Statement by Penn State President Graham B. Spanier

April 11, 2003

Penn State has been in the news recently because Anwar Phillips, a member of our football team, was allowed to participate in a post-season bowl game after agreeing to a suspension from the University. I learned of this situation on March 24. Having now had an opportunity to gather all the facts from our Director of Judicial Affairs, Director of Athletics, Head Football Coach, and other university officials, I am prepared to comment on this matter. An earlier comment attributed to me unfortunately was reported out of context and was not intended to be my statement on the matter.

I have learned that the Judicial Affairs office, upon being made aware of the incident, and with the cooperation of Mr. Phillips, moved forward quickly to resolve the matter. Mr. Phillips agreed to a sanction for violating the student code of conduct but has not admitted any criminal wrongdoing. He was given a two-term suspension from the University, the standard sanction for similar cases, to take effect with the start of the spring semester.

I have concluded that it would have been beneficial if more specific information would have been communicated between the offices involved. I have directed that the system be changed such that the Director of Athletics will be personally and promptly informed by the Director of Judicial Affairs when a student athlete has been charged with a student conduct violation. In the past, a member of the staff in athletics, but not the Director of Athletics or head coach, was informed of Judicial Affairs proceedings. Moreover, Judicial Affairs, following principles of confidentiality, typically does not forward all of the details of cases. This procedure will be changed.

The Phillips matter came to the attention of a staff member in Intercollegiate Athletics in December. At that time no criminal wrongdoing had been alleged. Coach Joe Paterno only had the benefit of a discussion with the student athlete. Based on the information he had at the time, he decided to allow Mr. Phillips to play in the bowl game.

In the spirit of student development, the university often imposes sanctions with an effective date that coincides with the academic calendar, to allow students to both accept appropriate punishment and minimize the disruption to their course work. But in this instance, an unusual one from a standpoint of timing, there is a legitimate question as to whether an athlete should be allowed to compete at all after a suspension has been adjudicated, regardless of when the suspension formally takes effect.

My own view is that students should not be allowed to participate in university activities in such circumstances. Consequently, I have directed that this procedure be reviewed.

A criminal charge was filed on March 19. We will let the legal system proceed and will make a final determination about Mr. Phillips' future participation on the team based on the outcome of the legal process.

Penn State has a tradition of operating at the highest levels of propriety in intercollegiate athletics, and we endeavor to uphold this standard in every way. Moreover, we in the Penn State administration and our coaches and athletic staff unequivocally denounce sexual misconduct of any kind.

We do not anticipate any further statements on this matter until such time as the case has been finally closed through the legal system.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009