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Paterno's Legacy Marred By PSU Sex Abuse Report

Jul 13, 2012
Originally published on July 13, 2012 11:04 am




It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Trustees at Penn State asked for answers and now they have to decide what to do about the brutal response they received.

MONTAGNE: The university's board of trustees is meeting today. They now have a report from former FBI director Louis Freeh on the university's complicity in sexual abuse.

INSKEEP: Freeh says a lack of openness and accountability left room for ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to abuse children. Freeh's probe concludes that high-level officials knew what Sandusky was doing.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Philadelphia.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: In front of scores of reporters in downtown Philadelphia, Louis Freeh delivered this damning statement...

LOUIS FREEH: The most powerful leaders at Penn State University 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.

BRADY: The four men are former Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, school vice president Gary Schultz and the late head football coach Joe Paterno.

Freeh's investigation was commissioned by the Penn State trustees. It shows despite Paterno's statements to the contrary, he knew about a 1998 report of child sexual abuse involving Jerry Sandusky and a boy in a locker room shower.

FREEH: The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for about 30 years and had a office just steps away from Mr. Paterno.

BRADY: Paterno died of lung cancer in January. In a statement, his family says Joe Paterno never would have agreed to protect a child predator. Still, Freeh's report raises questions about Joe Paterno's legacy.

Karen Peetz chairs Penn State's Board of Trustees. She was asked if this report would change how the university honors Paterno.

KAREN PEETZ: I think our reaction is that the clarity that's come out of the report would show that 61 years of excellent service that Joe gave to the university is now marred and we have to step back and say, what does that mean?

BRADY: Fellow trustee Ken Frazier asked the public to hold off on assessing Paterno.

KEN FRAZIER: I don't think that any one of us wants to be judged only by the worst things that we've done. And I think we have to take some time. We have to take some reflection and some distance before we start making decisions about how we will think about Joe Paterno's entire life and entire body of work.

BRADY: At Penn State's main campus in State College, the man known as JoePa is still a legend. But now some prefer to focus on their affection for the school.

Brian Cronauer is a fifth year senior at Penn State.

BRIAN CRONAUER: I still love my college. I love Penn State. I'm going to keep supporting it. And I'm not going to go out there and vehemently defend anyone at the top, because they're all criminals for what they did, I believe.

BRADY: Marian Wolfert's children and grandchildren went to Penn State. She listened in to Louis Freeh's press conference Thursday and thinks the board of trustees deserves much of the blame for not holding Penn State's leaders accountable.

MARIAN WOLFERT: I don't think that the board itself of Penn State took their civil and human responsibility seriously. I believe that Paterno got caught up in it. He was an elderly man, a humane man. And I think it's a shame that such a great institution has to carry this disgrace.

BRADY: At a press conference, trustees accepted responsibility for the scandal. When the chair of the 32-member board was asked if she would resign, Karen Peetz said no. She says trustees have a lot of work to do now. High on that agenda - rebuilding Penn State's reputation.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.