STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WFAN/AP) — Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno says he “didn’t know which way to go” after an assistant coach came to him in 2002 saying he had seen retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy.
Paterno spoke from his home at State College, Pennsylvania with his family surrounding him.
In his first public comments since being fired two months ago, Paterno told Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post that assistant Mike McQueary “didn’t want to get specific” about details in his 2002 allegation involving Sandusky, who he claimed was showering with a boy in the Penn State football facility.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Paterno was hesitant to make follow-up calls because he didn’t want to be seen as trying to exert influence for or against Sandusky.
“I didn’t know which way to go … And rather than get in there and make a mistake,” he told the Post before trailing off.
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way,” he concluded.
Paterno reported the allegation to his superiors but was dismissed after 46 years as Penn State’s head coach. Before McQueary visited him, Paterno said he had “no inkling” Sandusky might be a child molester.
He is currently undergoing chemotherapy from lung cancer and is recovering from a broken pelvis. Paterno was re-admitted to the hospital Friday for observation for what his family called a minor complication from treatments. He has been undergoing radiation.
In recent weeks, Paterno’s dismissal itself has come under question from many former players and alumni wondering about the motivations of trustees.
Others are roiled by a perceived lack of communication by trustees and President Rodney Erickson during a period when the school has promised to be more open and transparent. Many alumni who attended town hall meetings in Pittsburgh, suburban Philadelphia and New York this week questioned why Paterno, after 61 years of service to the school, wasn’t afforded due process before his dismissal.
Sandusky was charged with over 50 counts of sexually abusing boys over a 15-year span. He has denied the charges, which were first filed Nov. 5. Sandusky remains out on $250,000 bail while awaiting trial.
When asked how he’d feel if Sandusky was guilty Paterno replied, “I’m sick about it.”
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