University report on scandal due out Thursday
STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (AP) – Penn State’s legendary former football coach defended the integrity of his sports program in a 7-month-old letter released Wednesday, a day ahead of a report on how the university handled a child sex abuse scandal that stunned the U.S.
In the letter, written shortly before his death and confirmed as legitimate by his family, Joe Paterno rejected the notion that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys amounted to a “football scandal” or in any way tarnished the accomplishments of his players or Penn State’s reputation as a whole.
Sandusky was convicted last month of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in one of the worst scandals in sports history. He is awaiting sentencing.
The results of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Sandusky scandal are set to be released Thursday in a report that should answer many of the troubling questions swirling around the case – and forever mar Paterno’s legacy.
A team led by former federal judge and FBI ex-director Louis Freeh interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once-revered former assistant football coach – a man who helped Paterno win two national titles for a university that touted “success with honor” – was a serial child molester.
Sandusky’s trial included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys. By contrast, the Freeh report, to be released online Thursday morning, will focus on Penn State and what it did – or didn’t do – to protect children.
Eight months after Sandusky’s arrest, it remains unclear how top university officials handled reports dating back at least 14 years that Sandusky was behaving inappropriately with boys he met through his charity, brought them on campus and forced them into sex acts.
Among those who will be scouring the Freeh report are school officials trying to repair Penn State’s shattered reputation and ex-players and alumni who remain outraged over Paterno’s ouster in the wake of Sandusky’s arrest. The Hall of Fame coach died from lung cancer in January, two months after school trustees fired him for what they called a failure of leadership.
Paterno himself offered a passionate defense of the university and its football program in the letter that surfaced for the first time Wednesday.
The Paterno family said the letter was given in draft form to a few former players around December. One of the ex-players circulated it to other former players on Wednesday, and it was posted on the website FightonState.com, which covers the team.
“Over and over again, I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football and have heard such ignorant comments like Penn State will no longer be a ‘football factory’ and we are going to ‘start’ focusing on integrity in athletics,” Paterno wrote. “These statements are simply unsupported by the five decades of evidence to the contrary – and succeed only in unfairly besmirching both a great university and the players and alumni of the football program who have given of themselves to help make it great.”
Paterno also wrote, “This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one.”
Among those receiving Paterno’s 712-word missive Wednesday was former linebacker Brandon Short, now an investment banker in Dubai. He told The Associated Press that he will be looking to the Freeh report to find “some clarity, hoping that it is a fair assessment of what happened, and we would love to see answers.”
He added, “Let’s see the report and save all judgment and innuendo until after we’ve read it.”
Lawyers for the young men who testified against Sandusky, and others planning lawsuits, will be reading the findings for what it might mean regarding civil litigation.
Joel Feller, part of a legal team that represents several victims in the case, including three who testified against Sandusky, said Wednesday he will look for clues about “who knew what and when.”
The Freeh report is expected to delve deeply into the handling of a 2001 report from Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who told Paterno he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the football team shower. Paterno, in turn, alerted athletic director Tim Curley, who investigated the report along with Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw the campus police department. Curley and Schultz ultimately decided not to alert law enforcement or child welfare authorities.
Curley, who’s on leave, and the now-retired Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to report the McQueary complaint to civil authorities as required.
GENARO C. ARMAS
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