Trustees said this week they pushed Paterno out in part because he failed a moral responsibility to report an allegation made in 2002 against Sandusky to authorities outside the university. They also felt he had challenged their authority and that, as a practical matter, with all the media in town and attention to the Sandusky case, he could no longer run the team.
Paterno testified before the grand jury investigating Sandusky that he had relayed to his bosses an accusation that came from graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky abusing a boy in the showers of the Penn State football building.
Paterno told the Post that he didn’t know how to handle the charge, but a day after McQueary visited him, he spoke to the athletic director and the administrator with oversight over the campus police.
Wick Sollers, Paterno’s lawyer, called the board’s comments this week self-serving and unsupported by the facts. Paterno fully reported what he knew to the people responsible for campus investigations, Sollers said.
“He did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time,” Sollers said.
Sandusky says he is innocent and is out on bail, awaiting trial.
The back and forth between Paterno’s representative and the board reflects a trend in recent weeks, during which Penn State alumni _ and especially former players, including Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris _ have questioned the trustees’ actions and accused them of failing to give Paterno a chance to defend himself.
Three town halls, in Pittsburgh, suburban Philadelphia and New York City, seemed to do little to calm the situation and dozens of candidates have now expressed interest in running for the board, a volunteer position that typically attracts much less interest.
While everyone involved has said the focus should be on Sandusky’s accusers and their ordeals, the abuse scandal brought a tarnished ending to Paterno’s sterling career. Paterno won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and those two national championships, the last in the 1986 season. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.
Throughout his coaching years, Paterno maintained that, yes, winning was important, but even more important was winning with honor.