Penn State scandal: Joe Paterno vs. Louis Freeh
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno defended the program's integrity in a letter saying that Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys was not a "football scandal." Ex-FBI chief Louis Freeh releases his findings into Penn State's role in the case today.
State College, Penn. — The results of Penn State's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal are due to be released in the form of a report that could answer many of the troubling questions swirling around one of the darkest scandals in sports history.
A team led by former federal judge and FBI director Louis Freeh interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once revered former defensive coordinator — a man who helped Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno win two national titles while touting "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, scheduled for online release at 9 a.m. Thursday, will focus on Penn State and what it did — or didn't do — to protect children. 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.
The report also could add to what is known about the role of Paterno, who died from lung cancer in January at age 85, two months after being fired as coach following Sandusky's arrest.
Paterno's son, Jay, told NBC's "Today" his family was awaiting the report's release and hoped it would be the thorough investigation his father wanted.
"We've never been afraid of the truth, so let's have the truth come out," Jay Paterno said.
In a letter written after his firing that surfaced Wednesday, Paterno defended the football program's integrity and rejected the notion that 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 Paterno family said the letter was given in draft form to a few former players around December. One of the ex-players circulated it to other former players this week, and it was posted on the website FightonState.com, which covers the team.
"Over and over again, I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football and have heard such ignorant comments like Penn State will no longer be a 'football factory' and we are going to 'start' focusing on integrity in athletics," Paterno wrote. "These statements are simply unsupported by the five decades of evidence to the contrary — and succeed only in unfairly besmirching both a great university and the players and alumni of the football program who have given of themselves to help make it great."
Paterno also wrote, "This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one."
Ex-players and alumni who remain outraged over Paterno's ouster will certainly be among those who will scour the Freeh report, as will school officials trying to repair Penn State's shattered reputation.
Former linebacker Brandon Short, now an investment banker in Dubai, received Paterno's 712-word missive Wednesday. He told The Associated Press that he will be looking to the Freeh report to find "some clarity, hoping that it is a fair assessment of what happened, and we would love to see answers."
He added, "Let's see the report and save all judgment and innuendo until after we've read it."
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.
Joel Feller, part of a legal team that represents several victims in the case, including three who testified against Sandusky, said Wednesday he will look for clues about "who knew what and when."
"I think the Freeh report will be a good starting point to allow the plaintiffs' lawyers to determine who the key people are and what information they had," he said. "An important part of that is to figure out when they knew it, and more importantly why appropriate steps were not taken to stop this ongoing conduct of Sandusky."
The Freeh report is expected to delve deeply into the handling of a 2001 report from Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who told Paterno he had saw Sandusky with a young boy in the football team shower. Paterno, in turn, alerted athletic director Tim Curley, who investigated the report along with Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw the campus police department. Curley and Schultz ultimately decided not to alert law enforcement or child welfare authorities.
Curley, who's on leave, and the now-retired Schultz, are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to report the McQueary complaint to civil authorities as required.
After a 50-minute meeting in Harrisburg with the judge overseeing their case, Schultz's lawyer said Wednesday he won't be among those who call up the Freeh report the minute it is posted.
Heavy website traffic could make it difficult for people to access the Freeh report, but experts say good planning will usually avoid such "flash crowd" crashes.
"To a certain extent, flash crowds are a fact of life in a news-media-driven world," said Carlos Morales, vice president at Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks, a company that provides network security and monitoring software.
The NCAA, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it will decide on whether to take action at the "appropriate time." The governing body said it has already been collecting information from Freeh's probe, and that Penn State will have to formally respond to questions from NCAA President Mark Emmert after Freeh reveals his findings.
The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted "institutional control" in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct. The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.
Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa. Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.