KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. -- Penn State President Rodney Erickson
says it "grieves" him when people refer to "the Penn State
scandal" because he thinks it centers on just one person -- former
football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who's accused of molesting
Erickson said at an alumni meeting outside Philadelphia on
Thursday he believes people should call it "the Sandusky
About 650 alumni attended the sometimes heated 90-minute
session, part of Erickson's effort to repair the school's image. But most of Thursday's questions involved concerns over
the firing of Sandusky's former boss, legendary football coach Joe
Paterno. Erickson said he hasn't had time to sit down with Paterno
and his wife but hopes to when the scandal dies down.
Former Penn State and pro football star Franco Harris scheduled
a competing event at the King of Prussia hotel after broad
dissatisfaction with Erickson's first talk in Pittsburgh on
Wednesday. A third alumni meeting is scheduled for Friday in New
But even some critics say Erickson shouldn't be getting all the
blame for what many view as a floundering public relations effort.
Erickson, who received polite applause Thursday, is trying to
repair the school's image more than two months after Sandusky's
arrest on sexual abuse charges brought controversy, criticism and
contemplation to Happy Valley.
A 2002 alumnus, Ryan Bagwell, who's seeking a trustee seat in
voting that will start next week, said Erickson "takes his
marching orders from the Board of Trustees," which has "sent him
out on this three-day spree."
"We want to hear from the trustees," Bagwell said. "We want
them to explain why they made the decisions they did."
Erickson has said openness and communication are his guiding
principles and the school "will do better in the future."
At the Pittsburgh alumni meeting, the most passionate applause
came after one questioner suggested that the entire Board of
Trustees step down. Several others questioned why Penn State is
still struggling to manage questions from the public and the media
so many weeks after the crisis began.
"If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you
shouldn't expect different results," said Tim King, vice president
of the greater Pittsburgh alumni chapter.
The alumni meetings come as investigators re-interview current
and former employees of Penn State's athletic department as part of
the case against the 67-year-old Sandusky, who's charged with
sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky, who
maintains his innocence, remains out on $250,000 bail while
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
Paterno has described the scandal as one of the great sorrows of
his life and has said that in hindsight he wishes he had done more
after allegations against Sandusky were raised.
While many alumni are unhappy about the way the school fired
Paterno, some said there were no good options in the situation.
"I don't think there was any graceful way to handle that
problem," said John Burness, a former senior vice president of
public affairs for Cornell University, Duke University and the
University of Illinois.
Harris, who played for Paterno from 1968 to 1971 before helping
the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls, castigated the Board
of Trustees for showing "no courage" by firing the longtime
coach. Harris stepped down as chairman of the Pittsburgh Promise, a
scholarship foundation, after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl complained
about the statements, but he was reinstated in December.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.