Coaches at Penn State with Sandusky find selves on defense
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Newly disclosed allegations from men who have accused Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse raise fresh questions about what his fellow Penn State assistant coaches might have seen or known in the decades before his November 2011 arrest, and why they’ve largely stayed silent since.
Sandusky’s former colleagues found themselves on the defensive this week because of claims in court documents that some of the couple of dozen assistants who spent time in the program while he was there may have witnessed Sandusky abusing children as far back as the 1980s.
Aside from blanket denials made through lawyers and spokespeople, the former assistants who worked alongside Sandusky have said little publicly about the scandal.
“These guys are very sensitive to their employment. It’s not easy to go out and replace a half-million-dollar income,” said Penn State Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who is close with the family of the late head football coach Joe Paterno. “I get why they’re not standing in front of a microphone screaming from the top of their lungs.”
Three of the four coaches named in newly released depositions given by men who reached settlements with Penn State made statements this week denying claims that they witnessed or were aware of Sandusky’s abuse. The fourth coach, Joe Sarra, died four years ago.
The Paterno family’s lawyer issued a statement last week casting doubt on a bombshell claim in the documents that a boy told Paterno in 1976 that Sandusky had abused him and that Paterno didn’t want to hear about it.
Paterno told a grand jury in 2011 he first learned of Sandusky’s conduct in 2001, when then-assistant coach Mike McQueary went to him after seeing Sandusky assaulting a boy in a team shower.
Sandusky coached for Paterno for three decades starting in 1969, leading staunch defenses that helped win two national titles in the 1980s.
He founded a charity for at-risk children in 1977 and was often seen around the football facility with young boys, sometimes taking them on the road to big games. Even after his 1999 retirement, Sandusky kept an office on campus and had access to a staff locker room.
“When we saw the pictures of those kids on the sidelines at bowl games — I know it was hindsight, but it looked odd,” said Duquesne Law professor Wes Oliver, who has followed the case closely. “The assistant coaches saw all that and more.”
But, Oliver added: “Suspicious behavior is, of course, one thing. Actual acts are something else. One could imagine a natural reluctance to speak out about merely suspicious behavior.”
Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse.
His 2012 trial covered abuse dating to the mid-1990s, but Penn State has acknowledged it later settled with a man who said he was abused in 1971. That man is among 32 people who have shared $92 million in civil settlements from the university.
McQueary, a key prosecution witness at Sandusky’s trial, gave a deposition last year in which he claimed former assistant coach Tom Bradley “said he knew of some things” about Sandusky dating to the early 1980s.
McQueary, who is pursuing a defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State, said Bradley told him former assistant coach Greg Schiano went to him in the early 1990s “white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower.”
A lawyer for Bradley, now UCLA’s defensive coordinator, said he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior, and has no knowledge of alleged incidents in the 1980s and 1990s.
The lawyer, Brett Senior, declined to answer questions, saying “this thing’s gone on too long” and “it’s all been asked and answered.”
Schiano, now Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, tweeted that he never saw abuse or had any reason to suspect it while working at Penn State.
Lawyer Tom Kline, whose client testified against Sandusky and later settled with Penn State, encouraged former coaches to “come forward and clear the air.”
“The passage of time can be convenient for a claim of a failed recollection, but the things that we’re talking about are not things which escape the recollection, even over decades,” Kline said.
One former assistant coach who has spoken up since Sandusky’s arrest said coaches sometimes showered alongside Sandusky and boys.
Dick Anderson, who also played with Sandusky at Penn State in the 1960s, testified at his trial that “on occasion, over the years” he would see Sandusky showering with boys.
Jay Paterno, the coach’s son who also was on the Penn State coaching staff, wrote in a column this week that the coaches have been forthcoming in statements to police, lawyers in civil cases and reporters, as well as for the university-commissioned Freeh report.
“Coaches turned over cellphones, email accounts, computers and iPads, and what did they find to reveal some vast conspiracy spanning decades?” he wrote. “Nothing.”
Sisak reported from Philadelphia.