By Braegan Padley ’13
“There were more red flags than you could count.” That according to former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh who headed the independent investigation into Penn State University officials’ handling of the child sex abuse scandal. The report’s release today marks the culmination of a seven month, independent investigation at the request of the university’s board of trustees.
Investigators concluded that university officials, namely former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, and late head football coach Joe Paterno, “repeatedly concealed critical facts” in an effort to preserve the university and football program’s reputation.
The report goes on to say, “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
The report also claims that Penn State facilitated Mr. Sandusky’s inexcusable behavior by allowing him continued access to the university and its athletic facilities even after he stepped down from his coaching position.
“Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims” the report states.
Perhaps most notably Freeh and his team determined that Paterno had knowledge of allegations against Sandusky as far back as 1998, much earlier that Paterno suggested. Documents show that Paterno was aware and kept abreast of a 1998 campus police investigation stemming from allegations Sandusky molested a young boy in the Penn State football showers. Ultimately, no criminal charges resulted from this incident.
Last month a Pennsylvania jury convicted Sandusky – former Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator – on 45 counts of child sex abuse. Sandusky faces up to 442 years in prison and is awaiting sentencing.
The report will likely impact the university’s legal liability as victims seek compensation from the university. The extensive documentation would seem to bolster civil claims by demonstrating officials had knowledge of the wrongs being committed and failed to act.
In anticipation of today’s report current Penn State football players received a letter from the late Paterno addressing the Sandusky matter. According to family members, Paterno dictated the column in late December, or early January – only a few weeks before he died of lung cancer. In the letter, directed at team members, Paterno urged that regardless of what is ultimately determined, “this is not a football scandal.”
Despite Paterno’s attempt to separate his personal legacy and the football team’s reputation from the fray, the football program may experience consequences resulting from athletic department official’s involvement in the scandal.
In the wake of the report’s findings, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has said it will wait for Penn State’s response before determining whether NCAA action is appropriate. The NCAA is examining Penn State for a lack of institutional control and unethical conduct. If the NCAA concludes compliance violations occurred Penn State’s athletic department could face major sanctions ranging from loss of future athletic scholarships and recruiting restrictions to eliminating the football program altogether.
Read the entire Freeh report here.