Report: Joe Paterno reworked deal

Updated: July 15, 2012, 3:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Veteran Penn State football coach Joe Paterno began talks that resulted in a sweetened retirement contract in the same month that he testified before a grand jury in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case, according to a published report.

Paterno and the university reached agreement on the amended contract that eventually totaled $5.5 million last August, months before charges were filed against Sandusky, but they began negotiating in January 2011, The New York Times reported Saturday.

According to the report, not all members of the board of trustees were informed of the new package before the scandal engulfed the university.

The amended contract, which was reported on by The Associated Press in April, included a $3 million career bonus if Paterno retired at the end of the 2011 season, as well as forgiveness of $250,000 in outstanding indebtedness and an additional $100,000 in loans.

The package also included access to a stadium box for his family for 25 years as well as parking privileges and access to on-campus hydrotherapy equipment for his wife.

The newspaper cited university records in saying Paterno first broached the idea of revisiting his contact in January 2011, the same month he made a brief appearance before the grand jury, and some top university officials had also testified before the panel before the agreement was reached in August.

But the paper, citing "people with knowledge of the events," said details of the agreement were known to a handful of board members but not shared with the full board, which only learned about the lucrative contract when Sandusky was arrested in November and two university officials were charged.

Paterno then publicly announced he would retire at the end of the season in a statement that also told school trustees to focus their attention on other matters.

"I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can," Paterno said at the time. "This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Trustees, who agreed Paterno had not done enough to stop the abuse, fired him later that same day, a decision that was followed by rioting in State College. Paterno died of lung cancer in January of this year at age 85. Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 counts of having molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers told the Times on Friday that it was Penn State that proposed the lucrative retirement package, and that many elements such as the luxury box and use by Paterno of a private aircraft had existed in previous contracts.

Asked Friday if the university planned to try to recover money from the Paterno estate, trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said, "Contracts are contracts, and no, there's no plan to do that."

While the university may not go after money paid to the Paterno estate, it is working to update the football program's on-campus image, literally.

On Saturday, artist Michael Pilato removed a halo he had added to Paterno's image on a large mural in State College after the coach died in January. He said he usually puts a halo over one of his subjects when they die, but felt after the release of the report it should be removed in Paterno's case.

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but I'm glad I did it," he told The Associated Press.

Instead, Pilato added a large blue ribbon on Paterno's lapel symbolizing support for child abuse victims -- an idea he said Paterno endorsed before his death. Pilato earlier removed Sandusky from the mural. He said he hasn't made a decision on the image of Spanier but will make some kind of change.

"People are doing it for me pretty much -- there's eggs being thrown at him, and different things like that," he said. "I was thinking about putting a blindfold on him or something."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.