Penn St. panel to investigate abuse case

Updated: November 9, 2011, 2:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Penn State's board of trustees will appoint a special committee to investigate the child sex-abuse case that has shaken the university and threatened to end coach Joe Paterno's decades-long tenure as football coach.

In a statement Tuesday, the Penn State board said it was "outraged by the horrifying details" of the case and possible cover-up centered on former assistant Jerry Sandusky. The committee will be appointed at the board's regular meeting Friday, and will closely examine the "circumstances" that resulted in the indictments of Sandusky, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend the meeting, and will examine "what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure" similar mistakes aren't made in the future.

The board also promised those responsible would be held "fully accountable."

"We are committed to restoring public trust in the university," the board's statement concluded.

At least one thousand students descended on the administration building at about 11 p.m. ET, chanting "Joe Paterno!" over and over, along with Penn State cheers. Many held up their smartphones to take photos or simply light up the night. A few young men climbed flag poles.

Police officers stood on the steps of the building and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, shepherded the students' way by ordering them onto sidewalks from the middle of streets around the State College campus.

Support for Paterno among Penn State's trustees Tuesday was said to be drying up, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach's 46-year career as head coach in the wake of charges announced over the weekend that Sandusky molested eight young boys between 1994 and 2009.

A source with knowledge of internal discussions at Penn State told "Outside the Lines" reporter Steve Delsohn that "the support on the board of trustees for Joe is eroding."

"But what that means and how much that support has eroded remains to be seen," the source said.

The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the trustees' discussions, said it was unclear what the consequences for Paterno will be.

Penn State president Graham Spanier also has lost support among the trustees ahead of Friday's board meeting, the person said, although precisely how much has been unclear.

Late Tuesday, however, a source close to the situation told ESPN's Joe Schad that the board has weighed the possibility of having former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge replace the embattled Spanier.

While praising Spanier's tenure at Penn State, an official of the American Council on Education, said, "The central issue for the board, which is charged with preserving and protecting the institution, is not the rearview mirror."

"It's the institution going forward," added Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the council, the main umbrella organization representing colleges and universities nationally.

Much of the criticism surrounding Paterno has concerned his apparent failure to follow up on a report of a 2002 incident, in which Sandusky allegedly attacked a 10-year-old boy in the showers at the team's football complex. The eyewitness, identifed by sources as Mike McQueary, is currently receivers coach for the team who was a graduate assistant at the time.

McQueary told Paterno about the incident the next day, and the coach notified Curley and Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier. Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to authorities, as required by state law.

[+] EnlargeTBD
AP Photo/Ralph WilsonJoe Paterno, center, is escorted from his home to Penn State football practice Tuesday. At left is his son, Scott, who said his father will answer questions "when he's got the right opportunity."

Both men, as well as Paterno, testified that they were told that Sandusky behaved inappropriately in that 2002 incident, but not to the extent of the grad assistant's graphic account to a state grand jury.

The same grand jury decided the testimony from Curley and Schultz, whose job at the time also gave him oversight of the campus police, were not believable. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said Paterno is not a target of the investigation, although the state police commissioner has chastised him and other Penn State officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

"As you know, the kids that were the victims, I think we ought to say a prayer for them," Paterno said Tuesday night.

Sandusky, once thought of as the coach's likely successor, was arrested Saturday on 40 counts of criminal sexual abuse involving eight boys -- a ninth alleged victim came forward Tuesday. Sandusky's initial hearing in the case has been delayed until Dec. 7.

Paterno was met by a media horde as he left his home for football practice Tuesday and said he wanted to talk. "I know you guys have a lot of questions. We'll try to do it as soon as we can," he said before being whisked into a car.

Paterno's son, Scott, said his father was disappointed over the decision by Spanier to cancel his regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday and said he was attempting to organize a press conference for his father on Wednesday. He said Joe had wanted to answer questions about Sandusky -- who maintains he is innocent -- and further that his father plans to coach not only Saturday's game against Nebraska, but for the long haul.

During the raucous rally outside Paterno's home Tuesday night, he appeared briefly, along with some family members, and thanked the crowd for coming.

"It's hard for me to say how much this means," the coach said. "I've lived for this place. I've lived for people like you guys and girls."

Asked if he were still coach, Paterno didn't answer but a young woman who stood with her arm around him replied: "Now is not the time."

After the rally, a portion of the crowd went to stand guard by Paterno's statue at Beaver Stadium before marching to Old Main, the school's administration building. Students walked onto College Avenue before being moved off the street by police wearing riot gear, and they reassembled at Old Main as their numbers swelled into the thousands.

Around 11:30 p.m., the crowd marched back to Beaver Stadium, where several thousand gathered around the Paterno statue until well after midnight. Other than a few overturned garbage cans by the stadium, the demonstrations appeared to be mostly peaceful.

Earlier on Tuesday, Scott Paterno said his father hadn't spoken with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down.

Trustee David Joyner said he was unaware if any decision had been made on Paterno's future.

"No one has asked Joe to resign," Scott Paterno told The AP in a text message.

Meanwhile, a ninth potential victim has contacted authorities.

The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky's arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, which first reported that the man had come forward, said he is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from the former coach's The Second Mile charity and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.

Young declined to release the man's name or provide details about what he claims occurred.

The Patriot-News published a rare full, front-page editorial Tuesday calling for this season to be Paterno's last and for Spanier to resign immediately.

"There are the obligations we all have to uphold the law. There are then the obligations we all have to do what is right," the editorial board wrote about Spanier's role in the sex-abuse scandal, along with Paterno's.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in an editorial, also called on Paterno and Spanier to both resign.

A person familiar with Sandusky's relationship with Penn State told The Associated Press that the former coach long maintained an office in the East Area Locker building which is across the street from the Penn State football team's building, and was on campus as recently as a week ago working out.

The university's online directory listed Sandusky -- whom Penn State officials said was banned from campus over the weekend -- as an assistant professor emeritus of physical education in the Lasch building.

The grand jury investigating Sandusky found that he was given the office, a parking pass and other amenities as part of his 1999 retirement package.

Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan said Monday in Harrisburg that Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he relayed to university administrators that a graduate assistant had seen Sandusky attacking a young boy in the team's locker room shower in 2002. But the commissioner also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more.

"Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child," Noonan said.

"I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."

State Gov. Corbett, who along with three of his Cabinet secretaries is an ex-officio member of Penn State's board, at Friday's meeting could end his public silence about the probe that he initiated and oversaw as attorney general before he became governor in January, press secretary Kevin Harley said.

"He is very much involved, but at this point does not think it's appropriate for him to make any public statements, but that may change later on this week," Harley said.

Any discussions Corbett has had with other trustees will remain private for the time being, Harley said.

Through Harley, Corbett declined to say whether Spanier or Paterno should be fired or forced out.

Jerry Sandusky's son, Jon, is the director of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns. Jon Sandusky will remain in his role and not take a leave of absence, as was initially expected, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Browns said Jon Sandusky does not intend to comment about any aspects of the scandal at Penn State.

In a related development, a Philadelphia-area congressman called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to investigate whether Penn State violated a federal law requiring colleges and universities to report campus crime in its handling of the Sandusky allegations.

"The failure to report the 2002 allegations would appear to break Penn State's own reporting methods for sexual abuse on campus," wrote Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., in a letter to Duncan. "Had the 2002 allegations been properly reported, investigated and disclosed, the later instances of abuse could have been prevented and future victims protected."

Information from ESPN.com's Brian Bennett, ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE