My Old Band Teacher

November 16, 2011

My old band teacher speaks about PSU:

PENN — A former Penn State Blue Band president and ardent university alum expressed his disappointment with the events that led to this week’s firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Still, he said he’s withholding judgment until all the information comes out.

“I think the board was right, but Joe has done so much for the school, he’s between a rock and a hard place,” said class of Penn State 1955 graduate and retired Octorara High School band director Jere Fridy.

Paterno, a 46-year coaching veteran and winningest coach in Division I college football history, was given notice that he had been terminated by the university’s board of trustees on Wednesday in the wake of the child molestation charges against his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Fridy, who played in the college’s marching band during the years when Paterno was an assistant coach, has maintained a lifelong connection with the university, having founded the alumni Blue Band and having been a regular attendee at the university’s Band Day with his Octorara Band when he taught there. Additionally, his wife, Myrna, is a Penn State graduate as is his son and lead Blue Ban trombonist, Scott. The Fridys also have a grandson who is currently a Blue Band member. Jere Fridy and his wife currently live at Jenner’s Pond restricted age community in Jennersville.

Fridy said he is not eager to form a judgment about the board’s decision to fire Paterno, even though he is a fond admirer and spent his entire teaching and conducting career following Paterno’s model of embracing strong academics with athletics.

“I’m disappointed with the whole thing. I want to see what’s left when the smoke clears. I feel Joe deserves it,” he said.

He reiterated a question many are asking about the former graduate student and current assistant coach Mike McQueary, who initially blew the whistle on Sandusky after witnessing his alleged act of molestation in a shower with a young boy in 2002. “I’m surprised the witness didn’t do anything right away to stop the action,” he said. If that had happened he said, the scandal would have been stopped right there.

Fridy said he would also like to know how graphic McQueary’s description of what he saw was. “Did he saw they were just horsing around?” Fridy asked.

Fridy said he had plans to go to the Saturday Penn State game against Nebraska with his son and discussed with him whether it would be safe. After consideration, the pair decided to go and return home if there was any sign of violence or danger.

There were several issues on the former Blue Band president’s mind.

One of those was the financial issue. “Penn State is in for some lawsuits. I’m thinking, ‘Are they going to be using my grandson’s tuition to pay legal fees?’”

He wondered out loud if potential high school recruits for the team or even potential undergraduate students would be influenced by the scandal not to choose Penn State.

He also mentioned the timing of the firing of Paterno and college president Graham Spanier, saying that with three football games remaining and a possible bowl game, a shadow would continue over each game if the actions hadn’t been taken swiftly. “If you take it into three games and a bowl game, how does that make the university look?” he said.

Fridy’s admiration for Paterno’s model led him to work cooperatively with the athletic department at Octorara High School for 35 years in scheduling events and balancing the time and priorities of the students. He pointed with pride to award-winning bands he has led that had 15 varsity athletes as members.

Still, he said the scandal with the Penn State football team should not reflect on the school overall, otherwise it would be an example of “the tail wagging the dog.”

“I love [Paterno] but he’s not Pope,” he added.

In the end, Fridy is waiting for it to all play out. “I feel sorry for the abused kids. They are the ones I feel the sorriest about,” he said.

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