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Paterno report latest in saga

Commentary

February 17, 2013
By Neil Rudel (nrudel@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Those attempting to move on from the Penn State scandal were again reminded last week that the only way to do that is to sequester yourself in Siberia.

And even there, Internet service is available.

If you spent the last week dissecting and discussing the Paterno report, which attempted to discredit the Freeh report, you aren't alone.

The Paterno family, with plenty of money and free time, assembled a decorated team of experts, including former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, and released its own findings on the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case.

Jay Paterno used the week to appear on national talk shows, and you have to give him this much: He's a better spokesman than he was a quarterbacks coach. Paterno kept his poise despite being peppered by an ESPN lineup that wasn't buying what the Paternos paid for and are now spreading.

Like the Paterno report, the Freeh report is an opinion. The report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh took on a life of its own when the university accepted it without a challenge and the NCAA used it to issue severe sanctions.

Freeh interviewed hundreds of people and drew strong conclusions. He took some leaps, and from this view, although Freeh turned up some potentially damning emails, I believe none of those targeted knew the graphic nature and the horrific extent of Sandusky's actions.

But did any of them go the extra mile to find out? No.

The Paternos keep saying they are only seeking the full truth - that that's what Joe wanted - and until the trials of Gary Schultz, Tim Curley and Graham Spanier along with Mike McQueary's case versus the university, we'll have to wait a few more months, if not years, for the whole story.

And yet, for someone bent on seeking the truth, Paterno didn't seem anxious to do so when the case was exploding.

According to the recently released book "Paterno" by Joe Posnanski, who spent most of 2011 in State College with access to Paterno and chronicled what turned out to be his last few months, Paterno's family practically had to beg the coach to read the grand jury presentment when it hit during PSU's open date Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011.

Sandusky was arrested, Curley and Schultz faced charges, and Paterno, by his family's admission, was arguing with his son Scott, saying, "Why are you badgering me? I've got Nebraska to worry about."

While virtually every member of the Nittany Nation had combed through and been sickened by the presentment that Saturday, Paterno was finally "convinced," the book said, to read it on Monday.

This might be a case in which the full truth never comes out in part because Paterno is dead and presumably so is Ray Gricar, the Centre County district attorney who declined to prosecute a 1998 allegation against Sandusky.

The 1998 case is pivotal because, although charges weren't brought, it showed that PSU officials, according to the grand jury and Freeh, had a warning about Sandusky well before McQueary saw him "doing something sexual" to a young boy in the Lasch Football Building in February 2001.

The Paterno report does all it can to distance Joe from knowing about 1998. Sue Paterno told Katie Couric she didn't know if Joe knew about 1998. Jay said his father "may or may not have been [the coach]" referenced in the emails.

So it's vague, too. In his last interview 10 days before he died, Joe told The Washington Post he didn't know anything about 1998; he told the grand jury that he was unaware of any rumors or situations involving Sandusky prior to the 2001 incident.

When interviewed by the grand jury in 2011, it's also possible Paterno didn't clearly remember the particulars of either case. Again, according to the book "Paterno," the coach was given last rites in the summer of 2010, when he was seriously and noticeably ill.

Turns out JoePa coached another two seasons after his last rites.

In 2001, though, he was 75 and still with it enough to go with McQueary, rather than send him up the supposed chain of command and outline the urgency - urgency to protect more potential victims and the danger the university, its football program and Paterno himself could face by a passive approach.

Paterno died wishing he had "done more." To his credit, he at least admitted that much - although because he had not been arrested, unlike his colleagues, he could be more free with his words.

There are so many people, intelligent people, with polar opposite views on this case, particularly relative to Paterno and whether he's been unfairly characterized.

He was a giant in life - on the field and off - and that's what makes this case so compelling as it plays out on a national stage and will continue as we brace for another chapter with the trials, perhaps a suit by the Paterno family and a planned book by Jay Paterno.

Unfortunately, it's Penn State's answer to a reality series.

Mirror Managing Editor Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

 
 

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