Freeh released his findings the following month. His team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents, his report said.
“Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse” from authorities, trustees and the university community, Freeh wrote in releasing the report.
Less than two weeks later, Penn State hastily took down the bronze statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium. The next day, the NCAA said Freeh’s report presented “an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem.”
Penn State was given a four-year bowl ban, strict scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine. The NCAA also vacated 111 wins under Paterno, meaning he no longer held the record of most wins by a major college coach.
Since then Spanier, Curley and Schultz have also been charged with obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have vehemently denied the allegations. So has the Paterno family, though they have promised a more detailed response with its own investigation was complete.
Paterno’s true legacy wasn’t his statue or his 409 wins, but family and players, his widow said.
“The great fathers, husbands and citizens you have become fulfill the dreams Joe had,” she wrote to the former players. “All that we want — and what I believe we owe the victims, Joe Paterno and everyone who cares about Penn State — is the full record of what happened.”
Paterno died in January 2012 at age 85, about two months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The way university leadership handled his ouster — over a late-night telephone call — and its handling of the Freeh report and NCAA sanctions remains a sensitive topic for factions of dissatisfied alumni, former players, staff and community members.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who joined the board last year after drawing support from disgruntled alumni, has been among more vocal critics who say that school leaders rushed to judgment on Paterno. Critics have also said Freeh’s report downplayed failures of Pennsylvania’s child-protective services.
“I knew Joe Paterno as well as one human being can know another. Joe was exactly the moral, disciplined and demanding man you knew him to be,” Sue Paterno wrote. “Over the years I watched as he struggled with countless personal and professional challenges. Never — not once — did I see him compromise his principles or twist the truth to avoid bad publicity or protect his reputation.”
The Paterno family has remained supportive of the football program and Paterno’s successor, Bill O’Brien. Sue Paterno has been active in organizing Special Olympics, which was again held on campus last summer; and son and former assistant coach Jay Paterno has done speaking engagements with students and attends sporting events.
The family’s response comes a month after Gov. Tom Corbett filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA to overturn the sanctions. The NCAA this week asked a judge to throw out the suit.