Is the tide turning on Penn State sanctions?

Submitted by Cold War on February 14th, 2013 at 10:27 AM

ESPN Report looks at the issue

Van Natta: "Louis Freeh is like a prosecutor who made an opening statement last summer...but it was only an opening statement. It was dramatic and compelling and it hardened in the minds of Americans for 7 months until someone from the defense table finally stood up and defended Paterno. It is going to be really hard to change the minds of Americans because they are not easily swayed, but the evidence and arguments in the Paterno report are extremely damning of the Freeh report."

Van Natta: "Louis Freeh made it sound like his report was very exhaustive, reviewing millions of emails and interviewing hundreds of people. But the Paterno report points out that out of all that information, only a couple of vague emails an no verbal testimony were used to level these heavy indictments on Paterno."

Another Penn State trustee urges look at Paterno report

Another Penn State trustee is urging a close look at a critique commissioned by Joe Paterno’s family of a school-sanctioned report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Trustee Ryan McCombie said in a statement late Monday that the findings should give pause to “closing the book and moving on” from the scandal.

McCombie stressed that he was speaking only for himself, not the board. Trustee Alvin Clemens said in a separate statement Monday that the board should re-examine Freeh’s findings after the analysis commissioned by late coach Joe Paterno’s family raised serious questions.

“We need to ‘take a breath;’ read the entire (Paterno family) report and digest it,” McCombie said. “Only then can we begin an open, thoughtful and useful conversation about what happened in Happy Valley and how to prevent it from happening anywhere again.”


Even a rumor Bill Clinton could become involved



State Street

February 14th, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

Right, but there really is no way to prove that the document was "faulty," nor is there a way to accept it as fact.  It is based on limited evidence and full of assumption and innuendo - but everyone knew this when it came out, and many in the media acknowledged it.

PSU also didn't impose the sanctions.  They claimed they would readily accept any handed down by the NCAA.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

The Freeh Repor wasn't an NCAA investigation. The NCAA got lazy and just wanted to jump in and yell "us too!" Also, it was publicly aired that PSU "self-imposed" under the threat of the death penalty from the NCAA (i.e., "do this or you're going to get it even worse").

And let's not lose sight of the fact that the NCAA is fucking stupid.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:53 AM ^

"...the NCAA is fucking stupid." - YES!  Given that fact, I have no reason to believe that they're going to make the right decision here.  

The Freeh Report was an investigation, it just wasn't an NCAA investigation.  Under threat of the death penalty, PSU said here, this is the punishment we'll levy against ourselves.  With that, the NCAA said - Okay.  

If PSU were to backtrack, it would be at the risk of the NCAA opening up their own investigation and issuing their own punishment.  Given PSU is already one year into a four year (I think it was four years) punishment, I don't think it's worth the risk.  I think they've weathered the storm pretty nicely up to this point too.  I don't think it's been nearly as bad as many thought it would be.  Granted, as they enter year 3 or 4, their reduction in scholarships will begin to sting a bit more.  However, the alternative could be much worse.  

...which would be dragging this thing out another year or two.  We saw first hand (sort of) how the NCAA can drag out an investigation into something so minor as extra practice time for stretching.  Can you imagine how long it would take the NCAA to investigate this?  Would you want that?  



February 14th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

The Freeh report was done on behalf of Penn State.  It was requested by PSU and paid for by them.  To the extent possible, Freeh relied on all available emails and personal interviews.  Paterno had an opportunity to be interviewed, but refused to do so as did, I believe, Spanier, Schultz and Curley.  Freeh had no axe to grind.  He was hired to be objective, and not to pull punches, and that seems to be exactly what he did.  

The report prepared for the Paterno family is self-serving and examined ZERO new evidence. If I were doing cross-examination on a witness, I might take an approach similar to what was outlined in  the the Paterno family report.  Raising a question about the veracity of evidence does not necessarily prove it was incorrect. That's why a defense calls its own witnesses who provide evidence to refute the plaintiff's case.  That has not happened here.

I may be a bit simplistic, but to me the Paterno report is pure spin. 


Section 1

February 14th, 2013 at 1:10 PM ^

I may be a bit simplistic, but to me the Paterno report is pure spin.  


I think that you may be a bit simplistic.

Why is the Penn State/Freeh report not "spin," but the Paterno/Sollers report is "pure spin"?  For what it's worth, I don't think of much of anything as "pure."

People always do this.  They say, "Oh, you can't believe that lawyer, saying so-and-so.  He's been hired by {fill in the blank}."  Louis Freeh was hired by Penn State.  Spanier has a lawyer, whom he hired.  Ditto McQueary, Schultz, Curley, etc.  The Paterno family hired Wick Sollers and the King & Spaulding firm.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I'd prefer to return to the merits and details of the story.


February 14th, 2013 at 1:57 PM ^

I have to diagree with your assessment. Freeh was hired by PSU to give them what, hopefully, was an objective evaluation of a situation.  He had, short of subpoena power, full access to university records and then some.  His group interviewed hundreds of people. What was the incentive for him to reach the conclusions he reached? The trustees did not have the opportunity to review his report, make comments for editing, and have him do a rewrite.  The conclusions Freeh made had evidentiary basis. Whom do you think the "Joe" was in the email?  

The Paterno family's report, OTOH, had an objective right from the gitgo, namely, to cast aspersions on Freeh's work product.  The trouble for Paterno's family is that they had zero evidence, other than saying one could reach a different conclusion, to support their position.

I've looked at the facts to the extent available.  They represent a series of emails and Sandusky's conviction at an open trial.  Perhaps when Curley, Schultz and Spanier have their day in court or their plea agreement, there will be more light shed on Freeh's conclusion.

Until then, I'd like to see what you have that would support a different conclusion.

Section 1

February 14th, 2013 at 4:08 PM ^

You went to the substantive details, in order to rebut a presumption that I favored Paterno, and therefore you needed to buttress the Freeh Report.

I never said that I had a preference for either one.

I have said, about ten different times in ten different ways, that I wasn't defending Paterno and had no desire to do so.  And I've also said that I am appreciative, of anybody who has read the hundreds of pages of the two reports, and who can distill them in a careful way for a less-interested audience.  That, along with my feeling rather dismissive of people who, without having read the full reports, immediately jump to the conclusion that Paterno's memory must be repeatedly kicked lest it get up again.  All that I was doing, in this thread and the other one, was to downgrade the Michigan fanboize who obviously never read the reports and who probably don't remember how close Paterno was to becoming the Head Football Coach of the Wolverines.  (Not that I wish it had happened.  Things turned out okay for Michigan after the 1968 season.)


February 15th, 2013 at 11:40 AM ^

Section 1, don't know if you will ever read this, as the thread is getting long in the tooth, but I read both reports cover to cover.  My conclusions, as someone who has practiced law longer than I want to think about, was that one report had factual basis with logical conclusions; the other pure spin. My few posts on the topic were made to support my position and really only looked at both reports from an evidentiary standpoint (Hoke's favorite word).

And, FWIW, I didn't downvote you.  I almost never do that to anyone as  I find up and down voting to be juvenile. Kate Upton being the only exception.


February 14th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

Because the Paterno report is pure spin.  it doesn't represent an investigation or review of new/additional evidence.  It ignores known facts that aren't helpful to clearing Paterno's name (e.g., JoePa's testimony to the grand jury and responses to the Curley emails clearing indicating the topic was the Sandusky investigation) and rather tries to obfuscate the facts (e.g, Coach could refer to the basketball coach at the time, you should look at Paterno's 62 yrs of service when assessing the information).


February 14th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

The NCAA didn't "get lazy", IIRC.  Penn State gave the okay to the NCAA to use the already-commissioned Freeh report as a basis for their decisions to avoid a lengthy NCAA investigation.  Penn State didn't want to drag this out.  Hasty?  Perhaps, but I wouldn't characterize it as lazy.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

I know the NCAA doesn't have an even compared level of credibility to the criminal justice system, but would you be happy if someone was sentenced to 40 years in prison, was known to be not such a good guy, but was convicted using shakey evidence and under the guise of a public opinion witch hunt?  I think Penn State should get what is due, but the ground on which the NCAA stands in leveling such penalties is questionable. 



February 14th, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

I'd equate it with something like this:  Penn State committed manslaughter which carries a 10 year sentence.  The NCAA charged them with a quadruple homicide which carries a mandatory life sentence.  But, the NCAA offered them a plea deal for 20 years.  Penn State wasn't going to risk it and took the deal.  (Although I think the issue is more over whether the NCAA even has the authority to sanction PSU for criminal wrongs rather than mere NCAA rules-violations.  Kind of like someone being charged with murder and then the IRS raising their taxes.)



February 14th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

that doesn't undermine the credibility and/or authority of our criminal justice system.


I wouldn't be surprised if come next spring, the scholarship restrictions are moved from 65/15 to something like 70/18 or 75/20, with the NCAA giving this "partial parole" to PSU for "good behavior" since November 2011. 


February 14th, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

The public outrage that would occur if the sanctions got turned around would be ridiculous. Joe Paterno is guilty in the eyes of the public and there really isn't much to do to change that. Penn state fans are the only ones to cry for a retrial and think thy Paterno is abstain from any responsibility. They just need to move on accept their punishment and quit trying to force everyone to believe Paterno's innocence.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:24 AM ^

The Paterno family report did almost nothing to refute the evidence uncovered by the Freeh report investigation. All the Paterno report did was to explain the gaps in the Freeh report's research and to offer a logic-based counter-narrative.

Besides, many of the Paterno report claims are ridiculous. They argued that Freeh et al., didn't try to get the full story because they didn't interview people, but then they pointed out that Freeh didn't have subpoena power and were therefore powerless (also, the Paterno report ALSO didn't interview these key people). They argued that somethings DIDN'T point to Paterno, as if it somehow negated the stuff that DID point to Paterno.

But beyond that, the Paterno report is merely an attempt to extricate Paterno himself from Sandusky, Curley, Spanier, Schultz, etc. Even if the Paterno report is completely and totally accurate and vindicative of Paterno, the bulk of the stuff directed at Penn State writ large still remains.

So, no. Next question.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

Ramzy over at 11W did a nice summary of this as well and reached the same conclusions as you.  The Paterno report just tries to deflect the blame or spin the Freeh report to make Joe seem less cupable in the whole affair.  The idea that this could be presented in an actual court of law as refutation of the Freeh report is ludicrous.

Section 1

February 14th, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

Ramzy can be a very entertaining blogger.  I generally like him.  But I thought that snarling outburst of his regarding the Sollers Report (everybody can call it the "Paterno Report" if they want to, but I don't think that's a useful title) was a waste of bandwidth.  A very uncharacteristic Ramzy fail.

This thread, led off by a really great OP by Cold War, is exactly the sort of reflective discussion that I thought, and predicted, would be worthwhile.  But the MGoGroupthink was oh so against it when I suggested it, HERE.

Personally, I couldn't care less what happens to Penn State, with its sanctions.  I'd just as soon see them stay in place.  They could kick Penn State out of the Conference, for all I care.  But I had a feeling all along, even though I didn't have time to read 238 pages (plus exhibits) of the Sollers report, that there would be more to the story.  I'm glad that serious people like Van Natta have read it, even if the MGoCommentariat never saw the need to be bothered with things like the, uh, complete text of the document.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:59 PM ^

As a member of the MGoCommentariat who DID read the report, I can confirm two things: 1) there is almost certainly more to the story than was detailed in the Freeh report, and 2) none of it is likely to make the slightest dent in the underlying conclusion o the Freeh report.

Section 1

February 14th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

And of course I never said that I'd play defense counsel for Paterno.  I didn't predict any exoneration, or any particular new finding.  I just didn't like the complete out-of-hand dismissal of the Sollers Report.

Good on you for reading it.  If you still hate all things PSU and Paterno, you'll hear no complaints from me.  I am honestly glad that guys like you do take the time and trouble to read the report.  And as I suggested, the beauty of this thread is that it is exploring the additional story, through the people who are actually reading the Sollers Report.

+1 for you. 


February 14th, 2013 at 11:59 AM ^

I said this when the Freeh Report came out and the NCAA imposed its sanctions: even if the Freeh Report had 100% vindicated Joe Paterno (which obviously it did not), Penn State should still get massively sanctioned because the fucking President, AD, and a high-ranking VP of the university clearly made a decision not to report credible allegations of child sex abuse to the proper law enforcement authorities.

The fact that the President, AD, and a high-ranking VP failed to report McQuery's allegations shows a greater lack of institutional control than if Paterno was solely responsible for the cover up--a university's adminstrators are supposed to be a check on the football coach, not his protector or (if you think JoePa was in on the conspiracy, which I do) his enabler.  As someone who worked in academic adminstration at another Big Ten University (not UM or PSU), I actually find the actions of the President, AD, and the VP more shocking and appalling than anything JoePa might have done.

This is why all the PSU apologists need to STFU.  Even if JoePa was an angel, your school's administration was completely corrupted by the football-first culture.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:34 AM ^

Hoke is selling Michigan jerseys like hotcakes in Pennsylvania, now?

In all seriousness, the sanctions are in, they are done. Of course the Penn State crowd prefers the new Paterno report. It's done up like a defense attorney would do it, demanding that everything be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The NCAA doesn't demand that. They operate like a civil trial, THings only need to be highly likely, not absolutely proven.  And everything the report said is Highly, HIGHLY likely.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:40 AM ^

We all feel disgusted for the victims, but objectively, they are in no better place to assign blame (except for blaming Sandusky himself) than any of us. 

If the Freeh report and Paterno report are vetted in a transparent manner and the results of that analysis changes the original conclusion, that's just good police work in my opinion.  Too often we are too stubborn to realize we may have been wrong....  Not saying we are, but lets let this play out and not just dismiss the new report immediately. 


February 14th, 2013 at 10:35 AM ^

A few thoughts:

1. The NCAA is not who commissioned the Freeh report. The NCAA is an idiotic organization, and anything and everything they do is stupid. They could completely reverse the sanctions and award PSU extra scholarships and last seasons National Title, and it wouldn't change the fact that it might be the dumbest organization in the country.

2. Remember that the Freeh Report was commissioned by the school. The "critique" was commissioned by the Paterno estate specifically to defend Paterno. I don't think it's out of line to take the rebuttal with a huge grain of salt, given the obvious motives and biases. (Same should be said of members of PSU that point to the second report to publicly wonder aloud, "well, maybe our school wasn't some dispicable hot bed of tacitly approved child rape that everyone thinks it is...")

3. The NCAA presumably sanctioned PSU for the entire school and athletic department's involvement in the Sandusky scandal, not just Paterno. So even if Paterno wasn't directly involved, the sanctions probably wouldn't change.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:35 AM ^

there was still plenty of dirty coverup to go around by the others involved. The sanctions will rightfully stay in place. It doesn't matter if JoePa ever gets cleared or not, there was still plenty of culpability by other leaders at PSU, specifically the ones that have been indicted.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

Even if you take Paterno out of the equation, it was still a cover-up by the university. They weren't punished exclusively because of Paterno's alleged involvement. They were punished because people in power positions knew about the 1998 and 2001 cases and didn't do anything about it.

The Paterno-sponsored "Critique" was aimed primarily at clearing Joe's name, not at absolving the university of any involvement. I don't see how you could justify revoking the sanctions when the goal of them was to change the "football is more important than anything else" culture that many large universities have.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

Penn State tried to fire JoePa years before the Sandusky stuff came to light. JoePa told them "Nah, I'm good. I'm going to remain as head coach."

He obviously remained as coach. Now that is the epitome of power and influence. It's laughable the people who claim he didn't know or didn't have the power to do anything.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

Actually, when those PSU guys tried to ask him to think about retirement, JoePa threw them out of his house.  From there, JoePa's bosses threw up their hands and said, "Oh well.  We tried." 

PSU nation and the Paterno family will never budge that he knew more than what he claimed, even though Paterno himself never told them a damn thing.  Even lying under oath about not knowing the 1998 shower incident (despite Schultz and Curly knowing) is conveniently ignored.

Buck Killer

February 14th, 2013 at 10:42 AM ^

They are so selfish and worship Joe. The report is from the Paterno family. Joe was lucky he didn't have to go to trial. You let the players raise hell for years, and your staff did so too at the expense of others. It got to the point that kids were raped. He knew everything that went on and ran that university.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:45 AM ^

There was a mountain of circumstantial evidence against Paterno before the Freeh report ever came out. 

How about the fact that Paterno's top assistant had a 20 year history of sexually abusing children and that for at least 5-10 years he was brazen enough to use PSU facilities for this conduct?  That alone is enough to sully Paterno in my mind. 

But then we know that McQuery at the very least told Paterno that Sandusky was naked in the shower with the kid and Paterno did at most the bare minnimum in reporting it and clearly never did anything to follow up or ban Sandusky from football facilities.  Again, that fact alone is enough to indict Paterno in my book.

Beyond all that it simply stretchs credulity to think that Paterno never suspected his top assistant, whom he likely spent dozens of hours per week with was a serial pedophile when there were rumors and incidents all around. 

The Paterno family wants to try this like a court case and poke holes in the Freeh report because its much easier to do that then it is to respond to these simple truths.  Their response is almost as sickening as the underlying offenses. 


February 14th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

And a scumbag. This report changes nothing.

However, the PSU sanctions ate overly harsh, considering they were based on public opinion and the Feech report and not on an NCAA investigation.

PSU should concentrate on lifting the sanctions not on proving JoePa to be ignorant and therefore a god in their eyes.


February 14th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

He did the exact same thing as Joe Pa - passed it on to his superiors but for whatever reason people give him a pass.  I have no idea how that is even possible.  HE SAW IT HAPPEN IN FRONT OF HIS OWN TWO EYES!!!  He broke the law by witnessing it and not going to the police.  People say "oh well Joe should have stayed with it" and that is 100% true but how the hell is McQuery getting a pass on this?  He did as little as possible, actually broke state law by not reporting it directly to the police and Joe Pa is supposed to be the worst guy right behind Sandusky? Give me a break.


That doesn't exaunerate Joe Pa by any stretch but McQuery has been and always will be #1 in the "should be punished" category once you're talking about non-Sandusky people but people talk about him like he was some little kid who told his parents about something.  He's an adult, a well paid adult who works for the State of Pennsylvania - his actions (and in-actions) speak to his ineptitude and he should have been the very first person fired when this hit since Sandusky was already gone.


If you want to give him the "oh he was under Joe Pa's shadow" argument I'd say that's a load of BS - I'd say that each and everyone of us has been under someone at our job.  That doesn't give you free reign to be witness to crimes and say nothing just because your mentor doesn't. He's an adult and should be treated (and tried) as such.


/end rant