As is often the case when scandals of this magnitude are uncovered, the reputation that Penn State and former football coach Joe Paterno spent decades building together continues to be torn to shreds.
Thursday’s Freeh report uncovered that the longtime coach was aware of a 1998 investigation of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky related to “grooming” a victim for sexual abuse, something Paterno lied about as recently as this past January in a Washington Post interview.
Based on the internal investigation initiated by the school’s Board of Trustees last November, Paterno and several high-ranking university officials knew what Sandusky was doing and failed to take proper measures against it for over a decade.
Now, a New York Times story reports that Paterno and PSU officials were working through contract negotiations in 2011 even though the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office was investigating Sandusky again for child-sex abuse, and that Paterno had already testified in front of the grand jury.
According to the story, Paterno knew in January, 2011, that prosecutors were investigating Sandusky. That same month, Paterno began negotiating his contract, which was not set to expire until the end of 2012, with his bosses. By August, 2011, Paterno and former university president Graham Spanier reportedly reached an agreement.
That agreement was to pay Paterno $3 million to retire at the end of the ’11 season, roughly $2 million more than what he reportedly earned every year in salary before other incentives. Other details said to be included were the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family for the next 25 years. Additionally, $350,000 in interest-free loans to Paterno would be forgiven as part of the deal.
The Times reports that a majority of the board “was kept in the dark about the arrangement” until November. When the Sandusky scandal broke open that month, Paterno told the trustees he would retire on his own following the end of the season, even though that was already the apparent agreement. He never got that chance, as he and Spanier were fired shortly thereafter.
What reportedly followed was a back and forth both among trustees, as well as the board and the Paterno family, over the details of the contract. “There were some who argued that it was unseemly to pay the remainder of the money and other perks owed to Mr. Paterno,” the Times reports. “They wondered whether, given Mr. Paterno’s failings, it might be possible to nullify the contract, or at least renegotiate it and reduce the payout.
“Others worried about the hostility they would face if they tried to strip Mr. Paterno, still beloved in many quarters of the campus, of money that he was contractually owed — a prospect that grew even more worrisome after he died on Jan. 22 this year.”
Eventually, the Paterno family got almost everything it wanted, except for the aforementioned private plane and luxury box (it was offered the choice of two others), in a package worth reportedly around $5.5 million in April.
“We were providing for payments due under the contract,” said Frank T. Guadagnino, a lawyer hired by the board in November, to the Times. “So we weren’t really negotiating.”
Board chair Karen Peetz said Friday after a meeting that there is no timeline for removing Paterno’s name and likeness from multiple areas around the university’s campus.