(CNN) -- Vicky Triponey knows all too well the power Penn State's late football coach, Joe Paterno, held for more than half a century over the insular slice of central Pennsylvania that calls itself Happy Valley.
She experienced firsthand the clubby, jock-snapping culture, the sense of entitlement, the cloistered existence. It's what drove her five years ago from her job as the vice president who oversaw student discipline.
She was told she was too aggressive, too confrontational, that she wasn't fitting in with "the Penn State way."
She clashed often with Paterno over who should discipline football players when they got into trouble. The conflict with such an iconic figure made her very unpopular around campus. For a while, it cost Triponey her peace of mind and her good name. It almost ended her 30-year academic career.
Another person might have felt vindicated, smug or self-righteous when former FBI Director Louis Freeh delivered the scathing report on his eight-month investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. But Triponey sensed only a deep sadness.
The inquiry, commissioned by the board of trustees, exposed how the personal failings of Paterno and three other Penn State leaders -- along with the university's football-first culture -- empowered an assistant football coach who molested fatherless boys for more than a decade.
"There's no joy," Triponey told CNN as she sat down for an interview Friday, the day after the Freeh report was released. She said she found solace in the public recognition of Penn State's "culture of reverence for the football program," as the report phrased it, and that it is "ingrained at all levels of the campus community." Freeh found that the culture contributed to the Sandusky scandal.
She agrees with Freeh's suggestion that the university's trustees lead an effort to "vigorously examine and understand" Penn State's culture, why it's so resistant to outside perspectives and why it places such an "excessive focus on athletics."
"It's comforting to know that others can now understand," Triponey said. "It didn't have to happen this way."
Her former boss at Wichita State University described Triponey as "a dedicated, ethical professional" who was devastated by her experience at Penn State.
"Vicky knew that she had attempted to do the right thing in disciplining the football players, but she was unable to do so in the Penn State environment," said Gene Hughes, a president emeritus at Wichita State and Northern Arizona University.
At Penn State, Triponey was among the few who stood up to Paterno, the legendary "JoePa" who for 61 years was synonymous with a football program that pumped millions of dollars into Penn State. And she paid dearly for it. At the end, nobody at the top backed her. And it didn't seem to matter to anyone whether she was right, or even if she had a point.
At the heart of the problem, the Freeh report stated, were university leaders eager to please Paterno above all else, a rubber-stamp board of trustees, a president who discouraged dissent and an administration that was preoccupied with appearances and spin.
Triponey has been saying that since 2005.( Collapse )SOURCE