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Why Phil Knight changed his opinion on Joe Paterno

Phil Knight, cofounder of Nike, changed his opinion after hearing the Paterno family's rebuttal to the claims that Coach Joe Paterno knowingly allowed Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children to continue.

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The former administrators have vehemently denied the allegations. So, too, has Paterno's family, though a detailed counter-offensive began in earnest this weekend.

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The family's findings said that Paterno never asked or told anyone not to investigate or report an allegation made against Sandusky 12 years ago, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2001.

Paterno also never asked or told anyone not to discuss or hide information reported by graduate assistant Mike McQueary about the 2001 allegation, the critique said, and followed university protocol in reporting information to superiors and left it to them to "to investigate and report as appropriate."

Thornburgh said he found the report at points to be inaccurate, speculative and fundamentally flawed about the role – if any – played by Paterno.

Appearing on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program Sunday, Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers said it was too early to talk about legal action, though they were "evaluating all the legal options at this stage of the game."

Paterno's widow, Sue Paterno wrote in a letter Friday to former players that she sought a "full record of what happened."

The treatment of Paterno – fired over a late-night telephone call – as well as the handling of the Freeh report and the resulting NCAA sanctions by university leadership remain sensitive topics with some unhappy groups of alumni, ex-players, and community residents.

Penn State said Sunday that Freeh was brought in to conduct an independent investigation of the school's response to the allegations, and not actions of entities unrelated to Penn State. Freeh offered 119 recommendations to strengthen governance and compliance, the majority of which have been implemented, the school said.

"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," the school said.

Freeh, in his report, said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents. The former federal judge said evidence showed Paterno was involved in an "active agreement to conceal" and his report cited email exchanges, which referenced Paterno, between administrators about allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.

According to Thornburgh's findings, Freeh's report relied primarily on about 30 documents, including three notes authored by Paterno, and 17 emails. Four emails referenced Paterno – none sent by the octogenarian coach who notoriously shunned modern electronic technology.

Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October after being convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts. Prosecutors said assaults occurred off and on campus, including the football building.

His arrest in November 2011 triggered the turmoil that led to Paterno's firing days later. Under pressure, Spanier left as president the same day. Curley was placed on administrative leave, while Schultz retired.

Spanier, Curley, and Schultz are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have maintained their innocence.

Critics have said that Freeh's team didn't speak with key figures including Curley, Schultz, and Paterno, who died in January 2012 at age 85. Spanier spoke to Freeh six days before the report was released July 12.

Freeh said he respected the family's right to conduct a campaign to "shape the legacy of Joe Paterno," but called the critique self-serving. Paterno's attorney was contacted for an interview with the coach, he said, and Paterno spoke with a reporter and biographer before his death but not Freeh's team. Paterno's attorney did provide documents.

Curley and Schultz declined numerous requests for interviews, Freeh said. They have been facing criminal charges since November 2011.

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