Franco Harris stands by his criticism of Paterno's firing
Share with others:
Neither fired Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno nor the school's football program in general bears responsibility for the child sex abuse scandal that has enveloped the university, former PSU star and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris reaffirmed Friday during a videotaping of the TV show "KD\PG Sunday Edition".
"The university needs to take responsibility," Mr. Harris said. "I think the football program should not be implicated in this. ... Joe is a good man. [He] should not be implicated in this. Joe deserves an apology."
Mr. Harris said Mr. Paterno, his former coach and mentor, had been unfairly criticized and punished for not doing more when he learned in 2002 of allegations that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted a boy in a campus shower. While decrying the alleged sexual abuse of children, Mr. Harris defended his position that university trustees were wrong to fire the famed coach last week because Mr. Paterno did what he was legally required to do by informing a superior about the allegations.
That stance has come under fire, first by The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, which this week put its relationship with Mr. Harris on hiatus over the comments. He had been appearing with former teammate Rocky Bleier in a series of commercials.
Also critical of Mr. Harris's position was Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who had appointed Mr. Harris as chairman of the board of the Pittsburgh Promise, which provides college scholarships to graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools.
In a blistering email to Mr. Harris and the Pittsburgh Promise board, the mayor accused Mr. Harris of showing "no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the young victims of sexual abuse," adding it was the mayor's "ethical and moral responsibility to recognize that you are no longer a suitable representative for any organization, let alone ours."
Mr. Harris denied he was being insensitive to the plight of the alleged victims and characterized the mayor's email as "character assassination." The mayor's missive precipitated a 41/2-hour Pittsburgh Promise board meeting Thursday night attended by both the mayor and Mr. Harris. The result was the board agreed to accept Mr. Harris' suggestion he temporarily step aside as chairman. But the board, including the mayor, also unanimously agreed Mr. Harris should remain on the board as a voting member.
Board member David Malone, president and CEO of Gateway Financial Services, will serve as temporary acting chairman.
On Friday, Saleem Ghubril, Pittsburgh Promise executive director, said the discussion during the meeting was "respectful and certainly passionate. It was really important there weren't winners and losers."
Mr. Ghubril said the issue was whether Mr. Harris' personal and passionate support of Mr. Paterno would have any detrimental effect on the Pittsburgh Promise.
The board will continue to discuss this issue "after the dust settles a little bit," Mr. Ghubril said.
He added that it would be "naive" to say the board walked out of the meeting "singing Kumbaya," but "we walked out of that meeting to speak with one voice ... and that would be [mine]."
First Published November 19, 2011 12:42 am