An angry Bill O'Brien defended the Penn State football program on Wednesday after a Sports Illustrated article accused school officials of providing inadequate medical care for players.
"At the top of [my] responsibility list is taking care of this program's players. The student-athletes in this football program are the number one priority to me," O'Brien told the Daily Collegian -- the student-run school newspaper. "Their health and safety is the number one priority to me. It's not near the top, it's not around the top; it's at the top."
The 23-page Sports Illustrated story cited named and anonymous sources who claim the quality of care for players has been compromised since the removal of longtime team doctor and orthopedic surgeon Wayne Sebastianelli. The article also questioned the motives that resulted in the decision to remove Sebastianelli.
Sebastianelli had been the team doctor and orthopedic surgeon since 1992 when he was selected over David Joyner, the new athletic director at Penn State. Joyner also is an orthopedic surgeon and former Penn State football player. Joyner and Sebastianelli are portrayed as angry rivals in the Sports illustrated article.
"Any changes that were made were done for, and only for, the benefit of the student athletes, the football program and for Penn State," Joyner said in a statement issued by the school. "Any characterization otherwise is appalling, offensive, preposterous and completely untrue."
O'Brien agreed, saying the article was a "character assassination" on Joyner, whom he called a "first-class" person.
Sebastianelli was asked to leave four days after Joyner took over as athletic director following the Jerry Sandusky trial. He remains the doctor in charge of the entire athletics department's medical program.