“Spineless.” “Cowardly.” “Lacking leadership.”
One homemade banner hanging over a downtown apartment building balcony last week said it loud and clear: “RODNEY ERICKSON IS NOT PENN STATE.”
Safe to say Erickson’s taken his fair share of heat in recent weeks.
There was the Freeh report, a damning indictment of Penn State administration at all levels — of which Erickson’s been a part for decades.
Then there was his decision to set aside the Joe Paterno statue. Erickson was blasted by those who said it was just a concession to Paterno’s critics in light of the Freeh report.
And for some, his signature on page 9 of the consent decree outlining the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State was the final straw. He could have done more to defend the university from shouldering this punishment, some said, and calls for his resignation have since flared.
Sure, Erickson’s not perfect — but he also deserves more respect than he’s getting from the student body for weathering what’s arguably the hardest job in higher education right now.
Let’s be clear: This isn’t a blanket endorsement. The president talks a big game when it comes to accountability — as such, his decisions should be analyzed closely, and he needs to be candid when answering questions.
But students have been unfairly heaping the lion’s share of frustration on him because they don’t think he “stuck up for” the school in recent weeks.
Where’s the calls against Athletic Director Dave Joyner, who said the day the NCAA sanctions were levied that the path ahead was “necessary, just and will bring a better future?" Head football coach Bill O’Brien, who last week said the right approach was to “look at the sanctions and figure out how to deal with it?"
If you’re going to call out leaders for lacking the audacity to resist the NCAA, there’s no use making Erickson the sole scapegoat.
Essentially Penn State’s second-in-command, he maintained a near nonexistent public profile as executive vice president and provost until he was thrust into the presidency on Nov. 9. He’s since been faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of publicly picking up the pieces for Penn State. And he’s made himself an easy target for critics who say he’s not assertive enough and heaping too much guilt on the university.
As much as some are calling for a warrior, someone to defend the university from naysayers, we don’t need a president with a “Penn State against the world” approach. He shouldn’t have to apologize for being apologetic. His calm demeanor and measured explanations of his decisions have thus far avoided adding any unnecessary fuel to the fire.
Say what you want about Erickson’s decisions, but don’t forget that the man gave up impending retirement to help the school get back on its feet — how’s that for turning his back on Penn State?