Removal of Penn State team physician protested

Wayne Sebastianelli leaves former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's home Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, in State College, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP file)

Earlier this week, Penn State quietly replaced Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli as head physician for the football team after 21 years in that job, but the reaction by a family member of one of his prominent former patients hasn’t been quiet.

On Thursday, the father of Adam Taliaferro, the former South Jersey high school star who was nearly paralyzed after suffering a spinal injury in a 2000 game against Ohio State, spoke out in support of Sebastianelli in a letter to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Andre Taliaferro said that without Sebastianelli coming to his son’s aid immediately upon sustaining the injury, the younger Taliaferro “could have died or been a lifelong quadriplegic.”

Taliaferro said Sebastianelli was “second to none in his capability and capacity to service and advise past and current PSU players,” and concluded that his removal “will not be in the best interest of the players and their families.”

Speaking Friday during his Maxwell Club press conference in Atlantic City, coach Bill O’Brien called Sebastianelli “a good man and a fantastic doctor (who) has done so much for Penn State” but added “this is more about the reorganization of the medical team.”

“I think what’s hard a lot of times for people at Penn State, who are fantastic people, from the outside looking in, it’s been the same way for a number of years,” he said. “It’s a little bit more about a fresh approach, fresh ideas, doing what’s best for the student athlete, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

O’Brien added that Penn State fans “can rest assured I’m doing what’s best for the players and what’s best for our coaching staff.”

Sebastianelli will continue as the director of athletic medicine overseeing all of the university’s sports medical services. His place as football team physician has been taken by Dr. Peter Seidenberg.

Another long-time Penn State employee, Fran Ganter, who spent 46 years as a player, assistant coach and athletic administrator, announced his retirement earlier this week, effective Thursday. O’Brien said Ganter was “instrumental in my transition here.”

“He was a big key to the first year for me, the history of the program, how things were done,” he said. “He was just very helpful to me and he’ll be a friend for the rest of my time here at Penn State, no doubt about it.”

--Joe Juliano