It's no secret that while he was the head coach at Penn State, Joe Paterno may have been the most powerful man on campus in State College, and according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Paterno wielded that power whenever possible when it came to the discipline of his players. The Wall Street Journal acquired emails from and talked to former Penn State University standards and conduct officer Vicky Triponey who says that Paterno fought her every step of the way, and wanted to hold football players to a different standard than other students.
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 Mr. Paterno over the case, she resigned her post, saying at the time she left because of "philosophical differences."The story also tells of other incidents that took place during Triponey's tenure at Penn State, including a meeting between Paterno and Triponey in 2005 that also involved President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and assistant athletic director Fran Ganter. At this meeting Paterno was very vocal in his critique of Triponey and expressed how he didn't like her meddling in the football team's business, which Paterno felt was his territory.
In a statement Monday, Dr. 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."
Things came to a head in September of 2005 following the school's suspension of linebacker Dan Connor who had been accused of making harrassing phone calls to a retired assistant coach. Despite the suspension, Paterno ordered Connor to suit up for practice and Connor says he could only recall being suspended for games, not practices.
This resulted in Graham Spanier coming to Triponey's house to inform her that Paterno had given him an ultimatum. The school was to either fire Triponey or he would cease his efforts to fund-raise for the school. Connor's suspension was then reduced to 10 days.
Then came the 2007 incident with the Penn State players involved in that fight at a campus apartment. It was another incident in which Paterno and Triponey had differing views on how things should be handled, with Paterno saying that his players couldn't be expected to cooperate with the school's disciplinary process because it would mean that they'd have to testify against each other, and that would make it hard to play football together.
The majority of charges against the players were eventually dropped, with two players pleading guilty to misdemeanors. There were also four players suspended for a summer semester, but none ever had to miss any games.
Shortly after Triponey resigned and was replaced by Bob Secor, and the school instituted new rules that gave the school limited ability to end a student's participation in activities such as football.