STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he was shocked, saddened and as surprised as everyone else to learn longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period, including four years when Sandusky still was a member of the Nittany Lions’ staff.
“If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers,” Paterno in a statement issued Sunday night by his son, Scott.
Paterno referred to his grand jury testimony in which he testified that he was informed by an assistant coach in 2002 that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of the team locker room. Prosecutors have said Paterno had passed on the information to Athletic Director Tim Curley.
But Paterno said specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him.
“It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report,” Paterno said in the statement. “Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.”
Late Sunday night, Curley requested to be placed on administrative leave so he could devote the time needed to defend himself against perjury and other charges, university President Graham Spanier said. Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, will step down and go back into retirement, Spanier said. He declined to comment to reporters after the meeting.
University spokesman Bill Mahon said resignations Paterno and Spanier weren’t discussed at the meeting.
The developments came after the Penn State board met in executive session. About half the board members were present while others joined by phone. Board members, including university Vice President Damon Sims, walked out and declined to comment to reporters.
In a phone interview Sunday, Scott Paterno, serving as his father’s spokesman, said the first and only incident reported about Sandusky to Paterno was in 2002. Scott Paterno, a former lawyer, is a Harrisburg-based political operative.
Sandusky retired from his assistant’s job in 1999. He is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. Overseeing the linebackers, Sandusky coached such prominent players including Jack Ham, Shane Conlan and Matt Millen.
Sandusky coached the defense in Penn State’s 1982 and 1986 national title seasons, and was at one point considered a likely successor to Paterno. The grand jury report released Saturday said one victim, identified as “Victim 4,” recalled a meeting with an emotional Sandusky after Paterno had told Sandusky about May 1999 that his assistant would not be the next coach at Penn State.
According to Scott Paterno, his father made the decision because he felt Sandusky was spending too much time at The Second Mile, a foundation Sandusky established to help at-risk kids, where authorities say he encountered the boys. Sandusky then made the decision to take early retirement, Scott Paterno said.