Penn State Board’s Support for Paterno and Spanier Is ‘Eroding’

University Park, Pa. — The two highest-ranking officials left standing in the child-sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University may not make it through the week, The Chronicle has learned.

Graham B. Spanier, the university’s president, and Joe Paterno, its longtime football coach, are losing support on the university’s Board of Trustees, which plans to take up the issue in a closed-door session on Thursday, three individuals with close ties to senior leadership of the university said this morning.

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“Any idea that the board is being placid or complacent is misplaced. The board is very concerned about this, and I believe the board will demonstrate its concern forcefully,” said one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because no official decision has been made. That individual has had contact with more than a dozen of the board’s 32 members.

When news broke on Friday about the arrest of a former Penn State defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, on charges of molesting at least eight children over a 15-year span, some board members heard the news on the radio, while others learned of it from family members, one source told The Chronicle.

The university’s response angered some of its trustees, who called emergency sessions late Saturday and again on Sunday. Early Monday the board issued a statement announcing that Timothy M. Curley, Penn State’s athletic director, and Gary C. Schultz, its senior vice president for finance and business, would step down.

“Many members of the board feel they were blindsided by this. That has made it difficult to move swiftly, but I think the board is moving with alacrity considering that fact,” said the source.

Both Mr. Paterno’s and Mr. Spanier’s wide popularity have also made their dismissals less certain, but support for both leaders is “eroding,” according to the three individuals.

That has upset some people close to Penn State’s top official, said one of the sources. “Graham has been, in my view, an excellent president,” the source said. “This is a really unfortunate, tragic situation. If he had been a bad president, it’d be an easier issue.”

On Monday the Pennsylvania attorney general said Mr. Paterno was not a target of the continuing criminal investigation.

Yet the coach’s job appears to be on the line, according to the three people with knowledge of the matter. “I don’t think the ball is in his court anymore,” one said.

Since Sunday, Penn State’s Board of Trustees has not met formally to discuss any actions it may take this week. And its large, dispersed nature may make it difficult to reach an immediate consensus.

“The status, trajectory, and speed of this—and what’s actually going to happen—I cannot predict,” said one of the sources. “I just know it’s coming to a head.”

Phone and text messages left for Bill Mahon, Penn State’s communications director, were not immediately returned.

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