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




February 14th, 2013 at 10:49 AM ^ where does the police department/state police come into all this?  How does a commissioned report (whether Freeh or Paterno side) dig up so much more information than the police ever brought to light?  Why are essentially "investigative reporters" doing all the legwork? 



February 14th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

Because its Happy Valley and no one was interested in stirring up shit with the most powerful people in the region. Remember, it took a 20-something reporter from a small local paper to uncover this whole thing. There is no doubt she was taking a lot of heat locally for asking too many questions.


February 14th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

questioning Freeh? No. And as people note, PSU accepted the sanctions. But that doesn't mean there aren't unanswered questions. A lot more will come out in several upcoming trials. 

This story has several more chapters. 


February 14th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

No, some people have political cover now and are trying to use it, but even if Paterno isn't guilty of enabling Sandusky, I think it can be proved the athletic department of the university was.  As far as Clinton getting involved, no politics just an observation, PA has a lot of electoral votes and Hillary seems to be plotting a run for '16.

Everything in this case has reeked of self interest.  The University trying to pin the problem on Paterno to make the governing body less culpable, the Paterno family for commissioning the report and using every method possible to clear his name, the former PA governor working the Paterno report who could also be reasonably accused of malfeasance in the whole business and reporters trying to burnish their credibility by offering the "thoughtful take".  

The truth of the matter may lie somewhere in between, but until Curley(sp?) and Schulz(sp?) take the stand and say exactly what happened under oath, I'm inclined to believe JoePa enabled Sandusky's bahavior due to his outsize power and influence at State College.  If he can veto his own firing it seems to me there isn't a whole hell of a lot else he didn't have control over.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^

How does throwing Paterno under the bus help Curley and Shulz?  What does the prosecution have to gain from that testimony that would facilitate such a deal?  Or what does Curley/Shultz have to gain from throwing Paterno under the bus in front of the jury?  Can they possibly raise as a defense "Joe said not to do it?"


February 14th, 2013 at 11:01 AM ^

"My main part of the Freeh report I was interested in was the recommendations to change our governance and policies so this can never happen again,” - Carl Shaffer, PSU Trustee, quoted in the article

You would hope that this is one of the things the school would focus on - it was indeed tasked to do this by virtue of having an ethics monitor as a result of the sancitons. Fighting over whatever remains of Joe Paterno's reputation, which seems to be essentially what his family wants this to become since they cannot separate the man from the school, still would not answer to the breaksdowns which allowed the systematic abuse of children to occur on the Penn State campus and at the hands of Jerry Sandusky. I do not understand how the Paterno family could possibly think they would win the argument with a report which is literally a rationalization of Joe's role in the case.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:01 AM ^

Penn State officials, fans, and alumni are absolutely delusional. It all boils down to the fact that Joe Paterno was effectively the most powerful man on campus, not the President or Trustees or anyone. Saying he did his job by reporting up the stream is a joke. Anyone who doesn't believe that Joe Paterno had the power get a proper investigation going just hasn't been paying attention to college football the past 20 years.

eamus_caeruli (not verified)

February 14th, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

I believe they need to take a "if PSU does these things..." line, and reduce the bowl ban and scholarship cap.  Emmert's statement about cultural was a laughable remark, and he needs to remember from whench he came.  I look at it like reckless driving: big fine, probabtion, driving skills course, still can function as a normal person.  

Honestly, I think hitting them with 60 mill fine was best move I have seen the NCAA make as far as sanctions go.  If Universities AD's only care about sports revenue, then hit them with financial fines, even windfalls amounts. How doesn't that punitive measure make institutions step back and say, "wow, losing those resources hurts everyone, not just the young men on the football roster".   I respectfully disagree with any notion that scholarship reductions fairly or equitably treat institutions on a punitive level.  If you need freshman walk-ons/run-ons to play, you basically are doing more long term harm by crunching the rosters. Also, you punish innocent people rather than the wrong doers.  I could see bowl bans up-to four years, a significant fine and only slight scholarship restrictions for less time (e.g. OSU example) as a better overal punishment.  I am not defending PSU, but I think what the NCAA did was another in a long line of mis-steps.  

My epinion is that most BIG and college football fans sort have a thread in their minds that since we all felt PSU and Paterno presented themselves as morally superior to everyone else, that when this horrible crime unveiled itself, we all had a "gotcha" complex.  We wanted them to be punished since we were tried of their meme.  Well, Sandusky is a criminal, and was punished. PSU had a major failure in leadership, they are being punished (frankly, cost Paterno his life and legacy).  Yet, the institution, players, fans and many associated with that campus and school did nothing wrong.  

Why should they suffer? Does a few really dictate terms for the many? 



February 14th, 2013 at 11:19 AM ^

The problem with the financial penalties is that the fans, the ultimate source of power in sports institutions, don't give a crap.  The rich alumni will pony up some money to help them out.  You've got to hit the fans where it hurts -- wins and losses.  Make the fans' teams lose games or miss out on the postseason, and it makes them hate the activity that caused the sanctions.  If anything, I think that the NCAA needs to abandon fines and levy scholarship penatlies on a much greater scale than what they do now.  Cheating programs should be punished in a manner that exceeds the competitive advantage that they gain from cheating. 


February 14th, 2013 at 12:01 PM ^

Exactly. I never understand when people break out the hurting "innocent kids" line. So short-sighted. It's about punishing the institution. The poor kids on the football team can transfer wherever they would like if they want to go to a bowl game.

Do you remember what happened to our basketball program? Granted, there were plenty of issues (coaches/facilities) but did Lavell Blanchard deserve to have a post-season ban?


February 14th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

Let me say, that if the tide turns on public opinion back to giving Joe Paterno the benefit of the doubt, then this country truly is doomed. How is it that the BigTen hasn't booted PSU out, as fast as they let them in, is beyond me.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:31 AM ^

Maybe I am being overly simplistic, but this wasnt a pedophile coach simply operating under cover.  The guy was exposed more than once, it was known to the staff/Paterno.  A grad assistant saw it happen and reported it to the coach himself.  His charity which leveraged his position with the university was 

Hardcore coverup or not (and you would have to be a fool to think the reputation of their beloved football program was not at least factored in to their decision) leading to a shadow operation of dealing with the issue.  That to me is enough for their program to get slammed for 4 years.

The OMG our precious football program response is further validation of them needing to get punished severely.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

All of this posturing on the part of the Paterno's & their unofficial mouthpiece ESPN is laughable given that in a month or so the actual trial of Curley, Spanier & Schultz will begin.  And you don't need to have graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Law (or Michigan for that matter) to know that the most likely defense of both of these guys will be to pin EVERYTHING on Joe.  Under oath. 

And that my friends should bury this revisionist history nonsense once and for all.


February 14th, 2013 at 3:17 PM ^

It's been asked above by others but I'll ask it here too: how does "our subordinate told us to do it" provide a defense?

I have little doubt that's what they'll say, mostly because I don't have much doubt that it happened. But I don't know what legal difference it would make, or how much it would influence a judge's sentencing decision.

Perkis-Size Me

February 14th, 2013 at 11:34 AM ^

A last ditch effort by a desperate family to clear Paterno's name. At this point, they're really doing more harm than good to what's left of their reputation. Child sex abuse is an extremely polarizing subject, and people with opinions of Paterno based on the scandal will likely never change their opinions. I honestly don't know what they think they can accomplish.


February 14th, 2013 at 11:40 AM ^

This is just journalists fishing for article clicks.  At the end of the day you have Sandusky in jail on multiple counts of rape, no matter what reports the Paterno family pays people to write.  A criminal conviction speaks much louder than a tailor made report purchased by someone to clear their family's name.

About the only way the sanctions could ever be reversed is if the prejury charges against various PSU admins completely come apart in court.  The DA would likely need to 0 for 3 in court against Curley, Spanier, and Schultz for PSU to open the door for appeals.  

I just don't understand people who act like the reports are definitive legal rulings.  The Freeh report was ordered by the PSU BoT to discover how bad their posistion was.  It's like talking to a lawyer and hearing him say "Yeah, take the plea bargain man, take it!".  The Paterno report was clearly done to clear the Paterno family name.  Yet people think this report cleared Paterno and PSU, despite the fact three of their admins still face multiple charges and the DoJ is still digging around up there for failure to report issues.  

The "this was overblown side" is 0 for 1 in court, with Sandusky gone on multiple convictions, and unless they have a run of good luck with the other guys, no report they release is going to change anything.  

Creedence Tapes

February 14th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

I think Hoke has changed the tide on the rivalry. Hell people in Ohio are starting to believe him. Never in a million years I would have thought that. Selling Michigan jerseys is a good start.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:13 PM ^

The evidence stands.  The Leadership at PSU stepped aside and let a pedophile run wild from 1998 to 2012.  The fact that people are pretending that somehow it isn't as bad as that is .... well, repugnant.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

Doesn't matter, IMO.  The AD, President of the university, et. al were aware of damning allegations brought forth by a graduate assistant of rape of young men happening by one of their staff members on PSU property and they either failed to act appropriately or actively covered it up.  Either way, they are deserving of what they got, and I think it really is that simple.  Whether or not Paterno's name should be "cleared" is sort of trivial in the scheme of things, don't you think?  It misdirects the focus from the victims of a tragic story.

I also think it is peculiar that everything seemed "go ahead" with the Freeh report until they turned up bad info about Joe Paterno, then it became negligible and we've got to start over?  Please.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

I share the feelings of many about Sandusky's heinous crimes.  I am equally disillusioned about Joe Paterno and the shameful behavior of Penn State.  I also recognize that I am not well informed enough to prejudge this case and I lack the "moral expertise" required to determine whether and how Penn St should be punished by the NCAA. 

At the same time, I have had some doubts raised in my mind after I read the link below about the checkered career of the investigator, Mr. Freeh.  Many questions are raised in this link about how judicious and impartial Mr. Freeh has been in the past.

To be sure, based on his findings, I can see a rationale for NCAA punishment vs. PSU.  At the same time, I am not sure that the NCAA, with its purportedly limited resources, should be spending its time prosecuting such cases.  It seems to put the NCAA on a slippery slope regarding where it should draw the line.  When should the NCAA investigate possible university supression of other information about other embarassing moral or legal offenses?  I don't know.

Additionally, if the NCAA does not draw some clear lines, I fear that it will be even more distracted from  investigations, which are more clearly germane to its mission.  Witness the effect the Penn St affair had in distracting attention from the ongoing investigation of Ohio.  IMO, the NCAA did a pretty shoddy job in their own "investigation", leaving countless questions poorly evaluated or completely unanswered. 

(eg Clarett's admitted illegal benefits, other players allegations about free cars, valuable memorabilia, and no-show jobs, not to mention the relations of Tressel, Sarniak and Pryor, in part impeded by Ohio's refusal to release emails )

In the case of Ohio, I even wonder if any major penalties would have been forthcoming if Goodell had not prodded Pryor into releasing further details about Sarniak and about illlegal benefits given to him and his teammates at a charity function.

Here, as well as in embracing the opportunity provided by the Freeh report, the NCAA looks a little like the drunk who was seen searching for his key under a spotlight in the alley.  Asked if that's where he dropped his key, he said "No, but that's where the light is."  Similarly, the NCAA often seems to look only at problems after light has been cast on them.  To often, it fails to shed much light on many other possible violations.



February 14th, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

No, it's not. Penn State got what it deserved. These are the types of misdeeds the NCAA should be punishing, not free sandwiches for football players at the corner deli. The fact that the NCAA had to step outside of its normal enforcement procedures to impose the Penn State sanctions says more about how out of whack the NCAA's priorities are than whether or not the sanctions were proper.

The NCAA should have rules that punish an athletic department for covering up child rape to avoid tarnishing the reputation of its football program. The NCAA should not have rules that prevent John Beilein from interacting with his own son at basketball camps. 


February 14th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

"I have had some doubts raised in my mind after I read the link below about the checkered career of the investigator, Mr. Freeh"

This isn't about Freeh.  It's about a culture that supported JoPa and PSU football above all else.  After looking at the timeline, I'd believe the Devil hisself over PSU, the Paternos and their lackeys.


February 14th, 2013 at 1:32 PM ^

Not having all the evidence at hand, part of my opinion is influenced by the new information I just read about the credibility of the investigator.

Perhaps, as you say, Penn St does deserve its punishment--maybe even more.  What they did was terrible. I agree with this.  Also, perhaps as others suggest, this will serve as a warning to other schools that cover up information. 

On the other hand, the more dishonest schools may draw the opposite conclusion.   Seeing the consequences at Penn St, these schools may be less inclined to hire an "independent" investigator that cannot easily be controlled. Recall that, rather than hire a former FBI guy like Freeh to evaluate allegations against them, Ohio hired a consulting firm run by multiple former leaders of Arthur Anderson--the corrupt accounting firm that was involved in the coverup of accounting crimes at Enron.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:44 PM ^

Penn State deserves the sanctions because of the cover up from top to bottom. But unfortunately in our society money talks. Penn State, NCAA and BIG 10 want the revenue of not destroying the football program for 5 years. A lot of the facts aren't being disputed by the Paterno's. They are just adding a different spin on it. If they drop the sanction against Penn State they should put Old Joe's statue back up and we can all pretend like nothing happened.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

I disagree with, but know why the Paterno family is doing what they are doing. Having grown up with a father who was a high ranking college administrator, the part that gets me is the absolute and continued lack of control the leadership of PSU has over this issue. You should not have board members publicly making comment about this issue for PR and legal reasons. Why they did not make the board members and any other school officials sign a gag order until all trials are over is beyond my comprehension of stupidity.

PSU is more than a football institution. College football is not the only lens through which life is viewed for the majority of our population (yes, that is true). All those "leaders" associated with PSU should remember that.


February 14th, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

Here is a related thought....

Imagine that Canham's first choice was Paterno,  who turned us down... and Bo was second.

And it was Paterno who even said that success without honor is akin to a steak without seasoning.

Thank goodness that we got Bo.

Steve in PA

February 14th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

If the prosecution goes 0-3 in the upcoming trials against Spanier, Curley, and the guy who I cannot remember I believe the NCAA will be forced to look at the sanctions on Penn State because of public pressure.

If all 3 are convicted, it will be case closed and Penn State can eat a lump of excrement until the sanctons are over.

Anything inbetween and the clarity of the situation will remain as it is now with two distinct sides to the issue.

Personally I'd have no problem with them getting schollys back after 2 years but extending thebowl ban to 6 or 8.  


February 14th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

So because one person at ESPN liked the content of the report = tide turning?  You can easily find hundreds of articles that vehemently disagrees with Van Natta's opinion, a few of which were also published on ESPN.


February 14th, 2013 at 2:39 PM ^

I believe these are the same Trustees that just got elected in last year, and have called for the sanctions to get dropped immediately. They're Joe Paterno disciples that think he could never do any wrong.

So no, this won't change anything.


February 14th, 2013 at 2:44 PM ^

It was said above, but it bears repeating:

The NCAA did not punish Penn State for what Joe Paterno did.  The NCAA punished Penn State for what Penn State did. 

The Paterno Report does not challenge the Freeh Report on the facts of what Penn State University did; it only questions how involved one particular individual was in the decision-making behind Penn State's actions.  The problem here is that it doesn't matter why Penn State University behaved as they did--the facts not in dispute are enough to justify the consent agreement.  There are no new facts in the Paterno Report that contradict anything in the NCAA's release of the consent agreement.  Therefore, there is nothing that will change that agreement. 



February 14th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

I never agreed with the Paterno witch hunt.  AFAIC, they can put Jerry Sandusky in general population for his prison term, but I still think Joe's only "crime" was not wanting to believe that an old friend was a POS.

MI Expat NY

February 14th, 2013 at 4:28 PM ^

The first quote in the OP fundementally misrepresents the two respective reports.  The Freeh report was not an "opening statement."  Freeh was hired by PSU to provide an objective report on just what happened to allow Sandusky to continue to utilize his PSU connections to act as a predator.  The only people who saw this as an opening statement in the trial against Joe Paterno were the Paterno family and a certain segment of the PSU fan base who, defying all logic, thought Penn State had an incentive to bring their entire football empire crashing down.

The "Patern Report" was a defense's opening statement against a non-existant opening statement.  It didn't seek to find the truth, it only sought to flaunt what it saw as "weaknesses" in the non-existant "prosecution" of Joe Paterno.  It's not meant to represent truth, it's only meant to deny any potential wrong doing by Joe Paterno.

This isn't to say that the Freeh report was perfect or should be taken as gospel.  The report couldn't be perfect when Freeh wasn't allowed to interview any of the key participants.  What you can say is that the Freeh report presented plenty of evidence that several people at PSU, through their actions or inaction allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue to be the Monster that he is.  Unfortunately, this group of people almost certainly includes Joe Paterno.


February 14th, 2013 at 6:39 PM ^

At this point, both sides seem to be arguing at the edges.  A bunch of kids were sexually assaulted by Jerry Sandusky, and there is rather conclusive evidence that other people at PSU either had direct and/or significant evidence that he was acting inappropriately.  Yes, maybe Joe Paterno didn't know as much as the Freeh report stated, but this feels like quibbling, a bunch of men and women arguing about how far on the wrong side of history they are.