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Former Penn State official says football players received special treatment

Vicky Triponey, the university's former standards and conduct officer, says players got into trouble more often than other students and were treated more favorably than non-athletes.

November 22, 2011|Wire reports
  • A former Penn State disciplinarian says football players received preferential treatment under former coach Joe Paterno when they violated the school's code of conduct.
A former Penn State disciplinarian says football players received preferential… (Tim Shaffer / Reuters )

A former Penn State official charged with enforcing discipline at the school said Tuesday that Joe Paterno's players got in trouble more often than other students, and got special treatment compared to non-athletes.

Vicky Triponey, who resigned her post as the university's standards and conduct officer in 2007, confirmed that she sent a 2005 email to then-president Graham Spanier and others in which she expressed her concerns about how Penn State handled discipline cases involving football players. The Wall Street Journal published excerpts from the email on Tuesday.

Paterno "is insistent he knows best how to discipline his players … and their status as a student when they commit violations of our standards should NOT be our concern … and I think he was saying we should treat football players different from other students in this regard," Triponey wrote in the Aug. 12, 2005, email.

"Coach Paterno would rather we NOT inform the public when a football player is found responsible for committing a serious violation of the law and/or our student code," she wrote, "despite any moral or legal obligation to do so."

The email surfaced as Penn State is reeling in the aftermath of criminal charges filed this month against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach accused of molesting eight boys, some on campus, over a 15-year period.

The scandal has resulted in the ousting of Spanier and Paterno, whom trustees felt did not do enough about one accusation involving a 10-year-old boy. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down.

Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report to police, and Sandusky is charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse. All maintain their innocence.

Interviewed by the Associated Press at her Charleston, S.C., home, Triponey said that throughout her tenure at Penn State there was "an ongoing debate" over who should deal with misconduct by football players.

Her 2005 email was sent the day after a heated meeting in which Paterno complained about the discipline process.

"He knew better than anyone how to discipline them. We wanted to show him the [disciplinary] data and suggest that 'Well, whatever it is we're doing, it's not working.' They're getting into trouble at a greater rate than they should. We wanted to find a way to address that," she said. "The meeting ended up being a one-sided conversation with the coach talking about his frustrations, his anger, his not being happy with the way we were running the system."

Paterno's lawyer, Wick Sollers, defended his client in a written statement.

"The allegations that have been described are out of context, misleading and filled with inaccuracies," he said. "In the current atmosphere, it is not surprising that every aspect of Penn State University's academics and athletics will be reviewed."

Penn State football has long been regarded as an example of a well-run program that graduates an above-average percentage of its players while operating within the rules and winning on the field. But the Sandusky case has forced a re-examination of the Nittany Lions and Paterno's 46-year tenure as coach, highlighted by two national championships.

A review of Associated Press stories over the last decade shows at least 35 Penn State players faced internal discipline or criminal charges between 2003-09 for a variety of offenses ranging from assault to drunk driving to marijuana possession. One player was acquitted of sexual assault.

BYU won't join Big East

A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press that negotiations between the Big East and Brigham Young broke off and the school won't join the conference. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference and school have not been making their talks public.

The Big East was trying to add BYU as part of its plan to expand westward and become a 12-team football league.

At issue are television rights. The person said BYU wanted to retain the rights to its home football games and the league could not agree to that.

Arkansas player had heart condition

A coroner says a heart condition that likely was undiagnosed killed an Arkansas player who was found unconscious in his dorm room over the weekend.

The Washington County coroner in Little Rock, Ark., released the cause of death for Garrett Uekman.

The 19-year-old freshman was found unresponsive Sunday in his dorm room on campus. A roommate last saw him playing video games about an hour earlier.

Coroner Roger Morris says that to the best of his knowledge, the heart condition hadn't been previously detected. In the condition, called cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged.

He says Uekman's toxicology report came back with no indications of improper drug use. Uekman was a redshirt tight end for the No. 3 Razorbacks.

Ohio State won't skip bowl game

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