- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thursday's release of the Freeh report was the No. 1 story in all of sports, and the fallout regarding Penn State and four former senior officials, including ex-football coach Joe Paterno, elicited more than a few opinions.
Rather than saturate the lunch links with Freeh/Penn State stories, here's a sampling of what folks are writing.
Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel: "There is little left of Paterno's legacy now. Little left of the icon who used his saintly reputation as a hammer of power to control his program and even cause Penn State to reverse course on stopping Sandusky."
The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins: "If Paterno knew about '98, then he wasn’t some aging granddad who was deceived, but a canny and unfeeling power broker who put protecting his reputation ahead of protecting children. If he knew about '98, then he understood the import of graduate assistant Mike McQueary's distraught account in 2001 that he witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers. If he knew about '98, then he also perjured himself before a grand jury. Guilty."
The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh: "The NCAA should cancel football at Penn State until 2014 but allow every scholarship player to transfer without losing eligibility. Unfair and unjust? Ask the kid Sandusky abused in the shower in 1998 who Paterno referred to as a "liability problem'' — but never looked for — to define unfair and unjust.
The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' David Jones: "Throughout the last eight months in correspondence with Penn State football fans and alumni enamored with the late PSU coach, I have often been reminded of my father’s resistance to acknowledge the increasingly obvious evidence during the 1973-74 Watergate investigation and President Richard Nixon’s large part in the cover-up of the break-in. My father was not a stupid man. He was, however, prone to admiration of public figures who professed to share his beliefs. Sometimes, to the point that he would endow them with undue nobility. Finally, months after Nixon resigned in August 1974, my father acknowledged to me with some bitterness that the deposed president had 'screwed up.' That was about the best he could muster. But he knew. He saw. He opened his eyes. It will take some time for those who have adored Paterno from afar for so long to do the same."
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan: "Joe Paterno's reputation was not destroyed by Jerry Sandusky. His legacy was not permanently stained by Louis Freeh. It was Paterno who ruined Paterno. That was the painful and unavoidable message contained in Freeh's blistering report, which was released Thursday morning."
The Associated Press' Jim Litke: "Freeh acknowledged that in instances where investigators couldn't obtain witnesses or original materials, they looked at all the available evidence, applied their experience and judgment and arrived at "reasonable" conclusions. Some people, beginning with Paterno's family, have argued with conviction that such a standard sets the bar too low. Sad to say — especially from those of us who pleaded against a rush to judgment — but in a story from which the word "reasonable" has largely been absent, nearly every one of those conclusions rings true."
Forbes.com's Chris Smith: "Perhaps this is elementary, but shutting down the team will neither prevent further child abuse nor help those who suffered from it. In other words, such drastic action by the NCAA would serve only as a punishment, which raises a singularly important question: who will it actually punish?"
The New York Daily News' Kevin T. Mulhearn: "Joe Paterno was right in one sense. This story is not a football scandal. It is, rather, a human tragedy of breathtaking dimensions. Innocent children were scarred for life by a school's malicious indifference to their extraordinary pain. These children, bloodied, battered, and bruised, were the detritus … the stepping stone, for the gridiron glory forged on their backs. Like it or not, that is Joe Paterno's true and lasting legacy at Penn State."
ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr.: "Page after page, damning conclusion after damning conclusion, the Freeh report lays out the story of a stunning and systemic failure of leadership. The evidence contained in the report, including emails from 1998 and 2001 when Spanier, Paterno, Schultz and Curley concealed the Sandusky allegations, is devastating to the reputations and legacies of each."
SI.com's Stewart Mandel: "Penn State's was a particularly insular program, secluded not just from the rest of the campus but from the rest of the country (good luck finding a direct flight to State College on a game weekend). Its coach, as a result of sheer longevity, was the most powerful in the country, even into his 70s and 80s. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the biggest college scandal of our time took place at this particular university. But the lesson is that something this sinister could easily happen on any campus where "football runs the university." In fact, the circumstances are riper now than ever."
The Los Angeles' Times Bill Plaschke: "Read it and weep. Read it and heed. This is what happens when a university sports program becomes bigger than the university. This is what happens when a coach becomes more important than the ideals and values he is hired to coach. This is what happens when we are so blinded by the pursuit of athletic success that we stop looking closely at the leaders charged with taking us there."
USA Today's Eric Prisbell: "The conclusions of former FBI director Louis Freeh, who drew on more than 400 interviews and 3 million documents over a nearly eight-month independent investigation of Penn State's sexual assault scandal as requested by the school, have complicated and sullied the image of major-college football's all-time winningest coach."
CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd: "Pathetic. It is a football scandal because football was valued over all in sheltering, protecting and enabling a child molester. That was the epic conclusion of the Freeh Report. Penn State's top administrators, the boss' bosses, essentially took their orders from that head football coach.
AOL FanHouse's Lisa Olson: "Tear down the statue. Dismantle the frozen likeness of Joe Paterno waving to his admirers; rip it from its bronze base. Dump the parts in the Susquehanna River, throw them under a moving bus, it doesn’t really matter. Just get the odious image out of there. Then move onto the library and scrub away any remnants of Paterno’s name, because never again should the once-beloved coach have any hold over a community that once viewed him as an omnipotent king."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz: "To hell with a free Camaro. We're talking about sweeping allegations of a child sex offender under the rug in order to protect a school's image, fundraising and recruiting. There is no more extreme example of a lack of institutional control. Penn State deserves to be hit hard. That may seem unfair to the student-athletes, officials and fans who knew nothing of Sandusky’s acts or the cover-up. But that's the case with all NCAA sanctions."