A new batch of emails from the Penn State archives shed new light on former football coach Joe Paterno's approach to discipline and also contradict earlier claims from his family that he never used email.
Last weekend, new questions were raised about Paterno's role in the Jerry Sandusky investigation, thanks to emails sent among top school officials that seemed to indicate that Paterno had influenced their decision to not to report Sandusky to authorities. Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 counts of child sexual abuse and rape.
Paterno's family responded to the allegations that he was involved in a coverup, by insisting that the coach never interfered in any investigation. They also stated that the emails in question were not sent by or to Paterno himself, because "Joe Pa" never actually used email.
However, a new batch of emails obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education show that isn't the case. They also suggest that the coach regularly tried to discipline football players himself, rather than let the university or police handle it.
The emails in the newest story were not related to Sandsuky, but instead dealt with a 2007 investigation of a off-campus brawl that involved several Penn State football players. During the course of the investigation, Paterno sent an email message to the university president, the athletic director, and the vice president of student affairs saying, "I want to make sure everyone understands that the discipline of the players involved will be handled by me as soon as I am comfortable that I know all the facts."
That email was sent from the address of his assistant, but was written in the first person and signed, "Joe." Whether that means he never personally typed and emails himself can be debated, but the response from the student affairs office is even more telling. Vicky Triponey, whose department was in charge of investigating students for violations of school rules responded to the school president, asking him to remind Paterno that he doesn't get to call the shot on these matters:
I assume he is talking about discipline relative to TEAM rules (note: he does not say that). Obviously discipline relative to the law is up to the police and the courts, and discipline relative to violations of the student code of conduct is the responsibility of Judicial Affairs. This has not always been clear with Coach Paterno so we might want to clarify that...
Again, this newest story doesn't prove anything with regards to the Sandusky investigation, but it does seem to suggest that Paterno believed that discipline should be handled within the football program. He would not be the first or the only college football coach to feel that way, but we've all seen the dangers of keeping problems "in house."