paterno’s side. Triponey had no support. She was made to be the villain on campus. Her home was vandalized. Later that year, she was forced out of her job and pretty much blackballed for a time in the academic world. Read more here.

Triponi has been vindicated by the events that began with the arrest of Sandusky last November and culminated in his conviction and the condemnation of Paterno and other former Penn State leaders in the internal investigation conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. Triponey has found another position in her chosen field, and her reputation is intact. The same can’t be said of the late Paterno. The statue of the beloved ‘Joe Pa’ is being taken down.

  • Universities with top flight athletic programs make millions of dollars from them. The student athletes are stars. Some coaches, like Paterno, become almost gods. Is something out of whack? Or, if managed appropriately, is big time college athletics a good thing?
  • A lot of blame has been assigned by the Freeh report for the cover-up. Do the students and team boosters bear any responsibility for what happened?
  • Why do you think it was so hard for Paterno and the others to do what was right and equitable?
  • It’s sometimes said that you have to “go along to get along.” Triponey refused to do that.  She knew what was right and wasn’t going to knuckle under. But she paid a price for that. Was it worth it?


Image via USA Today