LaVar Arrington rips Jay Paterno for 'power play' vote against PSU facility upgrades

ADAM BITTNER
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
LaVar Arrington

Penn State's board of trustees approved more than $48 million in spending on football facility upgrades over the weekend, but not without some conflict.

Jay Paterno — an alumni-elected trustee and the son of former coach Joe Paterno — was one of six trustees who voted against the measure, and that decision has drawn the ire of Lavar Arrington, a former All-American linebacker for the Nittany Lions, who ripped the decision as a "power play" Sunday.

Paterno justified his vote by noting the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the University Park campus specifically and college athletics generally, writing in a lengthy blog post that "we would do well to postpone this project to gauge the entire scope of needs we have in athletics — and more importantly the scope of needs across the academic and research mission that is the very reason for our existence as an institution."

But Arrington wasn't buying that as Paterno's genuine concern, instead not-so-subtly hinting at possible ulterior motives related to the trustee's previous career as a coach.

"It was a deflection by Jay Paterno, and I didn't like it. It was a power play by Jay Paterno, and I didn't like it," Arrington said on the latest episode of his "Up on Game" radio show Sunday. (You can find the full comments around the 47-minute mark.) "Because you know what? Right now, we have a coach who saved our program basically. He saved our program, and we're basically saying we're not giving him anymore resources to be able to try to build the program.

"But if you were the head coach, which you tried to be the head coach, you would want all of the resources possible for you to have success so that you could build that program and keep your job and try to rebuild the brand and the legacy that was built there by your dad."

That legacy was, of course, tarnished by the elder Paterno's inaction when confronted with accusations of sexual abuse of children by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. That inaction cost Joe Paterno his job in 2011, and his son's coaching career became collateral damage, as well.

Jay Paterno served as co-offensive coordinator on his father's staff until the end of that 2011 campaign. He interviewed to take his father's place as head coach but was let go when Bill O'Brien was hired to the position instead in early 2012.

Jay Paterno

Paterno has not coached in the college ranks since, and Penn State subsequently hired James Franklin to lead the program when O'Brien left to coach the NFL's Houston Texans after the 2013 season. Franklin has had great success on the field, leading the Lions out of NCAA sanctions and back into national relevance with three New Year's Six bowl appearances since 2016.

Arrington worries Paterno's vote puts that success at risk — or worse, that Paterno's intentions are more nefarious.

"I feel like this was the start of a campaign to create cracks to actually, possibly, get James Franklin out of coaching at Penn State, and I didn't like it. I don't fool with it," Arrington said. "I don't think his reasoning was sound and I had a problem with it."

Arrington went on to note all of the revenue the football program's success generates for the university and the State College area, success that could be put in jeopardy by not investing in facilities at a time when most competitors are, often in even greater sums.