- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is fervently disputing suggestions raised in a report that player medical care has been compromised after the team doctor was replaced.

Speaking often in an angry tone that might be otherwise reserved for an argument with an official, O’Brien told reporters in a conference call that the health and safety of his players were his top priorities.

The athletic department has been responding to a story in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated that questioned the quality of care and the motivations behind the removal of longtime team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli earlier this year.

“For anyone to suggest _ or perhaps outright accuse _ that anyone within the Penn State athletic program would do otherwise is irresponsible, reckless and wrong,” an emotional O’Brien said Wednesday.

The second-year coach said he made recommendations in the offseason to athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson after watching the medical team for his first year.

It was part of his job to evaluate all aspects of the program. O’Brien’s superiors make the personnel decisions.

O’Brien said there was no problem with the medical care at Penn State last year, nor in the rest of Sebastianelli’s 20-year tenure at football.

“Again, what I try to do is assemble the right team … the way I see the program should be run,” O’Brien said. Responding to another question later in the roughly 15-minute conference call, O’Brien said he urges the doctors to be “cutting edge … looking for things that could help our players.”

Sebastianelli remains the director of athletic medicine. In that capacity, he oversees the medical program for football, including new team doctor Peter Seidenberg.

Penn State in February released a statement about the changes, which also included adding Scott Lynch as an orthopedic consultant for football. All three doctors work for Penn State’s college of medicine.

“To characterize the medical care Penn State provides our student-athletes as anything other than the highest quality is erroneous,” the athletic department said in a statement. “Access to urgent and quality care for our athletes is no less than where it was at any point in the past 20 years.”

The school later released a comparison to procedures at six other schools including Ohio State and LSU, showing similar medical guidelines.

The Sports Illustrated story said the change at Penn State can be traced to a tweaked title in January for Joyner, who had been serving in an “acting” capacity since November 2011.

Joyner replaced Tim Curley, who was placed on administrative leave after being charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse in connection with the child sex abuse scandal involving retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Curley has vehemently proclaimed his innocence.

Some alumni and former players remain angry that Joyner, who is also a doctor, became athletic director after leaving his position as a university trustee. Critics cite a conflict of interest as well a lack of experience in athletic administration.

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