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The Paterno Family’s Response to the Freeh Report

February 9, 2013

Paternos Joe and SueIt has been a little over a year since the Penn State lost Joe Paterno to cancer.  Those of us who knew the truth of who Paterno was were heartbroken and continue to miss him.

We had to sit by and watch while the world’s media outlets tried to tear down this man, this pillar of Penn State, while they linked him to the Sandusky scandal.  We had to watch while one paid-for, faulty report was taken as gospel without any fact-checking or basic journalistic principles.  All of the major media networks, along with smaller outlets, personal blogs, and venomous commenters swallowed the Freeh Report whole and without question.

Now, one year later, the Paterno family is ready to respond.

Unlike the rush-to-judgement media, Penn State’s Board of Trustees, and the NCAA, the Paterno family acted rationally and responsibly.  They took the time to investigate and find out the truth.  They stayed out of the spotlight, much like Joe tried to do throughout his life.  They mourned their loss privately, but took steps to seek the truth.

Tomorrow, however, they will publicly respond with the results of their investigation.  Joe’s wife, Sue Paterno, has sent this letter to all former Penn State lettermen.  The lettermen have asked that it be shared publicly.

February 8, 2013

Dear Christian,

For the past fourteen months I have refrained from commenting publicly about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the related actions by the Board of Trustees, Louis Freeh, the President of Penn State and the NCAA. There have been many times, of course, when I wanted to speak out, but I needed time to deal with the loss of Joe and I believed also that this was a situation that demanded careful, thoughtful, objective analysis. The last thing Joe would have wanted is for me to become just one more voice making claims and assertions that were unsupported by the facts.

The crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky are heartbreaking. As a mother of 5 and grandmother of 17, it is incomprehensible to me that anyone could intentionally harm a child. I think of the victims daily and I pray that God will heal their wounds and comfort their souls.

As this story unfolded, Joe and I believed strongly that the first priority must be to uncover the full truth. Despite the Board of Trustees’ rash and irresponsible decision to fire Joe without ever speaking with him, we remained hopeful that the investigation they initiated with Mr. Freeh, along with simultaneous investigations by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Second Mile and other entities, would produce a clear and comprehensive record of what transpired. We also hoped that these investigations would result in an actionable set of lessons that other institutions could use to help prevent similar tragedies from unfolding. Sadly, neither outcome has developed.

When the Freeh report was released last July, I was as shocked as anyone by the findings and by Mr. Freeh’s extraordinary attack on Joe’s character and integrity. I did not recognize the man Mr. Freeh described. I am here to tell you as definitively and forcefully as I know how that Mr. Freeh could not have been more wrong in his assessment of Joe. I knew Joe Paterno as well as one human being can know another. Joe was exactly the moral, disciplined and demanding man you knew him to be. Over the years I watched as he struggled with countless personal and professional challenges. Never – not once – did I see him compromise his principles or twist the truth to avoid bad publicity or protect his reputation. Joe was tough, sometimes difficult, always opinionated and extremely demanding. He was also scrupulously honest, rigidly moral and absolutely unafraid of the consequences of doing the right thing.

After the Freeh report was released I knew immediately that the situation demanded further review. Unfortunately, the Board’s response was to panic again. They embraced the report without reviewing it. They never met with Mr. Freeh or his investigators. They asked no questions and challenged no assertions. Although they never officially voted to accept the report, they endorsed its findings and allowed the NCAA to impose unprecedented sanctions. To claim that this ill-considered and rash process served the victims and the university is a grave error. Only the truth serves the victims. Only the truth can help prevent this sort of crime from occurring again.

Although it was not something I ever imagined doing, I directed my lawyer, Wick Sollers, of the King & Spalding firm in Washington DC, to undertake a review of the Freeh report and Joe’s actions. I told him to engage the best, most respected experts, to take whatever time he needed and to go wherever the facts led. Sunday morning at 9am we are releasing the full Report by Wick and his team of experts. The report and additional information will be available at

I will not attempt in this letter to summarize the Report of the experts except to say that they unreservedly and forcefully confirm my beliefs about Joe’s conduct. In addition, they present a passionate and persuasive critique of the Freeh report as a total disservice to the victims of Sandusky and the cause of preventing child sex offenses. I hope you can take the time to review the report and share it with friends and family.

In closing, I want to address two issues that have come up frequently over the last year. First, some critics say it is no longer appropriate for me or my family to comment further on this case and that the Freeh report and the actions of the NCAA should close the book on the Sandusky scandal. This cannot happen. The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events.

Second, there has been endless speculation about what my family and I ultimately want to achieve. Is it the return of the statue? The restoration of Joe’s wins? His name on the football stadium? On this point I also want to be clear. Joe Paterno’s legacy wasn’t a statue, a winning record or public adulation. He was grateful for the many accolades he received but he never believed they defined his life. His legacy is his family and you his players. How you live your life speaks louder than any report. The great fathers, husbands and citizens you have become fulfill the dreams Joe had. All that we want – and what I believe we owe the victims, Joe Paterno and everyone who cares about Penn State – is the full record of what happened. On this point, I know the advice Joe would give. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid. Do the right thing. And make sure your actions serve the greater good. This is the path I will continue to follow.

I thank you for your support and kindness. My heart and home will always be open to you.



Paterno statueThe time has come to learn the truth.  And I, for one, cannot wait.

Tune into ESPN Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 9:00 am (EST) to “Outside the Lines” for the release of the Paterno family Counter Report to the Freeh Report

Read More on the Center Daily Times.

Sue Paterno will also be on the Katie Couric show discussing the Paterno family’s findings on Monday, February 11 at 3:00PM EST on ABC.

"They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write that I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."

“They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write that I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”

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