STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Penn State wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by one son of late football coach Joe Paterno and another assistant coach who were fired two years ago.
Former assistants Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney sued in July contending they have been unfairly tainted by the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. They are seeking more than $1 million and a statement from the university saying they did nothing wrong relating to the Sandusky case.
Their lawsuit contends Paterno and Kenney were fired "at the height of the Sandusky scandal's dark shroud and without any attempt whatsoever by Penn State to preserve the reputations of these guiltless individuals."
But in a 106-page-response filed in federal court Tuesday, Penn State's attorneys deny that either assistant was let go as a result of the scandal, let alone tainted by it. The filing was first reported by the Centre Daily Times.
"Plaintiffs were not singled out in any way and were treated in the exact same manner as other similarly situated coaches who were terminated," the response stated.
Jay Paterno was on the coaching staff for 17 seasons, mostly as quarterbacks coach, and Kenney spent 23 years as an offensive assistant and recruiting coordinator. They and several other assistant coaches were let go when the university hired Bill O'Brien to replace Joe Paterno in January 2012.
Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer that same month, had been fired before the end of the 2011 season, after Sandusky, who had retired as Paterno's defensive coordinator years earlier, was criminally charged with molesting several boys. Paterno's firing came amid questions about the handling of a 2001 allegation that Sandusky molested a boy in the showers at the campus football facility.
Penn State later agreed to pay the NCAA $60 million in fines, as well as scholarship and post-season sanctions that have since been lifted. The university also hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate its handling of the matter, and Jay Paterno and Kenney contend the sanctions and the Freeh report have made it impossible for them to get hired for comparable positions in sports or in the media.
Kenney has since been hired as offensive line coach at Western Michigan, but Jay Paterno said in the lawsuit that he couldn't even get an interview when he applied for head coaching jobs at Connecticut, James Madison, Colorado and Boston College.
Penn State's attorneys argue that Jay Paterno and Kenney were not specifically named in the Freeh report, and that Jay Paterno, in particular, hasn't show that he's applied for any jobs comparable to the one he lost.
"Paterno's aspirations to become a head coach or a sports media star do not translate into a cognizable civil rights claim," the university's response said.
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