Rodney Erickson was named the interim president of Penn State on Nov. 9, the night Graham Spanier resigned in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The school lifted the interim tag from Erickson the following week, formally putting him in charge, and soon after he stated his commitment to "transparency to the fullest extent possible."
Erickson has been at Penn State since 1977. Since '99, he was PSU's executive vice president and provost, which made him the school's top academic administrator for more than a decade. Yet somehow, even though several high-ranking university officials had gone before a grand jury in the last year or so to testify about the allegations against Sandusky, even though a lengthy university police report about Sandusky's behavior has existed since 1998, even though an assistant football coach's testimony was the linchpin for the prosecution's case against Sandusky, and even though the Patriot-News of Harrisburg had made much of this public as far back as March, Erickson indicated he knew nothing until the grand jury summary was released to the public on Nov. 5.
Or so he initially said at Saturday's press conference announcing Bill O'Brien's hire as Joe Paterno's replacement. Here is Sara Ganim (again) of the Patriot-News on Erickson's performance:
Who knew what and when has been a central theme to this saga, and Erickson is no exception. The questions began as soon as Penn State announced it was dropping "interim" from his title.
On Saturday, a reporter asked him, "It seemed you were caught off-guard by something when there was months and months of warning."
"There were, I would think nearly all individuals at the university, including me, were not aware of any this until we read it in the grand jury presentment, so how would we have known?" Erickson replied.
Another question: "How is that possible when it was widely reported in March?" Erickson turned his head, didn't answer and took a different question on a different topic.
When pressed, Erickson did indicate he knew something. But after that, President Transparency did not allow the reporters' line of inquiry to continue.
Despite a university spokesman saying that question would be the last, reporters managed to get one more in: "The Patriot-News had a story in March. So how is it possible?"
"I don't know. I can't go back and ... all I knew was there was something that had gone on in Clinton County," Erickson said.
"Did you read the story in March in The Patriot-News?"
"No, I didn't," Erickson said. That was it. No more questions.