Penn State University's Board of Trustees gave former FBI director Louis Freeh complete independence as he investigated the child sex abuse scandal that shattered the image of Happy Valley.
"No one is above scrutiny," trustee Kenneth C. Frazier said in announcing the probe last year. "(Freeh) has complete rein to follow any lead, to look into any corner of the university to get to the bottom of what happened and then to make recommendations to ensure that it never happens again."
The result was an exhaustive, 267-page report released Thursday. It was based on 430 interviews with employees, former employees and people associated with Penn State, as well as analysis of more than 3.5 million electronic data and documents.
How was Jerry Sandusky able to continue molesting at least 10 young boys over 15 years, sometimes on school property?
A janitor summed it up best.
Asked by Freeh's investigators why he didn't report an incident involving Sandusky and a boy of about 12, he said, "Football runs this university."
"I know (football Coach Joe) Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I'd be gone," the janitor said.
According to Freeh's report, that scenario wasn't at all implausible.
The investigation found, and faulted, "A culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained on all levels of the community."
It was to protect the reputation of that program and the university as a whole that the four most powerful men at Penn State -- former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz, former athletic director Tim Curley and Paterno -- "concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities."
"These individuals, unchecked by Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University's facilities and affiliation with the University's prominent football program," according to the report.
"Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims."
The evidence provided in the report is damning.
E-mails recovered by Freeh's investigators show that after the 2001 incident reported by then-grad assistant Mike McQueary, Spanier, Schultz and Curley initially planned to report Sandusky to the state Department of Child Welfare.
But Curley later said in an email that he changed his mind about the plan "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe." Spanier concurred but noted "the only downside for us is if the message isn't (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."
The exchange shows these men were aware of the seriousness of the allegation, their responsibility to report and the repercussions for failing to do so.
But what struck the investigators the most, according to the report, was the "total disregard" for Sandusky's victims.
It's nothing short of shameful.
Freeh's Special Investigative Counsel made 120 recommendations to prevent another such tragedy -- first and foremost being a change in the Penn State culture that set the stage for the abuse.
With the four main targets of the report gone and the replacement of several trustees, we're hopeful that change has already begun.
But the investigation makes clear it's going to be a long process, involving the entire university community.