STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —
A blistering report that claims Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials concealed what they knew about Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children may prove to be an indelible stain on the beloved coach's 61-year tenure at the school where he preached "success with honor."
Paterno's supporters are legion, though, and some insist the late coach got a raw deal from former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose 267-page report on the Sandusky scandal Thursday asserted that Paterno and senior Penn State officials made a decision to protect Sandusky to avoid damaging the image of the school and its powerful football program.
Penn State's internal investigation into one of the worst scandals in sports history is unlikely to settle the debate about Paterno's culpability — even as it showed him to be more deeply involved in the university's response to 1998 and 2001 abuse complaints about Sandusky than previously thought.
Damaging emails unearthed by Freeh and his team of lawyers and ex-law enforcement officials show the extent to which Paterno, Penn State President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz fretted over what to do about Sandusky. Ultimately, they did nothing — and their inaction allowed the retired defensive coordinator to continue molesting boys, the report found.
Freeh also faulted university trustees for failing to exercise proper oversight and said a culture that showed excessive reverence for the football program helped protect a pedophile. Sandusky, 68, was convicted last month of abusing 10 boys over 15 years and will likely die in prison.
Freeh's report could impact the ongoing criminal case against Curley and Schultz, who are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report child abuse. It will certainly factor into any future discussion about Paterno and a Hall of Fame career that includes two national championships, 409 wins, and the coach's self-proclaimed "grand experiment" that tried to blend academics, athletics and right living.