Penn State Investigation Into Sandusky Scandal Likely To Be “Very Tough” On Paterno

Joe Paterno's legacy is likely to take a lasting and damaging hit when a report on Penn State's handling of the Sandusky mess is released.

Since shortly after the Jerry Sandusky story broke in November, an independent investigation run by former FBI Director Louis Freeh has been delving into all aspects of the story, including the involvement of Penn State officials in not reporting at 2001 incident of abuse to proper authorities. Now that report is close to being done, and ESPN is reporting that it’s likely to be vary hard on the late legendary coach Joe Paterno: (ESPN Video may autoplay when link is opened)

A consulting firm’s report offering new information about how Joe Paterno and Penn State senior officials responded to an allegation that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a boy inside the football team’s showers could be made public as early as next week, several sources said Friday, and is expected to be tough on Paterno.

The report is expected to shed new light on administrators’ handling of the Sandusky allegations, and also raise questions about Paterno’s leadership of Penn State’s vaunted football program, according to several people with knowledge of the inquiry’s scope.

“Much of the focus will be on the culture of the football program, with findings that go back more than a decade,” said a Penn State official briefed on the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be very tough on Joe (Paterno).”

The long-awaited report, compiled by Freeh Group International Solutions, the consulting firm led by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, is the culmination of an eight-month investigation that examined whether university policies and culture were contributing factors to a lack of reports and action about abuse that occurred on campus. Investigators interviewed more than 400 people, including Penn State administrators, faculty members, trustees and former coaches, players and staff from Penn State’s football team.

A batch of emails the Freeh Group uncovered — leaked in recent weeks to NBC and CNN and confirmed by ESPN — have raised fresh questions about Paterno’s handling of the allegation about an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the Penn State locker room showers in February 2001.

The emails shed new light on how former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz had dealt with the allegation made by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary about the alleged incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the showers. They also raise questions about the handling of the matter by then-Penn State president Graham Spanier, who resigned last November after Sandusky’s arrest.

I wrote about the emails earlier this week and, as I said at the time, while Paterno was not personally involved in the email conversations it was fairly clear that Curly, Schulltz, and Spanier had all decided to change the course of action that they planned to take vis a vis Sandusky after Curley talked to Paterno. Instead of reporting him to the appropriate authorities, as the law requires, they decided to “talk” to him about the situation and only take that step if he was uncooperative, whatever that means. We don’t know from the emails what Paterno may have said to Curley, and we may never know unless and until Curley takes the witness stand in his criminal trial or is deposed in a civil lawsuit. It also suggests that he was much more heavily involved in the discussions about what to do about Sandusky than he led the press to believe in the aftermath of his firing, or than his family has insisted since he passed away.

In another interesting development, a report yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times indicates that, contrary to what we’ve been told, Paterno did indeed use email and on at least one occasions used it to influence university officials considering disciplining members of the football team:

The late Joe Paterno used e-mail to try to wrest control from Penn State University officials over issues on and off the field, according to emails obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Previously, Paterno had claimed to never use e-mail. However, the Chronicle’s report showed he used email in dealing with a 2007 beating incident involving football players.

During the investigation of convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky, Paterno claimed to have handed over the information he knew from a 2001 on-campus incident involving Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy.

However, Paterno testified he was not involved in the disciplinary action of the former assistant football coach. A CNN report last week refuted that, reporting on e-mails that showed Paterno may have influenced former athletic director Tim Curley from turning the case over to the proper authorities.

Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse against children, including the 2001 incident.

While dealing with a 2007 disciplinary case that surrounded an off-campus fight involving about two dozen football players, Paterno wrote to university president Graham B. Spanier and Curley using the an email account under the name of assistant coach Sandi Segursky.

“I want to make sure everyone understands that the discipline of the players involved will be handled by me as soon as I am comfortable that I know all the facts,” said the April 7, 2007 email, which was signed “Joe.”

“This is my understanding as well,” Spanier responded.

The Chronicle’s story detailed how Paterno oversaw the police investigation and ultimately handed down the punishment for the players involved.

Now it’s possible, of course, that Paterno wasn’t using email six years earlier when the Sandusky story came to his attention. However, this story raises two important points. First of all, have searches been made of the email of this Sandi Sagursky or any one of Paterno’s other assistant coaches for the relevant period for anything related to the Sandusky story? If he used another coach’s email in 2007 to communicate with officials, it’s possible he did the same thing in 2001. Second, this demonstrates just how involved Paterno was in potential scandal involving the football program. How likely is it that he was completely disengaged from the Sandusky discussions or that he didn’t try to influence administrators on disciplinary issues? Given news like this, one has to think that the only reason that Paterno wasn’t charged along with Curley and Schultz with failure to report the allegations is because of his age and because he was JoePa.

After the first batch of emails came to light, Melinda Hennenberger asked this:

[F]or more than a decade after Paterno had by his own admission heard all about Sandusky’s M.O., the coach did nothing to protect kids, or even enforce the decision that his former assistant coach shouldn’t be able to keep bringing kids around.

For the next decade, whenever Paterno saw Sandusky with the boys he continued to troll for through his charity — and continued to ply with access to Penn State’s football program — did Paterno not ever think about what he’d been told?

Was he untroubled when he saw Sandusky with other youngsters, sitting on the bench and hanging out on the sidelines during games?

Around Penn State, Paterno is revered still; Joe Pa did nothing wrong and everything he was supposed to do, I was told time and again during Sandusky’s recent trial.

Unfortunately, that’s an attitude that can only lead to more of the same. That is, to more “humane” treatment of predators at the expense of children. To more misguided Joe Pa worship at the expense of the truth. And to more deference to even such lame excuses as the one about the sacrosanct weekend, during which officials apparently shouldn’t have to hear any unwelcome news.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    It’s an incredible story, Shakespearian in proportion.

    Joe Paterno seemed to be at the crossroads a few times, and he could not fully commit to taking the most moral and ethical choice. He had the choice between reporting everything he knew or suspected about Sandusky to all proper authorities, or choosing to protecting the football program. He chose what he knew best, what his life was dedicated to for over 50 years, and in doing that he brought down what he valued most.

  2. EMRVentures says:

    There have been two competing narratives of Paterno in this whole thing:

    1. An elderly man of limited faculties who was befuddled to the point of disbelief by the charges against his staff member, and did what he was supposed to do, and all he could be expected to do, by calling his athletic director. He was just the coach after all, and he reported to the athletic director.

    2. The Brooklyn-born, Brown-educated man of superior intellect who successfully headed a multimillion-dollar business enterprise for 45 years, polished its PR machine to a high gloss, and was without a doubt the most powerful, savvy and highly-paid individual in the multibillion dollar enterprise known as the Pennsylvania State University system.

    Perhaps the final report will start to resolve which of the two is closer to the truth.

  3. Just Me says:

    My guess is that it is somewhere in the middle,, but I think pretty much all involved had “protect the program’s reputation” as the #1 motivation rather than “protect the children.”

  4. michael reynolds says:

    1) Winning coach.
    2) Child rape enabler.

    One has to be morally depraved to imagine that #1 trumps #2.

  5. tps says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sad to say that for a lot of people, it does.

  6. Gustopher says:

    I read this headline as “Scapegoat the dead guy”

    The dead guy was morally responsible, but by focusing the report on him, the Penn State Investigatots will also be deflecting criticism of those who are very much with us, and who can be punished in the here and now.

  7. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Hey, Penn State played some good ball. If some young boys end up crying in the shower they need to toughen up. It’s football and that trumps everything.

    Just because these kids were raped in the Team hotels, in the Team showers, in the Team jacuzzi, in the Team buildings, why would you think Joe Pa might involve himself? You gotta understand, Sandusky was an former student, former coach and old friend. What were these boys, it’s not like they were from good families or alumni.

    If it were not for football, I would not have hemorrhoids today.

  8. ernieyeball says:

    @Gustopher: …by focusing the report on him, the Penn State Investigatots will also be deflecting criticism of those who are very much with us, and who can be punished in the here and now.

    “You think that a 13-year assistant … hasn’t told someone else? His wife? His father? People knew. The community knew,” Switzer said.

  9. 11B40 says:


    I wonder if the wonderful and all encompassing Louis Freeh Report will address the efficiency and efficacy of firing an 85-year-old coach of 45 years service who ends up dead within months.

    I guess once you’ve kicked a man when he was down, and then kicked him to the curb, kicking him when he’s dead just isn’t that much of a deal.

  10. al-Ameda says:


    I guess once you’ve kicked a man when he was down, and then kicked him to the curb, kicking him when he’s dead just isn’t that much of a deal.

    I thought that Paterno went through that storm pretty damned well considering the seriousness of what was going down. He’s lucky that he was a demi-God in Happy Valley, or it would have been far worse for him in the days that this case became a national news event.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if the wonderful and all encompassing Louis Freeh Report will address the efficiency and efficacy of firing an 85-year-old coach of 45 years service who ends up dead within months.

    I guess once you’ve kicked a man when he was down, and then kicked him to the curb, kicking him when he’s dead just isn’t that much of a deal.

    Oh yes, of course, because so much deference must be paid to child rape enablers…I wonder if you have as much sympathy for all of Sandusky’s victims…

  12. Steve V says:

    Will Freeh look at the 1998 investigation and Sandusky’s coincidental retirement? That’s something I’ve been curious about, particularly on with regard to what Paterno knew and what influence (if any) he exerted.

  13. EMRVentures says:

    @11B40: Wow, you’re damaged.

  14. 11B40 says:


    I had no idea that the fires of righteousness burned so heatedly in America 2.0. I feel their warmth. But, I’m somewhat confused, where’s all that non-judgmentalism I thought we were supposed to be practicing.

    There’s a field of study in Psychology called gerontology. It studies the aged and the effects of aging. One of the almost “settled science” aspects of it is the effect of major life changes on the aged. Major life changes would include such things as loss of a spouse, having to relocate to a new domicile, loss of a job or career. It’s not uncommon to come across a story of an elderly married couple wherein the death of one spouse is shortly followed by the death of the other. Less dramatically, many elderly decline significantly when relocated from their own homes to elder-care facilities. And so forth.

    Now, I’ll will confess that I was brought up to hold doors open for the elderly, help them with their bundles, and get the (heck) out of their way. And, it seems that this upbringing, that was inflicted on my unaware child’s mind and body, has resulted in a great tamping down of my ability to feel both righteous and outraged when one of our elderly becomes a financially lucrative target of our illustrious media as it struggles in a style, that would make old Syssiphus proud, to move us closer to the joys of progressivism.

    So, when I perceive an outburst of shock and innuendo of almost Zimmerman-esque proportion, I can’t help but say, “Mmmm”, often with more “m” than I should spare. At this stage of what nowadays passes for our proceedings, we have a dead elderly coach who was driven from his organization after his years of acceptable service and by superiors who no doubt are honorable men all. To my knowledge, this occurred with no form of “due process” and after he had offered his future resignation and was under no legal or criminal charge as were others in the organization and before the non-leakproof Louis Freeh Report (and I wonder what kind of payday that involved) was completed and submitted. (Whew, a bit of pause would seem to be appropriate after such a run-on sentencing.) Unfortunately, this seems to me to be very approximate to, ” First the sentence, then the trial.” Mr. Paterno’s inconsideration in dying after his sentencing but before his trial has thus reduced the forces of righteous to only being “very tough” on him as opposed to whatever else was coursing through the windmills of their minds. And, such perfidy as being untruthful about e-mailing and interceding for his charges would certainly warrant that degree of “tough”.

    Obviously, those tight-wrapped in their righteous sense of outrage (or is it their outrageous sense of righteousness?) would much prefer to see such misgivings as “enabling” child abuse or some such. It is not. It is a call for some modicum of proper process which was not extended to the now deceased Mr. Paterno. I wonder if they even teach “The Ox-bow Incident” at Penn State anymore.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Oh my, so much hot air there…who could have guessed that being old is now a defense against looking the other way when bad things happen? Perhaps a similar argument could be used to defend the elderly enablers of child rape in the Catholic Church…come to think of it, isn’t Sandusky now elderly too? Perhaps he could use the same defense…I mean, after all, due deference must be paid to certain people…

  16. ernieyeball says:

    ” ‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”
    Noah Cross

    At least in real life Sandusky ended up in prison unlike the fictional Cross chillingly portrayed by John Houston.

    One point for real life…this time any way.

  17. Nikki says:


    But, I’m somewhat confused, where’s all that non-judgmentalism I thought we were supposed to be practicing.

    Thank you. Now we know where you stand when it comes to defending CHILD-RAPE ENABLERS.

  18. Barry says:

    @An Interested Party: The number of people who will do and say anything to cover for those who tolerated the rape of children is amazing.