STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Joe Paterno defended his football program’s integrity in a 7-month-old letter released Wednesday, a day ahead of a 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 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.
The results of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Sandusky scandal are set to be released this morning in a report that should answer many of the troubling questions swirling around one of the worst scandals in sports history.
A team led by 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 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, to be released online at 9 a.m. (www.TheFreehReportonPSU.com), 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, bringing them on campus and forcing 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.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni watchdog group that has been highly critical of the school’s board of trustees, issued a 95-point checklist of issues it said it expects to be covered in Freeh’s report in order for it to be considered a credible, valid summary of the case.
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.