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Penn State president meets with NYC alumni, says no plans yet to honor Paterno
NEW YORK (AP) ' Penn State President Rodney Erickson says the school has yet to start making plans to honor former football coach Joe Paterno.
Erickson faced alumni for the third time in three days Friday night in lower Manhattan to answer questions in the wake of the child sexual charges against longtime football assistant Jerry Sandusky. As with the previous meetings in Pittsburgh and outside Philadelphia, the sometimes-tense town hall style event included multiple questions about Paterno's firing.
Erickson offered best wishes to Paterno, who was readmitted to the hospital Friday with complications from lung cancer treatment. He said he supported the Board of Trustees' decision to fire the Hall of Fame coach because "the ability to lead was compromised."
About 300 alumni attended the sometimes heated 90-minute session ' the last of a series of meetings intended to calm anger about how the university has dealt with a child sex abuse scandal involving longtime assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Instead, the sessions have triggered more anguish and another round of introspection for the people who love the school and its football program.
That was apparent from the very first question from the audience Friday night ' "where is the due process for Joe Paterno?"
The teary-eyed young woman's question was greeted with about 30 seconds of applause.
But so, too, were comments ' including "evil flourishes when good men do nothing" ' that supported Paterno's dismissal,
In his opening remarks Erickson said he "bleeds blue and white" and that these meetings with alumni were evidence of his commitment to create an atmosphere of greater openness and communication.
It's that perceived lack of communication by trustees in the two months since Paterno's firing on Nov. 9 that has roiled many graduates.
"What you hear over and over is 'transparency,'" said Troy Krone, Class of 1995, of alums' biggest concern before Friday's town hall. "It didn't sound like that was coming out too clearly (in the first two meetings)."
Still, he understands why the university would hold the events now even if Erickson can't fully answer many queries yet.
"They'll probably have to do a second road show," he said.
Gene Burak, Class of 1967, said he wanted to hear about the future, not the past.
"I'm not looking for a rehash," he said. "I've read enough about that stuff in articles and blogs."
The harshest criticism at stops this week, including in suburban Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, were reserved for the school's Board of Trustees and its actions in the immediate aftermath of the criminal charges against Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator.
The 67-year-old Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence and remains out on $250,000 bail while awaiting trial. A charity he founded called The Second Mile, through which he met many of his alleged victims, said Friday it was selling a 60-acre property where it had been building an educational center.
Two Penn State administrators are facing charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Gary Schultz, a former vice president, and Tim Curley, the athletic director, have denied the allegations and await trial.
Paterno in early 2002 passed along a report of alleged sex abuse by Sandusky to his bosses but did not notify police. However, Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation.
Erickson withstood the heat of perhaps two dozen questions over 90 minutes. A day after saying he supported the board's decision to fire Paterno, he acknowledged Friday that he, too, was in favor of the move.
"The issue came down to a question of ability to lead under that set of circumstances," Erickson said.
Paterno initially announced his retirement at the end of the season on the morning of Nov. 9. That day, he called the scandal "one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
But trustees fired him about 12 hours later in a hastily called news conference.
The 85-year-old Paterno continues to undergo a "regimen of treatments" after being diagnosed two months ago with what his family has termed a treatable form of lung cancer.
"Certainly my best wishes go out to Joe and his family," Erickson said. "I was very sad to hear that Joe was back in the hospital for complications from his chemo. We certainly wish Joe a complete recovery."
Erickson received a mostly standing ovation as he closed the meeting, saying "We're going to be OK."