Dave Joyner addresses the Mark Sherburne situation.
A key member of the Penn State athletic department has been dismissed. And the university, which promised a new spirit of openness in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is being extremely tight-lipped about why he is gone.
Thursday, the Centre Daily Times reported that associate athletic director for administration Mark Sherburne had been fired by Penn State. But in a statement to The Associated Press, the university would say only that Sherburne no longer worked there. The athletic department removed his bio page from its website.
Friday, acting athletic director Dave Joyner addressed the situation — kind of. Citing the school's human resources policy, he repeatedly declined to directly answer questions about Sherburne.
“It's an HR issue, and our policies are we don't discuss HR issues,” Joyner said. “That's all I can say.”
He said the same thing when asked if Sherburne's departure was related to the Sandusky scandal and if Sherburne was fired.
“It's an HR issue and I can't comment on it,” Joyner stated.
Sherburne was thrust into the national spotlight when the Sandusky scandal broke in early November. Former athletic director Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave after being charged with lying to the grand jury investigating the child sex abuse charges against Sandusky, and Sherburne was named interim athletic director.
Then the PSU Board of Trustees fired Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno on Nov. 9. Two days later, Sherburne introduced then-Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley as interim head coach. Sherburne also was involved in the decision to put then-PSU assistant coach Mike McQueary on administrative leave. McQueary is a key witness in the state's case against Sandusky.
On Nov. 16, Joyner, who had been a member of the very Board of Trustees that fired Paterno, was named acting athletic director and Sherburne returned to his former job.
Penn State officials were not nearly as adamant about sticking to the school's human resources policies when it came to Paterno. The Board of Trustees announced that he had been dismissed from his job on a live telecast.
On multiple later occasions — both individually and as a group — board members gave further explanations on why he was fired. The latest was in early March, more than a month after Paterno died following a short bout with lung cancer, when the board released a statement saying Paterno was released due to a “failure of leadership.”
Friday, Joyner was asked directly how the lack of details on Sherburne's departure could be reconciled against the promise of more openness from the university.
“Openness doesn't mean you can violate your confidentiality policies, and it's well-accepted that HR policies are confidential,” he said. “It's not just about being open. It's just about we can't violate our own HR policies.”
Sherburne was an academic counselor with the Penn State football team from 1995-99. Sandusky also left the Nittany Lion football program in 1999. Sherburne was then promoted to associated athletic director, a position in which he reported to Curley.
Calls to a home phone number listed for Sherburne have not been answered.