STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WFAN/AP) — Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno defended his program’s integrity in a 7-month-old letter released Wednesday, a day ahead of the report that could forever mar his legacy.
In the letter, written shortly before his death and confirmed as legitimate by his family, Paterno rejected the notion that his former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys amounted to a “football scandal” or tarnished the accomplishments of his players or Penn State’s reputation as a whole.
“I feel compelled to say, in no uncertain terms, that this is not a football scandal,” Paterno wrote.
He added: “Whatever failings that may have happened at Penn State, whatever conclusions about my or others’ conduct you may wish to draw from a fair view of the allegations, it is inarguable that these actions had nothing to do with this last team or any of the hundreds of prior graduates of the ‘Grand Experiment.’ Penn Staters across the globe should feel no shame in saying, ‘We are . . . Penn State.’ ”
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The results of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Sandusky scandal were released Thursday in a report that attempted to answer many of the troubling questions swirling around one of the worst scandals in sports history.
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.
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.
Sandusky was convicted on 45 criminal counts last month at a trial that included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys. By contrast, the Freeh report focused on Penn State and what it did — or didn’t do — to protect children.
Paterno offered a passionate defense of the university and its football program in the letter, which 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.”
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.”
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.
After a 50-minute meeting in Harrisburg with the judge overseeing their case, Schultz’s lawyer said Wednesday he won’t be among those who call up the Freeh report the minute it is posted.
“I don’t expect I’ll be reading it for a while,” said Pittsburgh attorney Tom Farrell. “I’ve got other things to do.”
The NCAA, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it will decide on whether to take action at the “appropriate time.” The governing body said it has already been collecting information from Freeh’s probe, and that Penn State will have to formally respond to questions from NCAA President Mark Emmert now that Freeh has revealed his findings.
The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted “institutional control” in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct. The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.
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