PHILADELPHIA – A federal lawsuit filed against Penn State by a son of late football coach Joe Paterno has been dismissed, but the judge left open the possibility for state claims to be refiled.
Former assistant coach Jay Paterno and another former assistant, Bill Kenney, filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia in 2014, claiming they were unfairly linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
Paterno and Kenney said in the suit that they and other coaches at Penn State were let go in early 2012 at the height of the scandal.
Their lawsuit claimed it was impossible for them to get hired elsewhere for comparable positions because of Penn State's consent decree with the NCAA over the Sandusky case and its commissioned report into the matter led by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
The report had criticized some coaches for ignoring red flags about Sandusky's behavior.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel ruled Thursday that Paterno and Kenney were let go as part of the routine turnover in the hiring of a new coach and that happened months before the Freeh report was released.
He also found no evidence Penn State made any stigmatizing comments about the plaintiffs.
However, Stengel didn't address state law issues, and the coaches could refile a case in state court.
Jay Paterno said Tuesday he wasn't discouraged by the ruling, because it allows them to proceed with state claims.
"This has been a long, ongoing process and certainly one day isn't going to change the course of where we are headed," Paterno said.
Maurice Mitts, who represents Paterno and Kenney, said Tuesday he is evaluating the opinion and expects to press forward with the claims.
A call seeking comment from Penn State wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.
Their lawsuit said they were deprived of their constitutional liberty and property interest without due process of law, alleged intentional interference with contractual relations, claimed that a civil conspiracy occurred and charged that Penn State violated state wage law.
Joe Paterno was fired as the Nittany Lions' coach before the end of the 2011 season, and his assistants took over for the last few games. Bill O'Brien, who was hired as coach in January 2012, replaced much of Paterno's staff.
Jay Paterno was on the coaching staff for 17 seasons, mostly as quarterbacks coach, and Kenney spent 23 years as an offensive assistant and recruiting coordinator.
Paterno is working as a consultant and said Tuesday he would be interested in coaching again, if the job was the right fit for him and his family.
Kenney is now an assistant at Western Michigan University.
Joe Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012, two months after Sandusky, his former longtime defensive coordinator, was charged with child sexual abuse. Sandusky was convicted of dozens of criminal counts and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but denying he molested them.
O'Brien left Penn State for the NFL's Houston Texans. James Franklin is the current coach.