DALLAS -- Sean Lee is as Penn State as they come and the Cowboys linebacker is sticking with his alma mater through the Jerry Sandusky scandal that has put the football program in peril.
The NCAA on Monday fined Penn State $60 million and banned the school from bowl games for four years, while also taking away scholarships as a penalty for the school’s lack of action against Sandusky when charges were initially brought forward in 1998.
The findings of the Freeh Report, which found that the school’s highest officials, including coach Joe Paterno, concealed knowledge of Sandusky’s abuse, have angered Lee. Sandusky has been convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse.
“Obviously I don’t support the actions of how they handled that situation at all,” Lee said Tuesday at a Boys and Girls Club appearance in Dallas. “The facts have shown they didn’t report Sandusky and what happened and because of it more kids got hurt. That’s what the facts show and I don’t agree with that at all. This should’ve been reported right away. There should’ve been procedures in place where this is what we do, investigation and go from there and more kids wouldn’t have been hurt. I actually think the Freeh Report was a good thing because it shows where Penn State can go, how they can improve on some things so something as horrible as it did will never happen again.”
The statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium was removed Sunday.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Lee said. “It’s a statue. They keep it up, they (take) it down, that’s not what I feel the issue is. What I feel the issue is, is to make sure the healing process for these victims is taken care of. Now if taking the statue down helps with the healing process, then so be it. If sanctions are going to help with the healing process, then it needs to be done. And also making sure this never happens again. I think Penn State has taken that step.”
The NCAA also vacated every Penn State win from 1998-2011, which dropped Paterno as major college football’s all-time win leader. Lee was a three-year starter at Penn State from 2005-09, missing the 2008 season with a knee injury.
“There’s obviously the memories that you have, so that (removal) was done for whatever reason but as a teammate and former player you realize what you did as a team and what accomplished,” Lee said. “Your memories will always be there so that’s not what bothers me.”
Lee has been a vocal supporter of new coach Bill O'Brien even when former players were criticizing the hire following Paterno’s departure, and he will continue to help the new coach.
“Like I said, supporting Penn State going forward does not mean you support the actions of what happened up there,” Lee said. “There are a lot of good people that want to do the right thing and Coach O’Brien is one of those guys. He wants to represent the university the right way. He wants to have guys who work hard, play the right way, go to class, who can impact the community in a good way. There’s a lot of people in the community that want to do the same thing. They want to support the team. They want to bring the positive about this horrible negative that happened up there.”