EDITORIAL: New report by Paterno's supporters only serves to harm Penn State's reputation
In their hearts, they believe they are right.
They believe that the Freeh Report is unreliable.
They believe they are acting in the best interests of a university they love.
They believe that the legendary coach they admired has been unjustly vilified.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong.
They, in this case, are five current and two former alumni-elected members of the Penn State Board of Trustees. They are longtime defenders of famed football coach Joe Paterno and they are challenging a 2012 university-commissioned investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
That probe was led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and it concluded that high-ranking administrators and Paterno hushed up the Sandusky scandal to avoid bad publicity.
The new report: In a new 109-page counter-report that was revealed last week, the seven current or former trustees said their own review of documents found that the Freeh Report was tainted by improper contacts with the university, the NCAA and state and federal law enforcement.
The new report also argues it’s implausible Paterno and administrators would have knowingly exposed children to harm by letting a pedophile roam freely on campus.
“The Freeh investigation yielded no compelling support for this absurd premise, and in fact yielded extensive information that disconfirmed this idea,” they wrote.
To no one’s surprise, Freeh strongly disputed the new report's findings, calling it “misguided, tilted, dishonest and biased.”
The alumni-elected trustees had not been able to persuade the full board to make their report public before it was posted online by WJAC-TV in Johnstown. So, it’s evident that this new report represents a minority viewpoint among the PSU trustees.
In fact, in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer, PSU President Eric Barron and Mark Dambly, chair of the trustees board, said the report “does not represent the position or opinions of the Penn State Board of Trustees or the university in any way.”
They called its release a “reprehensible” step that would undermine a culture where Penn State employees can confidentially report wrongdoing.
That’s not surprising. The Freeh Report was an exhaustive and thorough look at a scandal that rocked Happy Valley. Like any report of that scope, detractors can nitpick isolated findings.
Still, the Freeh Report’s conclusions aided in the criminal convictions of former PSU President Graham Spanier, former PSU Athletic Director Tim Curley and former PSU Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Shultz.
The Freeh Report’s general findings, by any unbiased measure, are grounded in facts.
Doing a disservice to PSU: The backers of the new report obviously disagree. Even if they are right (which they aren’t), they're still doing a disservice to the university they love.
Every time the “Joe-bots” rally anew in support of the longtime coach, its gives fresh meat to the Penn State detractors to roast the university in columns and editorials and on social media. It only serves to further damage the university’s national reputation and hinders the school in its efforts to move beyond the scandal in a healthy, responsible manner.
Finally, the real reason for this new report is simple. Its supporters desperately want to restore Paterno’s tarnished image.
That ship, however, has long since sailed. You can't turn back the clock. Paterno is dead, and even when he was alive he admitted he wished he would have done more to prevent Sandusky's heinous acts.
A new report can only rehash the sordid past. It can’t change Paterno’s image.
Most of all, it can only serve to harm the university that Paterno's supporters claim to love.