Penn State still has a long road ahead of it before making any semblance of a recovery from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. In an investigation into the recovery the school is making, Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein dug deep into the medical care the school is providing since being fined $60 million by the NCAA as part of the Sandusky punishment.
At first, only those in charge at Penn State had been able to read the exhaustive, 23-page report. Thus, late Tuesday night, the Nittany Lions athletic department released a preemptive statement in an effort to get their side of the story out in front.
Early Wednesday morning, the first details of the report emerged.
Now, finally, we have a full summary of Epstein’s investigation (via SI.com). But first, the key players involved: David Joyner was first named the interim and then full-time athletic director after the Board of Trustees cleaned house. Only days after he earned the full-time AD duties, Joyner reassigned team physician Wayne Sebastianelli, who had been the football program’s doctor for 21 years.
Those are the very basic facts, and here are parts of the SI side of the story (for more, including a summary from an interview with Bill O’Brien, visit SI.com):
• A number of former players and members of the Penn State football family told SI they are dismayed that Wayne Sebastianelli has been relieved of his duties as the longtime director of athletic medicine and orthopedic surgeon-head physician for the football team. It’s part of an abrupt shift in the school’s health-care program for football — a shift that will provide less on-site coverage. Instead of having an orthopedic surgeon who attends every practice, Penn State now employs a primary care physician in State College and an orthopedic consultant who commutes about two hours each way from Hershey, Pa., at least once a week. …
• No official announcement regarding Sebastianelli was made when he was removed from the football program, and school personnel involved in internal discussions say that Penn State officials began to explore how they would justify, in the absence of performance issues, the removal of a longtime doctor with an endowed professorship. According to two people with knowledge of those discussions, Joyner’s perceived dislike for Sebastianelli is widely enough known in State College that Penn State officials worked on talking points in case reporters asked whether Joyner was settling a personal score.
• According to trustee sources, Joyner’s rationale for the change was cost savings. With decreased donations to athletics following the Sandusky scandal, a decline in football club-seat and suite renewals, and increased operating expenses, an athletic department that has perennially been one of the few in the country that is self-sustaining is approaching the red. During 2010-11 the athletic department reported a surplus of $14.8 million dollars. For ’11-12, that plummeted to $863,000. “It’s less good care,” said Vincent Pellegrini, the former chair of the department of orthopedics at Penn State, “in exchange for saving a few bucks.”
Some both inside and outside of the program are already calling this a witch hunt on the part of Sports Illustrated. Others believe there are members of the Penn State Board who do not want Joyner as athletic director, and purposely gave Epstein misleading information that would allow him to come to the conclusions that he did.
Still others believe, of course, that Sports Illustrated is right — in that case, the school still has some serious explaining to do. Most football programs nationwide do not turn a profit, yet that does not keep them from maintaining the program itself. If the athletic department really is cutting corners out of fear of falling into the red, well, that’s just pain inexcusable.