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Paterno Clashed With Penn State Official Over Punishment of Players

Joe Paterno

Nov. 8: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno speaks briefly to reporters as he leaves for football practice in State College, Pa. Paterno was later fired by the university board of trustees for not doing more to report allegations of child sex abuse by his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who retired in 1999. (AP)

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno clashed repeatedly with the university's former chief disciplinarian over how harshly to punish players who got into trouble, internal emails suggest, shedding new light on the school's effort to balance its reputation as a magnet for scholar-athletes with the demands of running a nationally dominant football program.

In an Aug. 12, 2005 email to Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier and others, Vicky Triponey, the university's standards and conduct officer, complained that Paterno believed she should have "no interest, [or business] holding our football players accountable to our community standards. The Coach 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."

The confrontations came to a head in 2007, according to one former school official, when six football players were charged by police for forcing their way into a campus apartment that April and beating up several students, one of them severely.

That September, following a tense meeting with Paterno over the case, she resigned her post, saying at the time she left because of "philosophical differences."

In a statement Monday, Triponey said, "There were numerous meetings and discussions about specific and pending student discipline cases that involved football players," which she said included "demands" to adjust the judicial process for football players.

The end result, she said, was that football players were treated "more favorably than other students accused of violating the community standards as defined by the student code of conduct."

Paterno's lawyer, Wick Sollers, said through a spokesman that "the allegations that have been described are out of context, misleading and filled with inaccuracies ... Penn State's record of producing successful student athletes under coach Paterno's guidance is unquestioned."

Spanier did not respond to requests for comment. A Penn State spokesman declined to comment.

For years, Penn State's football program, which has won two national championships, was regarded as a model. Its players graduated at rates far above average, and it is one of only four major-conference athletic programs never to have been sanctioned for major violations by the sport's governing body, the NCAA.

In recent weeks, a sex-abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach of Paterno's, has badly tarnished that reputation. Sandusky has said he is innocent.

Paterno and Spanier have been ousted from their jobs in the wake of the scandal.

To read more on this story, see The Wall St. Journal article here.

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