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Penn State's Jay Paterno, Bill Kenney Sue Penn State For 'Improper Termination'

Complaint cites failure to secure an interview for the then-vacant Boston College job.

Ronald Martinez

Boston College football is briefly wrapped up in this whole Penn State mess and no, not from Grant making an off-hand comment about how some fans might not want to play the Nittany Lions after the recent events in Happy Valley ...

Former Penn State assistant coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney are suing the university for "improper termination," according to a report published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday. Paterno and Kenney are seeking in excess of $1,000,000 and accusing the school of engaging in a civil conspiracy against them after both were not retained by head coach Bill O'Brien in January 2012.

In the complaint, Paterno and Kenney claim that the university caused irreparable damage to their personal and professional reputations through press releases made after O'Brien filled out his Nittany Lions coaching staff.

The suit claims that Kenney applied for several NFL and college coaching positions but received only a few interviews. During the few interviews that Kenney did land, the interviewers focused on his personal role in the Sandusky scandal rather than on his football coaching credentials. Much the same story for Paterno, who, after applying for several vacant college coaching positions, failed to even secure an interview.

Interestingly, Boston College appears not once, but twice in the complaint, as both Kenney and Paterno claim to have applied for the then-vacant Boston College head coaching position.

The relevant excerpts of the complaint for Kenney:

164. After Penn State terminated Kenney, Kenney made a determined effort to secure other employment as a football coach.

165. Kenney applied for open positions with various Division I college football programs, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Massachusetts, North Carolina State, Boston College, Arizona, Delaware, Syracuse and several others.

166. Kenney also applied for open coaching positions in the NFL, with franchises such as the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, and Cleveland Browns. Kenney was experienced and well-qualified for these positions.

167. Kenney received a few interviews with college and professional teams. His interviewers asked him questions focused on the NCAA's unsupported finding that he and other coaches had ignored "the red flags of Sandusky's behaviors" at Penn State, rather than on Kenney's credentials and approach as a football coach.

168. Despite interviews or discussions with schools such as the University of Massachusetts and NFL teams such as the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts, Kenney was not offered a position. In most instances, the positions he applied for went to less experienced and less qualified candidates.

I don't recall whether Kenney, a Randolph, Massachusetts native, ever interviewed for the Boston College job, and the tight-lipped nature of the coaching search clouds whether BC was one of the few interviews he did land. However, the complaint stops short of claiming that Kenney was a more experienced and qualified candidate for the Boston College job, specifically, which eventually went to Temple head coach Steve Addazio.

Kenny, who's now the offensive line coach at Western Michigan, had 26 years of experience as a grad assistant and position coach at the college level. At the time of his hire, Addazio had 18 years of experience as a college coach; the last two as head coach at Temple. The other college HC vacancies listed in the complaint during the 2012-13 offseason went to Utah State's Gary Andersen (Wisconsin), Kent State's Darrell Hazell (Purdue), Northern Illinois's Dave Doeren (N.C. State) and Syracuse DC Scott Shafer (Syracuse).

Paterno also cites Boston College as a school that he applied to that didn't grant him an interview.

178. After Penn State terminated Paterno, Paterno sought other employment either as a head football coach or a media commentator.

179. Transitioning from his position to a head coaching role was a logical and customary progression for someone with Paterno’s experience and reputation.

180. Paterno was well-qualified to receive such an offer.

181. Accordingly, Paterno applied for the open head coaching positions at the University of Connecticut and James Madison University, where he had worked earlier in his career.

182. Based on his qualifications and experience, Paterno was a strong candidate for each position; however, Paterno was not even interviewed by either school, and the open positions went to candidates with less coaching experience.

183. Paterno also applied for head coaching vacancies at the University of Colorado and Boston College.

184. Paterno was not granted an interview at either school.

185. Paterno also inquired about the head coaching position at another Division I school in the mid-Atlantic region, but the university administration considered the coaches from Penn State "too toxic," given the findings of the Consent Decree. As a result, the program in question did not grant interviews to any candidates from Penn State.

186. Paterno was extremely well-qualified for the positions he sought and would have received job offers from these programs had it not been for the disparaging accusations leveled against him in the Consent Decree.

Like Kenney, Paterno doesn't claim that he should have received a job offer from Boston College, specifically, but does suggest that he should have received an interview. However, the candidates that were rumored to have interviewed with Bates suggest the talent pool was a bit deeper than a candidate of Paterno's qualifications at the time (a college position coach of 19 years, 17 of them with Penn State). Bates did make clear from the beginning of the process that he was looking for a coach with prior head coaching experience.

Perhaps Paterno had earned at least an interview at Connecticut or James Madison, his two position coaching stops prior to joining his father's Nittany Lions coaching staff in 1995, but I'm not sure an interview should have been considered a given at BC.

This is the second lawsuit that Paterno and Kenney have filed against Penn State. They are also plaintiffs in a suit filed against the NCAA and the university; one in which Paterno also uses his failure to secure an interview at Boston College as an example of how the NCAA has disparaged his name.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.