Commentary: Paterno, Sandusky, now Tim Bream: PSU’s tarnished Lions

By Hank Nuwer

Don’t expect Penn State Athletics that tolerated a Jerry Sandusky to comment on Tim Bream’s actions. PSU’s sports administration should do the right thing, but I have no illusions that current AD Sandy Barbour  will do so. 

Hank Nuwer is a professor with Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism.

Under Barbour at her former AD position at Cal-Berkeley, an NCAA survey “listed the football program as having the worst graduation rate among the 72 major-conference universities and the men’s basketball program as having the worst graduation rate among Pac-12 schools.” 

Now she’s kept silence as Tim Bream was and is at the center of the most publicized hazing death since the Florida A & M band death of Robert Champion. 

Not one sportswriter seriously has interviewed Bream and Barbour on the hazing incident. But then again, look how long it took PSU sports scribes to detect the Paterno-Sandusky child crimes travesty. 

Barbour employs trainer Tim Bream directly under her watch.  Under Tim Bream’s watch–or lack of it as Beta Theta Pi adviser–brothers hazed Tim Piazza in an alcohol-fueled hazing spree until he passed out, fell, and was fatally injured.  Hours passed before anyone called for rescue attempts. Where was Tim Bream all this time? 

That’s the question Barbour should publicly ask Tim Bream. 

And that’s the question not one State College, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or AP reporter has dared ask Barbour. 

Why is that anyway? 

Oh yes, Bream was in his room all that time as the noisy alcohol-fueled debacle unfolded. In his room!  Not in a locked dungeon. In his room. In the house. As one of his chapter’s  pledges drank, fell and died. 

It’s all on video, except maybe for that part of the video which police claim has disappeared. You’d think a shamed Bream would leave Penn State, although as matters stand he has no legal cause to do so. 

One or more civil suits by the Piazza family are sure to come. It may me that the public will learn more about Tim Bream’s involvement on a minute-by-minute breakdown. Here is why a detective thought the adviser has done more than snore in his room: link. 

Let me be clear.  There is no expectation on my part that Barbour could have prevented Bream from assuming the role of adviser. On the surface, he should have been the perfect adviser to mentor and to discipline what proved to be a “Men-of-no-Principles” Beta Theta Pi chapter. 

I have no expectation that Bream should be fired by Barbour as head trainer, nor even disciplined. His work on the field and in the locker room has been, apparently, exemplary. 

By all indications in his previous positions at the University of Richmond and for the Chicago Bears, Bream looked to be the ideal employee. But there is no question Bream fell short as adviser mentoring PSU Beta Theta Pi college students. 

Here is the important thing. Bream’s role in the hazing prosecutions was limited due to one fact.  Investigating police failed to confiscate Bream’s cell phone to see whom he talked to and when as panic began settling in on members when Mr. Piazza died. I continue to marvel that neither police nor the prosecution have issued a subpoena for Bream’s cell phone records on that night.  This is especially crucial because a half-dozen or more fraternity members are facing charges of destroying evidence at a crime scene. 

For all those reasons, I believe Barbour should comment. If she gives Bream her vote of full confidence, so be it. 

A fair comment. That is what I am requesting, that and nothing more. 

A fair comment. 

Hank Nuwer is a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” “The Hazing Reader,” “Wrongs of Passage” and many other books.

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2 Responses to Commentary: Paterno, Sandusky, now Tim Bream: PSU’s tarnished Lions

  1. Pingback: Commentary: PSU athletics director Sandy Barbour needs to comment on Tim Bream’s actions during Piazza hazing death

  2. There is no need for AD Barbour to comment. The county DA has said she had no charges against Bream.

    Law enforcement in the USA has long turned a blind eye to underage drinking. That includes the police on college campuses and prosecutors like the one in the PSU frat case. She only prosecuted because someone died, and she overcharged to get publicity for her reelection campaign, which failed when she lost the primary.

    If the DA and police had enforced underage drinking laws in the first place, the death may have been prevented.