Former FBI head Louis Freeh released his long-awaited report on his investigation of Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal this morning in Center City—answering who knew what and when. Reporters circled the lobby of the Westin Hotel at Liberty Place. ESPN played on a plasma television: “The Freeh Report finds failure by Joe Paterno, others in Jerry Sandusky scandal.”
Who knew? Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, ousted Penn State President Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and university vice president Gary Schultz. What’d they know? A lot. And according to Freeh, they went to great lengths to protect themselves and the university from the consequences of bad publicity.
“Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions of words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest,” Freeh said. But the only one anyone wanted to talk about was Paterno.
“They crucified him,” a student told me the night of the Penn State student riot after Paterno was fired last November. Yesterday, the Paterno family attempted a resurrection, releasing a column they claim Paterno penned before he died. “This is not a football scandal,” he apparently wrote.
A reporter at the press conference asked Freeh whether he thought it was. “The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building. Paterno had his office in the Lasch building, steps away from Mr. Sandusky,” Freeh said.
And Paterno knew. The Freeh reporter uncovered that he knew about the 1998 incident, when Sandusky molested a boy in the locker room shower.
“Anything new in this department? Coach [Paterno] is anxious to know where it stands,” Schultz wrote to Curley when authorities were investigating the incident in 1998.
Paterno knew in 2001, when his then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary reported to him in Paterno’s own home on a Saturday morning. But Paterno waited. He waited until the work week began to tell his colleagues because he “didn’t want to interfere with anyone’s weekend,” according to the Freeh report.
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State—Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz—repeatedly concealed facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large,” Freeh said.
Board of Trustees members, who hired Freeh, were found to be grossly unprepared and uninformed and “equally failed” along with Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz. Penn State’s policy regarding the Clery Act wasn’t even drafted in November 2011, when the scandal broke. The Clery Act is a federal law that requires universities to report campus crime.
Minutes after the press conference, the Paternos sought to keep up. Their supporters blamed the media, the Penn State public relations spin. Fresh off Jay Paterno’s morning appearance on the Today Show, they released a statement: “To think … [Paterno] would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic. If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions.”
And so the Paternos would like us to believe Joe Paterno was confused. “I never heard of, of, rape and a man,” he said in his final interview with the Washington Post in January.
The Paternos would like us to believe that he was an innocent, grandfatherly figure who couldn’t comprehend pedophilia and child abuse. He was not. He was an Ivy League graduate turned multimillionaire who hired a powerhouse D.C. public relations firm when the scandal broke.
And if he truly was that incompetent, then forget about coaching a football team, Joe Paterno wasn’t equipped to be an educator. What’s the spin on that?
Read Robert Huber’s “Sins of Penn State,” published in the March 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.