STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A son of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has sued the university over his dismissal from its coaching staff two years ago, saying he has been unfairly linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
Former assistant coach Jay Paterno and another former assistant, Bill Kenney, filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia on Monday, seeking more than $1 million and a statement from the university saying they did nothing wrong related to Sandusky, who was convicted of abusing several boys, some on campus.
Paterno and Kenney said in the lawsuit that they and other coaches at Penn State were let go in early 2012 "at the height of the Sandusky scandal’s dark shroud and without any attempt whatsoever by Penn State to preserve the reputations of these guiltless individuals."
Joe Paterno was fired as the Nittany Lions’ coach before the end of the 2011 season, and his assistants took over for the last few games. Bill O’Brien, who was hired as coach in January 2012, replaced much of Paterno’s staff.
In response to the claims in the lawsuit, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said it’s common practice for incoming head coaches to pick their own assistants. She declined to comment further.
Jay Paterno was on the coaching staff for 17 seasons, mostly as quarterbacks coach, and Kenney spent 23 years as an offensive assistant and recruiting coordinator.
Their lawsuit says Penn State’s consent decree with the NCAA over the Sandusky scandal and its commissioned report into the matter led by former FBI director Louis Freeh have made it impossible for them to get hired for comparable positions in college or professional sports or in the media.
According to the Daily Collegian, the suit alleges that Penn State reacted "with rashness and without basis" by "prematurely releasing" Paterno, Kenney and other coaches as a result of the abuse case. The suit also reportedly alleges that their release from the football program and the subsequent consent decree between PSU and the NCAA gave them "pariah status."
Kenney is now an assistant at Western Michigan University, and Paterno is a freelance sports writer and consultant with a book coming out soon.
Their lawsuit says they have been deprived of their constitutional liberty and property interest without due process of law, alleges intentional interference with contractual relations, says a civil conspiracy has occurred and charges that Penn State violated state wage law.
Joe Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012, two months after Sandusky, his former longtime defensive coordinator, was charged with child sexual abuse. Sandusky was convicted of dozens of criminal counts and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but denying he molested them.
O’Brien left Penn State for the NFL’s Houston Texans. James Franklin’s first season as Penn State’s head coach starts Aug. 30.