Former Purdue head football coach Joe Tiller said a fellow coach and friend, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, is an honorable man.
Late Wednesday night, Penn State’s Board of Trustees demanded Paterno step down immediately after initial reports that Paterno would stay through the remainder of the sesaon. Tiller, speaking before the board’s announcement, said his personal relationship with Paterno helps him to understand Paterno’s situation.
“I’m sure he’s distraught with regards to what’s been reported,” Tiller said. “I’m not sitting in judgment, but I think he acted most likely in an honorable way.”
According to the grand jury report of the case, former assistant coach Gerald Sandusky sexually abused eight young boys, in some cases within the Penn State football facilities. In 2002, a graduate assistant informed Paterno that he had witnessed Sandusky performing sexual acts on a boy in the athletics showers. The boy appeared to be around 10 years old.
Paterno responded by relaying the information to his immediate superior, Penn State Athletics Director Tim Curley. That was the end of Paterno’s involvement in the investigation.
Penn State’s president, Graham Spanier, was also removed from his position by the board of trustees. Wednesday night. Curley, along with senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, stepped down from their positions at the university on Sunday. Curley and Schultz are facing charges of perjury.
Although he said he does not know the details of the situation, Tiller thinks Paterno acted in the correct way.
“I’m sure if some improprieties occurred there that he did what protocol dictated,” Tiller said. “I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m convinced based on his character. I would be shocked if Paterno was involved in any cover-up.”
Alysa Rollock, vice president of ethics and compliance for Purdue, said any time these issues arise, how they are handled is a question of knowledge and culture.
“We want people to know that there are avenues that they can report,” Rollock said. “Hopefully we live in a culture that makes people want to do what’s right.”
Rollock said whenever anyone is made aware of a crime, particularly when the safety of a child is brought into question, the expectation should be to stop the crime from being committed and to put the victim’s needs first.
“What’s expected is that people do the right thing,” Rollock said. “We would hope that our staff and our entire community, indeed our students as well, would step forward as adults to protect children who are not able to protect themselves.”
Students, staff and members of the Purdue community have the opportunity to report any questionable activities either by calling the police or utilizing the Whistleblower hotline.
“The hotline is for those who don’t feel comfortable identifying themselves,” Rollock said.
Members of the Purdue community can access the hotline by going to purdue.edu/hotline, where they will find a number they can call as well as a link to submit information online.