Joe Paterno: I met my responsibilities

Updated: November 7, 2011, 10:16 AM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, responding to the scandal that has overtaken his university and his program, said in a statement released Sunday that he acted appropriately with the information he had in 2002 regarding child sexual abuse allegations against his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

"If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters," Paterno said. "While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred."

Sandusky, who retired from coaching in 1999 after 32 years on Paterno's staff, was arrested Saturday on 40 charges that include felony sex crimes against children. Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with felony perjury in their grand jury testimony in the case, as well as failure to report to law enforcement what they knew about Sandusky's behavior.

Paterno wasn't charged, and the grand jury report didn't implicate him in wrongdoing. His son Scott, an attorney who helped his father draft the statement, said in a phone interview Sunday evening that his father didn't know the severity of the alleged crimes until he read the grand jury's findings Saturday.

"When he read the presentment and called me, he could barely speak," Scott Paterno said.

"It was like a punch in the gut."

When asked about the sex-abuse charges outside his home in Pennsylvania on Sunday, Sandusky told ABC News he was advised by his attorney not to talk.

According to the statement released Saturday by Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly, the grand jury found that in March 2002, a then-graduate assistant (Mike McQueary, a former Nittany Lions quarterback who is now a fulltime assistant), witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting an underage boy in the showers in the Lasch Football Building. According to Kelly, the graduate assistant went to Paterno's home "to explain what he had seen."

But Paterno said in his statement that McQueary had not been specific with him.

"As my grand jury testimony stated," Joe Paterno said in the statement, "I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. 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. 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 of 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.

A source told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that the board has a scheduled meeting for this coming Friday.

Sandusky retired with tenure, and, as such, came under the supervision of Schultz. Paterno referred the matter to Curley, his superior.

"Unfortunately," Scott Paterno said, "once that happened, there was really nothing more Joe felt he could do because he did not witness the event. You can't call the police and say, 'Somebody tells me they saw somebody else do something.' That's hearsay. Police don't take reports in that manner. Frankly, from the way he understood the process, he passed the information on to the appropriate university official and they said they were taking care of it. That's really all he could do."

The attorney general also discussed a 1998 police report involving Sandusky and inappropriate behavior with children. No charges were brought. Sandusky retired the next year to devote his time to The Second Mile, a charity he founded to help children. Sandusky also raised many foster children.

The two events were unrelated, Scott Paterno said, because his father knew nothing about the police report. A recent request to read it was denied by the university. Sandusky retired with great fanfare.

"Does anybody really think," Scott Paterno said, "that if (the university) thought he was a child rapist, they would have given him a farewell tour?"

Nevertheless, hindsight has left Joe Paterno and his wife Sue in anguish.

"Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential," Joe Paterno said in his statement. "The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. 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 first met Curley, a 57-year-old native of State College, when the future athletic director was in his teens. His indictment, Scott Paterno said, has left his father "shocked and saddened" as well.

"This has been as hard on Joe as anything I've ever seen him endure in the sense of, trying to come to grips with, 'How did this happen?'" Scott Paterno said. "... When he was first told this (in 2002), he was 75. This was so far from what he could possibly conceive of. You come back to him now, he's 84. It's so outside of what he can even imagine.

"This guy grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting and wanted to live in one in State College," Scott Paterno said about his father. "The sad reality is, even in Norman Rockwell paintings, there's the back side of the painting. It's just a very dark, ugly thing that happened around us that we didn't see."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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