UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --- Ten members of Penn State's fencing team, drawn to this university from places as far as Brazil, France and Russia, spoke out on Wednesday in support of the man who largely convinced them to come here and against a Penn State administration they believe acted unjustly and without transparency in firing a coach.
"I think what the school did is not right at all," junior Michael Brand said.
Last month Penn State fired Emmanuil Kaidanov, a legendary fencing coach who has won 12 NCAA championships for Penn State and coached at the school for 30 years. His son, Greg Kaidanov, told the Post-Gazette last month that Kaidanov was fired for violating a university policy that involves retaliation against a whistleblower. He said the violation stemmed from a confrontation he had with an administrative assistant who had reported, incorrectly, drug use by a Penn State fencer.
Kaidanov's lawyer, Alvin de Levie, said Wednesday he thought the accusation of retaliation was a pretext for his client's firing and that the real reason was because he had criticized the athletic department. He said Kaidanov had been vocal about the reporting policies and wanted better protection for accused athletes.
"There is a place for reporting problems," de Levie said, "but coach K wanted a better policy, a policy that would protect students and not potentially throw someone under the bus."
Junior Kane Gladnick, who spoke Wednesday, said she was the student accused of drug possession. She said she was holding a piece of rolled-up athletic tape, and the administrative assistant who saw her contacted the police and the athletic department without confronting her. University police cleared her of possession, and she passed a drug test, she said.
"Penn State is apparently not interested in the effect such allegations could have against a student-athlete like me, the transparency of their actions or finding the truth because if they were they would not have fired Coach K," Gladnick said. "I love Penn State and I love going to school here, but reckless accusations of a university employee not only could have affected my future forever but also led to the firing of a great coach."
de Levie said the university was offering an as-yet-unscheduled grievance hearing for Kaidanov but would not allow a lawyer to be present. He said Kaidanov's goal is to be reinstated as head coach.
A Penn State spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, and athletic director Dave Joyner previously told the Post-Gazette he couldn't comment because the situation involved a private personnel matter.
Gladnick and the other fencers said they were still practicing hard and gearing up for this season. Assistant Wieslaw Glon was named interim head coach. They want to succeed for Penn State despite being frustrated by the athletic department.
"I think they don't want to hear what we're saying," junior Yasser Mahmoud said. "They don't want to give us any information, and they're just using big words to try to jump over everything."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.