Over the last nine months Joe Paterno has been praised by some in near saintly terms and criticized by others as a villain. He was neither.
As the people who worked closely with Joe know, he was tough, aggressive, opinionated and demanding. He was also highly principled, uncompromisingly ethical, dedicated to his job at Penn State and committed to excellence.
When the Sandusky case exploded last fall, Joe’s first instincts were to tell everything he knew. He assumed the University would want to hear from him, but he was never given the chance to present his case.
He planned to hold a press conference, but University officials ordered him to cancel it. And then the various investigations started and the legal process took over. On top of everything else, Joe was diagnosed with lung cancer. Two months later he was gone. The end result is his story has never fully been told.
As this situation unfolded, Joe cautioned everyone not to jump to conclusions. He believed that a rush to judgment and a disregard for due process would ultimately result in conclusions that would not stand the test of time. To be clear, he did not fear the truth, he sought it. As much as anyone he wanted to know exactly what Jerry Sandusky had done and he wanted to understand how it happened.
The hiring of the Freeh Group is the single most important action the Board of Trustees has taken. Joe supported this decision with the hope that it would result in a thorough, balanced and thoughtful assessment of the Sandusky tragedy. Unfortunately, recent events have raised questions about the fairness and confidentiality of the investigative process.
Over the last several weeks there has been a virtual torrent of leaks about the Freeh Group’s work. To be clear, we do not know the source, or sources, of the leaks. What cannot be disputed, however, is that select emails intended to smear Joe Paterno and other former Penn State officials have been released. Testimony from witnesses highly critical of Joe has been revealed. And purported conclusions condemning the culture of the football program have been widely disseminated. The Board promised a fair, transparent and impartial process. These developments are a threat to their stated objectives.
When these leaks first started we appealed to the Freeh Group, the Board and the Attorney General to condemn the leaks and caution the public that it would be wrong to reach any conclusions from selectively released materials. We then asked that all emails and other documents be released so a full picture of their research could be understood.
As purported conclusions started leaking out, we followed up with the Freeh Group to ask for the right to respond. Since Joe Paterno never had an opportunity to present his case, we believe we should have a reasonable time to review their findings and offer information that could help complete the picture. We were told we could offer responses to the publicly reported allegations, but the Freeh Group declined to confirm that these allegations are in the final report. It is our firm belief that the report would be stronger and more credible if we were simply given a chance to review the findings concerning Joe Paterno in order to present the case he was never allowed to make.
Since the outcome of this process appears set in stone, we have no choice but to wait for the report and respond as best we can. Given that the report is estimated to be between 100-150 pages it will understandably take us some time to study it and prepare a comprehensive response.
In advance of the release of the report, there are a few facts we want on the record:
- We would still welcome a chance to meet with the Freeh Group to review the findings and offer a response. We do not seek or expect the right to edit the report; but we believe our voice should be reflected in its conclusions.
- To this point, Joe Paterno is the only person who publicly acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. This was an honest and courageous admission that a true leader must assume a measure of responsibility when something goes wrong on his watch.
- The sad and frightening fact is Jerry Sandusky was a master deceiver. He fooled players, coaches, law enforcement officials, child service professionals, Penn State Board members, University leaders, neighbors, donors, staff and supporters of Second Mile and his family.
- With respect to the email from Tim Curley which stated, “After giving it more thought, and talking it over with Joe yesterday – I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” the media spin that this is proof of some sort of cover up is completely false. When the facts come out, it will be clear that Joe Paterno never gave Tim Curley any instructions to protect Sandusky or limit any investigation of his actions.
- Joe Paterno did not cover up for Jerry Sandusky. Joe Paterno did not know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile. Joe Paterno did not act in any way to prevent a proper investigation of Jerry Sandusky. To claim otherwise is a distortion of the truth.
If he were with us today, we are certain Joe Paterno would say that he wished he had done any number of things differently. We also believe he would make it clear that he was not an investigator, law enforcement officer, child services professional or a member of the Board of Trustees. Joe would accept his responsibility, but he would expect others to step forward as well.