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Lanny Davis Second Guesses Some BOT Decisions

In December of 2011, a few weeks after the Sandusky scandal began to unfold before the eyes of a nation, Penn State hired Lanny Davis, a crisis management specialist, to provide legal advice for the man who was called on to fill Graham Spanier’s shoes, Rodney Erickson.

Last week, Davis released a book titled “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics and Life,” wherein he discusses many hotly debated topics surrounding the Penn State Board of Trustees and the NCAA.

Davis wrote about his first interaction with the board,  a four-hour conference call where board members recalled their decision to relieve Joe Paterno of his duties as head football coach.

“Emotion took over… It was like listening to a group of people giving something akin to religious testimony, each experiencing a catharsis,” he wrote in his newly released book.

In a recent interview with, Davis expounded upon the emotions of the board and the lessons learned from the situation.

“I knew this wasn’t about facts because of the high emotion some people felt for Coach Paterno no matter what facts they heard. The one thing I realized that can’t be debated is the sincerity of emotions — and the gut-wrenching pain of that decision by every member of the board. That cannot be debated.”

When it comes to the Freeh report, Davis wonders if the decision to not review the report before fully adopting it was the correct move. In his book, he notes that was “something that some later came to regret.” Additionally, he mentioned that many on the board were “uneasy about Freeh’s decision to go beyond making specific findings of fact based on specific evidence and to offer his conclusions.”

Davis also points that several board members weren’t pleased with Mark Emmert’s use of the Freeh report to levy severe NCAA sanctions against the Penn State football program. Many felt as if the NCAA should have “[given] the university a hearing or an opportunity to rebut or present mitigating reasons regarding the level of sanctions.”

“I would have advised Mr. Emmert differently,” Davis wrote. “It appeared to be unfair in the way it was done.”

If interested, you can purchase Lanny Davis’ book here.

About the Author

Ryan Beckler

Ryan is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He is a Lion Ambassador who loves giving tours to prospective students. His favorite activities include distributing news and consuming Chipotle.


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