Penn State’s former football team doctor said Thursday that he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State, coach James Franklin and others because he had “significant concern for the safety of the college athlete.”
Meanwhile, Trace McSorley joined a growing number of former Penn State players who defended Franklin, saying the coach never pushed them to return too soon from injuries.
Dr. Scott Lynch, Penn State’s former director of athletic medicine, filed a civil suit Friday in Dauphin County Court alleging that Franklin attempted to interfere with decisions regarding when injured players could return to the field. Lynch also alleges that he was removed from his position as team doctor after bringing concerns to university officials, including Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.
Among the suit’s defendants are Penn State, Penn State Health, Franklin, Barbour and Kevin Black, chairman of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Hershey Medical Center. Lynch seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
Franklin said Tuesday that he will “vigorously defend” himself and the program against the allegations.
Lynch said Thursday that facts of the case will become public at trial.
“I initiated these legal proceedings with significant concern for the safety of the college athlete and look forward to the opportunity to present a detail of facts, which support the claims set forth in the Civil Complaint in a courtroom setting,” Lynch said in a statement.
Lynch’s suit notes several recommendations he made during a 2019 exit interview with officials, including limiting contact between coaches and doctors and preventing coaches from discussing injuries with players either “positively or negatively.”
In an email exhibit attached to the suit, Lynch wrote, “I don’t feel that there are good protections in place to stop the attempts by the coaches and staff, particularly Coach Franklin, to interfere with medical decisions.”
Lynch said Thursday that Penn State’s Athletics Integrity office investigated his complaints but has not published the results.
“It is my hope that this civil action will serve to perfect the change that my informal efforts were unable to accomplish,” Lynch said in his statement.
Several former players have responded to the allegations, saying they don’t reflect Franklin’s treatment of them.
McSorley, Breneman support Franklin: McSorley, a former PSU quarterback, said on Twitter that Franklin did not pressure him to return too quickly from two 2018 incidents. McSorley sustained a knee injury during the season and briefly left the Citrus Bowl with a foot issue.
“Again, Coach Franklin and the staff were telling me not to push it,” McSorley, now with the Baltimore Ravens, wrote of the Citrus Bowl. “It even got to the point where they told me I would not be going back in, in order to protect my future … I am eternally grateful for Coach Franklin and his staff for my time at Penn State.”
Former tight Adam Breneman, who dealt with chronic injuries at Penn State, wrote on Twitter that Franklin “could not have been more understanding or caring through the entire process.”
“Never once did he attempt to pressure me into playing or rush me back,” Breneman wrote.
Breneman, who graduated from nearly Cedar Cliff High School, retired from football at Penn State in 2016 but went on to play two seasons at Massachusetts.
“I obviously ended up retiring and leaving Penn State, but during some of the darkest points of my career I had a head coach who was supportive and approachable,” Breneman wrote of Franklin. “I’ll always be thankful to him for that.”
Lynch's statement: Here is the full text of Lynch’s statement:
"I initiated these legal proceedings with significant concern for the safety of the college athlete and look forward to the opportunity to present a detail of facts which support the claims set forth in the Civil Complaint in a courtroom setting.
Please take note that, prior to filing this lawsuit, I lodged informal complaints with The Hershey Medical Center and the Integrity Officer at PSU Athletics that the autonomy of medical providers was being challenged, and presented recommendations to manage the concern. The recommendations presented, if implemented, I believe would make great strides in ensuring medical autonomy and the protection of the student athlete.
"To my disappointment, my recommendations have not been embraced. It is my understanding, that since being removed from my position with Penn State athletics in retaliation of and as a result of my complaints, my concerns have been investigated by the Integrity Office at PSU Athletics. Unfortunately, the results of the investigation remain unpublished and have been withheld from me.
“It is my hope that this civil action will serve to perfect the change that my informal efforts were unable to accomplish.”