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Fencing Coach’s Termination Incites Outrage, Speculation

The strangest story in Penn State’s athletic department in recent memory is becoming a little clearer — but still unsettling — as some news has finally come out as to why legendary fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov was unexpectedly fired last week.

Several Penn State coaches “resigned” or left Penn State this offseason, but Kaidanov is no doubt the most surprising. Kaidanov was one of the greatest fencing coaches of all time, leading Penn State to a 795-77 record in 31 years. Kaidanov won 12 NCAA Championships at the helm of the Nittany Lions, and coached 28 NCAA Individual Champions and 188 All-Americans.

Former Penn State fencing captain Chris Balestracci, Kaidanov’s son Greg, and popular fencing news source “The Fencing Coach” have all broadcasted the following story.

Policy AD67: Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct and Protection from Retaliation, which was established in June of 2010, can be read in full here, but it basically protects university whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting wrongdoings.

The three sources claim that Kaidanov was terminated under this policy after an incident last February involving a staff assistant. Allegedly, the staff assistant reported that a player had possession of illegal drugs to the athletic department. The player submitted to a voluntary drug test and was found clean, but Kaidanov made his transgressions with the former staff assistant vocal. Kaidanov believed he should have been informed of the incident first and been the one to report it to the athletic department.

The athletic compliance office believed that the argument with the staff assistant constituted retaliation and made the decision to fire the legendary coach without so much as a warning or chance for appeal.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to have coached hundreds of student/athletes during my 31 years at Penn State,” Kaidanov said in a statement. “I believe that my 12 national championships, the many United States national teams I have coached, the 4 Coach of the year awards, the numerous All Americans and Olympians I have had the honor to coach, and my 91% winning average speaks to the dedication that I have invested into the Fencing program at Penn State. I would like to thank the assistant coaches I have had the honor to coach with over those 31 years. I would especially like to thank Wes Glon who has been a hard working and dependable assistant coach as we built the most winning and most successful collegiate fencing programs in the United States. I wish all of the Student/Athletes that have gone through the Penn State fencing program continued success in all of their endeavors.”

“Coach was not released, he was terminated by the University Moral Officer – somewhat of a throw-back to Soviet Komissars and 1933 Germany,” Kaidanov’s son Greg said. “He was terminated because he acted like he always did — with honor, respect and deep understanding of his responsibility to his students.”

While this provides some clarity, there are still several loose ends here that need to be tied up, like why Kaidanov was fired for one exchange with an assistant and the identity of the University Moral Officer who made this decision, among other things. The athletic department has not adequately responded to multiple requests for comment on the matter, only saying that it as a “confidential personnel matter” and that Kaidanov is “no longer a university employee.”  The university has also yet to issue a release on Kaidanov’s termination, which is the standard for coaching departures.

We’ll keep you updated as more information comes in on what is certainly a strange situation, but until the athletic department responds to these accusations, the speculation is sure to continue.

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