A new twist in the Joe Paterno saga has been uncovered, one that could have a lasting impact on the legacy of one of the most revered – and, in some cases, despised – college football coaches of all time. According to reports, Paterno was told in 1976 that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a child – some 35 years before Sandusky’s arrest.
Jay Paterno – JoePa’s son – has maintained his father’s innocence since the Sandusky story made national headlines in 2011. He did so then, and he does so now.
“Well, I think the thing people have to understand first and foremost is they are allegations,” Jay Paterno said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Nothing has been proven. Even the judge is saying these are unsubstantiated. So they are what they are: they’re allegations. But the truth of the matter is there’s no evidence to support them. And really, for four-and-a-half years, there’s been allegation after allegation made against Joe Paterno, they’ve been reported as fact, and once the digger deeping into evidence has happened, they’ve all been proven to be false – and these will, too.”
Penn State, however, paid legal settlements to Sandusky’s accusers for abuse that allegedly occurred as early as 1971, when Sandusky was in his mid-20s.
“The university’s legal sub-committee, they believed it was going to be faster and cheaper to write checks,” Paterno said. “Keep in mind there was not a strenuous vetting of these claims, and in their haste to put things behind them and the NCAA’s recklessness in the sanctions, they cerated collateral damage for Penn Staters, the football program and Joe Paterno. One of the things I think people have to understand is Penn State never put any of these people coming forward to make claims under oath. That’s part of the reason they’re having trouble with the insurance company and this lawsuit. There was not a strenuous vetting. To say that the ’71 case is proven by the fact that Penn State paid them, that’s not accurate in the court of law. Even the president of the university (Eric Barron) issued a statement (Sunday) basically saying that there was no evidence to support the claims against Joe Paterno they have seen – and they have seen all that evidence from the insurance depositions, from the settlements and the claims. So they actually have more access to that information than we do from a legal standpoint, and they came to that conclusion.”
Paterno, who grew up around the program and played for Penn State from 1986-90, said he “never witnessed Jerry doing anything.” The same is apparently true for his father.
“Joe told me in 2011 when this story broke that the first and only time that anything was brought to his attention was in 2001, when Mike McQueary came to him,” Paterno said. “Now, Joe Paterno has been nothing in his life if not honest and has integrity. He’s not perfect, and I’m not trying to make him saint-like or god-like. But I think one of the the things we have to do is you have to look at the way someone has lived their entire life, and everything Joe Paterno has done in his life – again, not perfect – but he’s erred on the side of integrity and doing what’s right. To insinuate or try to believe that he would know about something as far back as 1971 and 1976, and allow his own children – myself included – to be around Jerry and his family, to be in the pool with Jerry, be at his house, to then promote Jerry Sandusky to defensive coordinator in 1977, to then allow Jerry Sandusky to start a statewide charity to be around children while he supposedly knew this, it goes completely counter to the way the guy lived his entire life. It would have been very easy for him if something was brought to his attention in 1971 to get rid of Jerry. He was a first- or second-year assistant coach. There would have been no big scandal over him doing this. So it goes against everything that you know about Joe Paterno and no proof has been offered by anybody to substantiate these claims he was told.”