Mike Kueber's Blog

July 13, 2012

Joe Paterno and the Freeh Report

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:38 pm
Tags: , ,

As readers of my blog know, I have been a strong defender of Joe Paterno throughout this prosecution-cum-persecution.  I have steadfastly argued that his statement as follows is imminently reasonable:

  • I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was.  So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

That is exactly what any rational, thinking person would do.  What right-thinking person would go off half-cocked demanding justice?  Joe had no firsthand knowledge of Sandusky’s actions, and he promptly forwarded his second-hand information to the appropriate university officials.

But yesterday’s newspaper headlines, after the issuance of the long-awaited Freeh report, disagree:    

  • Washington Post – “Now We Know – Paterno Lied”
  • NY Times – “Penn State Inquiry Faults Paterno”
  • Time – “Penn State Probe: Paterno, Officials Concealed Facts”

According to Freeh, Penn State’s president (Spanier), athletic director (Curley), SVP-finance (Schultz), and football coach (Paterno) failed to act on the sex-abuse allegations because of their desire “to avoid the consequences of bad publicity” and their “striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims.”

I have reviewed the facts presented by Freeh and those facts clearly reveal that Spanier, Curley, and Schultz – my so-called Three Amigos – were the principal actors in the handling of the alleged assault in 1998 and the McQueary-witnessed assault in 2001.  But Freeh’s investigation turned up two small smoking guns that suggest Paterno had some behind-the-scenes involvement that wasn’t previously known:

  1. The alleged assault in 1998.  Paterno claimed in 2011 that he had no awareness of the 1998 allegation against Sandusky, but an email from Curley (the A.D.) to Schultz (SVP) and Spanier (President) during the police investigation of that incident indicated that he had “touched base with” Paterno, and a few days later Curley asked Shultz, “Anything new in this department?  Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”  Thus, it appears that Paterno was aware of the allegation in 1998.  Instead of calling Paterno a liar, however, should we consider the possibility that after almost 14 years he simply forgot about the incident?  The media consistently overlooks the fact that the 1998 incident did not involve a known serial pedophile, but rather involved an iconic coach who was observed hugging a kid in the shower.  More importantly, the police and prosecutor dismissed the matter after completing their investigation.  Paterno could have forgotten about this by 2011.
  2. The McQueary-witnessed assault in 2001.  Once again, the Three Amigos handled the assault allegation and at one point they had tentatively decided to report it to law-enforcement authorities.  But then the athletic director (Curley) emailed the other two amigos and advised that he had changed his mind “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe (Paterno) yesterday.”  Instead of reporting Sandusky to the authorities, the Three Amigos decided to try to help him if he was receptive.  Although this email reveals that Paterno provided input to Curley, it does not reveal what that input was or, more importantly, what Paterno knew about the alleged assault beyond what McQueary report to him.  Until Curley has the opportunity to clarify what Paterno knew and what his input was, I think we should resist jumping to the judgment that Paterno was like the Godfather or the Wizard of Oz who controlled things quietly behind the scenes.      


FYI – The proof proffered against Paterno with respect to the first alleged assault is the following:

  1. May 3, 1998 – first reported incident of Sandusky preying on minors
  2. May 4, 1998 – the three amigos (Spanier, Schultz, and Curley) discuss the ongoing investigation.
  3. Sometime between May 4 and May 15 – Curley tells Shultz and Spanier that he has “touched base with” Paterno, and days later Curley asks Shultz, “Anything new in this department?  Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”
  4. June 1998 – the District Attorney decides against bringing charges.  Shultz emails Curley and Spanier – “I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us.”

Thus, contrary to Paterno’s official version, it appears that he did know about the alleged assault in 1998 and monitored the investigation, presumably to the point that Sandusky was exonerated. 

Then between June 1998 and the assault that McQueary witnessed February 9, 2001, nothing happened other than Sandusky retiring from coaching.

  1. February 9, 2001 – the McQueary-witnessed assault occurs
  2. February 10, 2001 – McQueary reports the assault to Joe
  3. February 11, 2001 – Paterno reports the assault to Curley and Schultz
  4. February 12, 2001 – the three amigos meet to discuss what to do
  5. February 25, 2001 – the three amigos decide to the incident to Department of Welfare
  6. February 27, 2001 – Curley tells his two amigos that, upon further reflection and after discussing the matter with Paterno, he has decided against contacting the Department of Welfare if Sandusky is cooperative.  Spanier and Schultz concur that this is the “humane” thing to do.
  7. March 5, 2001 – Curley meets with Sandusky and apparently decides against reporting the incident to the Department of Welfare.

Again, the three amigos were the principal actors, but Paterno apparently influenced Curley to decline to report the assault to the Department of Welfare.  Perhaps one day Curley will elaborate on the role played by Paterno in that decision.

Based on this evidence, I believe the media has vastly over-emphasized Paterno’s role in the handling of the assault allegations.



  1. I respectfully disagree, amigo. When the 3 amigos failed to do the right thing, coach Joe should have stormed into the big office, turned the desk over, kicked papers around and grabbed some mamby pamby by his silk tie, raised hell and upheld his higher standard, by demanding the authorities be advised. He should have fired the perverted coach and upheld his higher standard. Turns out his higher standard wasn’t as high as we thought. There can never justification for not stopping those who hurt kids.

    Comment by Phil Mason — July 13, 2012 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

    • Phil, Sandusky had already retired at the time of the McQueary incident, so he was not Joe’s responsibility. Joe’s responsibility was his football team. It just doesn’t make sense for Joe to appoint himself special prosecutor of Sandusky, his longtime former assistant, just because Paterno happened to be the conduit for reporting the assault allegation from grad assistant McQueary to the head of university police – Schultz. Some people suggest that McQueary should have immediately called the police, but that issue is not what the media is focusing on now. Instead the media is rushing to judgment against Joe’s integrity, just as it did in forcing Joe out of his job. Why not wait and see what Curley and Schultz eventually say?

      Comment by Mike Kueber — July 14, 2012 @ 4:13 am | Reply

  2. Oh wow, seriously. This JoePa thing must be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people like you I guess but you gotta open up your eyes. It’s not about doing the absolute bear minimum. It’s about a guy who passed himself off as one of the ultimate good guys in sports but then didn’t do even close to all he could to stop such a thing. It’s Joe Paterno and the Penn State officials for sure but to let Paterno off teh hook is a little much. Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I really wanna hear what you have to say http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/joe-paterno-trapped-by-legacy/

    Comment by Chris Ross — July 13, 2012 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  3. Couldn’t disagree more! Nike made the right decision by taking his name off of their Children’s Center, and hopefully Joe’s statue will be removed soon as well.

    Comment by Tina Spencer — July 14, 2012 @ 1:10 am | Reply

    • Tina, being a defender of Joe is getting awfully lonely, and I thought I could count on an old Sports Reporter girl like you to stand up for the old ball coach.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — July 14, 2012 @ 4:02 am | Reply

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