Former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno said he “didn’t know exactly how to handle it” after an assistant coach alleged in 2002 that he saw retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy.
Paterno, in his first public comments since being fired two months ago, told the Washington Post “I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was.”
“So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did,” the 85-year-old, who won a record 409 games during his 46 years at Penn State, said. “It didn’t work out that way.”
Sandusky, 67, was initially charged with 40 criminal counts tied to alleged sexual molestation of eight boys from 1994 to 2009. He has denied the charges.
Paterno told the Post that assistant Mike McQueary “didn’t want to get specific” with details of his allegation against Sandusky, who he said was showering with a young boy in the Penn State football locker room. Paterno then referred the matter to university officials.
“I just did what I thought was best,” Paterno said. “I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”
Paterno and President Graham B. Spanier, 68, were both fired Nov. 9 for their inaction. Neither has been charged. Spanier, who was president of the university for 16 years after being chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is a sociologist and a marriage and family therapist.
Athletic Director Timothy Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, a senior vice president who oversaw university police and finances, were charged with perjury and failing to report McQueary’s allegations. Curley and Schultz, who remain free on bail, have denied the charges.