The Freeh Report, and its Fallout

July 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm 13 comments

“The evidence clearly shows, in our view, an active agreement to conceal.”

Of all the answers former FBI director Louis Freeh gave today after the release of his group’s 267-page report on the Sandusky scandal, this might have been the most blunt. The report’s findings center on a Penn State leadership culture devoid of accountability at the highest level, in which a handful of men—Graham Spanier, Tim Curley ’76, ’78g,  Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g,  and Joe Paterno—failed in their responsibility to expose a serial pedophile. Their motivation, in Freeh’s words, was “avoiding the consequences of bad publicity.”

The Board of Trustees is cited as well for a failure to press for answers and hold the university’s administration accountable. The picture presented is clear: Jerry Sandusky ’66, ’71g was the monster in all this, but he was enabled, directly or not, by many others who had the power to stop him.

On Thursday, as throughout the scandal, much of the attention focused on Paterno’s accountability. On this, Freeh was careful but direct. “We have a great deal of respect for Mr. Paterno, and condolences for his family on their loss. He’s a person with a great legacy, terrific legacy… he, as someone once said, made perhaps the worst mistake of his life. We’re not singling him out. We’re putting him in a category of three other people who were major leaders of Penn State. He was also a major leader of Penn State. The facts are the facts… There’s a whole bunch of evidence here. We’re saying he was a major part of an active attempt to conceal… I regret that. But what my report says is what the evidence and the facts show. We laid that out as fairly and clearly as we can.”

The reactions from elsewhere in the Penn State community followed later in the day. Late Thursday morning, the Paterno family released a statement that defended its patriarch. “The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept,” it reads. “The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn’t fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events.”

The family statement goes on: “Joe Paterno wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic.”

Penn State president Rod Erickson and the university trustees met the media in Scranton in mid-afternoon. Board chair Karen Peetz ’77 and Ken Frazier ’75, who led the board’s investigative panel, both emphasized the trustees’ collective accountability in the scandal. Said Frazier, “We, the Penn State Board of Trustees, failed to provide proper oversight for the university’s operations.” Peetz echoed that statement, but said no trustees planned to resign, focusing on the acknowledgment of culpability as the first step in moving forward.

Both Peetz and Frazier addressed Paterno, commending his accomplishments and his massive positive impact on the university. But Peetz also acknowledged the “clarity that comes out of that report, that shows 61 years of excellent service to the university is now marred.”

The Board’s official statement on the Freeh Report, including details of action already taken and future plans, can be found here.

The public response to the report was immediate and harsh, much of it damning of Paterno and demanding NCAA sanctions against the Penn State football program. In Oregon, Nike announced that Paterno’s name would no longer adorn the childcare center at its headquarters. Phil Knight, the Nike founder and longtime Paterno family friend, said in a statement, “According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lauren  |  July 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    so very sad. thank you for your excellent coverage.

  • 2. Nancy  |  July 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Ditto what Lauren said.

  • 3. Chris Ross  |  July 13, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Not a surprise at all obviously that Joe Paterno and Penn State were big time hiding the scandal. It’s a sad day for college football but not shocking by any means. It’s so hard to really trust these public figures because who they in public can be so much different than who they are in reality. Tiger Woods is one to come to mind. Although, Tiger Woods didn’t do anything illegal. This JoePa thing must be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I really wanna hear what you have to say

  • 4. TempleOwl  |  July 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

    If you haven’t, you should read the full 200+ page report? It is a far stretch to go from the findings in that report to the statements/summary made at the press conference. The BOT continues to embarrass itself with its press releases and statements. ESPN should stop talking for a minute. The BOT should shut up for once. And everyone should actually read the report then develop your own conclusions.

  • 5. Naturewoman  |  July 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    O my, did anybody really read the report and see all the lack of evidence and fabrications… ?? Or have all of you been following just what the media says and articles like this without checking on the facts yourselves. If so, shame on all of you!

  • 6. David from Texas PSU '76  |  July 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    If in fact Joe was aware of the 1998 incident, then he was probably also told the Centre County DA declined to prosecute. So when he informed Curley in 2001, and nothing happened regarding Sandusky again, he probably assumed the same thing, or something similar, took place, which was there was not enough evidence again to prosecute. I’m guessing his failure to follow up was due to his belief that others with more expertise in this area came up empty again. He should of done more to follow up, but I can’t see him worrying about his reputation when the safety of children was at stake. That’s just not him.

  • 7. Anne, PSU 1998 (and soon 2014)  |  July 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Something doesn’t make sense…

    Joe dismissed starting running back Austin Scott from the team when Scott was accused of rape in October 2007. Charges were later dropped, but Joe Pa never let Austin play again. Former wide receiver Chris Bell was dismissed by Joe in 2008 after Chris pulled a knife on a fellow teammate at the training table. Joe suspended Bobby Engram from the team for the 1992 season after his accessory to theft charges.

    I could go on, but how can people believe that Joe would have knowingly allowed this to continue just to protect his brand, the football team, whatever you want to call it, from what Louis Freeh calls “bad publicity?” He dismissed Bell and Scott, but still received bad publicity (people saying he’d lost control of his players, in part because he was old and out of touch) For crying out loud, he benched players (and arguably forfeited wins, hurting his coaching record and losing money — which hurt “the brand”) when they missed class (Joe Jurevicius and the 1997 Citrus Bowl, anyone?).

    If Joe had really participated in a cover-up in 2001, wouldn’t Spanier have used that as ammunition to depose Paterno (whom Spanier detested) during the 2000-2004 losing seasons when he and the Board were TRYING to oust Paterno?? It would have made Spanier look like the hero, and would have utterly destroyed the last person who stood between him and absolute control of Penn State. But Spanier didn’t. Why?? Not because of scruples (Spanier obviously doesn’t have any of those). Spanier even said he wanted to be the person who got rid of Paterno. So Spanier definitely had motive. Therefore, if Spanier had had the dirt, he would have used it right then and there.

    But Spanier didn’t…

  • 8. Andrew - PSU '87  |  July 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Humbly I write today. I am sickened by what I have learned. Many months back there were varied and differing views on the story as blasted by the media blasted. Only today after many months and much independent research has the truth with factual documentation been published to the public. I am not fond fan of the media and I tend to allow facts to produce themselves before s*&$storms condemn people. However, I personally have read a very large part of the 267 page report and sit her sickened. I’m also saddened by it all. It really is a travesty. There is such polarity … huge great works for 61 years at one end of an amazing man’s life and a horrific sense of poor decision making on another.

    The reality is that the world and the Penn State community are torn at the very heart. Let’s forget Shultz, Curley and Spanier. Collectively, those men in their lifetimes will never accomplish with an authentic heart that which Joe created with the Grand Experiment. Those 3 are just imperfect men who made bad decisions. Joe’s story is more headline worthy simply because it is more profound. His greatness was that great and more. Therein lies the paradox. We almost expect bad things from bad people. And this is why Joe’s involvement perplexes us. He was never a bad person. He was simply a modest man with a huge heart who did the best with the resources he had.

    It is time to move on. May we never forget JoePa for all the great he did and stood for… and may we learn from one of the great teachers from his moment’s that now appear less than stellar. The lesson here is that no decision in life is small and all of life’s decisions deserve serious consideration of consequences. The consequences in this case are what truly sickens the heart in all of us.

  • 9. U.S. of A.  |  July 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Has it not occured to anyone that this atrocity runs even deeper? That Penn State is merely being thrown under the bus to protect a pedophile ring involving other, even bigger players? I suspect this is just the tip of the iceburg. This is my opinion, this is one ring of a three ring circus. Please dig deeper.

  • 10. Linda '84  |  July 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I feel like I will be damned if I don’t disregard anything Joe did for the good and do not condemn him unconditionally. If I state facts- FACTS- from the Freeh report, but I do not have a negative comment attached, I am a part of a cult. Maybe I am wrong. I pray I am not. I hope that the feeding frenzy isn’t over simply because Joe’s reptuation is tarnished. He should have done more. Even he admitted that. The Freeh report hasn’t told me more about Joe’s involvement, but it has left me with the disturbing feeling that I cannot shake. This entire situation is so wrong on so many levels and the abuse of innocent children is only a part of it. This goes beyond Penn State.

  • 11. About the Paterno Statue « The Penn Stater Magazine  |  July 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    […] of your views on Paterno and on the Freeh report, I suspect that the statue—which has stood since 2001—is rapidly becoming a safety […]

  • 12. Mark  |  July 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

    the alumni association should look into suing the NCAA. I know alot of alumni who would contribute.

  • 13. The Paterno Family Responds « The Penn Stater Magazine  |  February 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    […] attorney general Dick Thornburgh and former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, blast the findings of the Freeh Report. (The other two experts are a Johns Hopkins expert on sexual disorders, Fred Berlin, and the […]

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