Takeaway From The Freeh Report: Everyone Is Guilty

The internal investigation on Penn State’s actions was released today. Here’s the gist of the 267-page report and the reaction thereto. posted on

PAT LITTLE / Reuters

1. As seemed likely, Joe Paterno was implicated in the cover-up and lack of action in re: Jerry Sandusky.
In the press release put out by the Freeh group, an independent team headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the late football coach is included, along with with former university President Greg Spanier, former athletic director Timothy Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz, in the group of people most culpable for Penn State’s failures. “Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest,” investigators wrote.

Though Paterno is never directly quoted, many emails included in the report say explicitly that athletic department officials or university officials had informed him of what was going on. One point Paterno supporters have long made about these claims is there is no direct knowledge of what exactly was said to Paterno and what he said back. This is still true, but the authors of the report find it hard to believe he wasn’t knowledgable of Sandusky’s actions. To wit…

2. Joe Paterno possibly lied to a grand jury about a 1998 incident involving Sandusky.
A criminal investigation was opened into Sandusky’s contact with a young boy in the Penn State locker room when a mother reported that he’d showered with her son. Sandusky was never contacted about it by any university or athletic department official, though Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno were all informed. The Board of Trustees was never told. In emails between Schultz, Spanier and Curley, Schultz writes “Behavior – at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties” and “At min – Poor Judgment.” He later adds “Is this opening of pandora’s box?” and “Other children?” Another email says that Curley has “touched base” with “coach” (presumed to be Paterno). This is especially important because Paterno told a grand jury that he had never been told of the 1998 investigation. The Freeh report suggests otherwise.

3. Everyone from the executive director of The Second Mile to Joe Paterno was informed about the 2001 shower incident reported by grad assistant Mike McQueary.
Curley met with the executive director of the charity—through which Sandusky met the boy involved, though his identity is still not public—and the two agreed it was a “non-incident” (in the words of Second Mile leadership, according to the report) and decided to take no further action. Penn State later sold the charity, which Sandusky had retired to become more involved in, a parcel of land. Meanwhile, as emails leaked earlier show, the incident was discussed by Curley, Spanier and Schultz, who spoke about informing Paterno.

4. Penn State alumni seem to be disappointed in Paterno.
On the Blue and White Illustrated message board on Rivals.com, the thread discussing the Freeh report begins with a post “Could not be more disappointed in Paterno and PSU leadership.” It’s a far cry from the various posts that have been on the message board over the last few days, defending Paterno and calling the investigation a cover-up for the Board of Trustees. On a Facebook group titled “Support Joe Paterno”, one poster urged: “He should be stripped of any awards and his pension. He had no character and was more concerned for the schools reputation than for those kids. His legacy is that of a coward.” On Rivals.com, one poster added “This was a failure on a whole lot of people’s parts. From Sandusky’s family right on up through Joe and the PSU administration. A very sad ending for Paterno.”

5. The university and athletic department’s lack of structure are faulted.
In addition to criticizing specific individuals in positions of authority, the report found that the university had failed to adequately inform its employees about the laws and procedures involved in reporting incidents or suspected incidents of child abuse. It also finds that the university’s individual departments institute standards and rules in different ways and that there are not enough resources dedicated to compliance with NCAA rules.

The report also found that general overdeference to the football program could have impacted the implementation of these practices. In one damning line, investigators reiterated claims that two janitors who had knowledge of an incident between Sandusky and a victim in the Penn State locker room failed to act because of fear for their jobs, a claim also made during the Sandusky trial.

6. The NCAA’s response to the report was muted.
“Like everyone else, we are reviewing the final report for the first time today. As President Emmert wrote in his November 17th letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson and reiterated this week, the university has four key questions concerning compliance with institutional control and ethics policies, to which it now needs to respond. Penn State’s response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action. We expect Penn State’s continued cooperation in our examination of these issues.”

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