UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Ten members of Penn State's fencing team, drawn to the university from places as far as Brazil, France and Russia, spoke out Wednesday in support of the coach who largely convinced them to come and against a school administration they believe acted unjustly and without transparency.
"I think what the school did is not right at all," junior Michael Brand said.
In August, 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 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 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.
Junior Kane Gladnick said Wednesday 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.
"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.
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 said 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."psusports
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.