Count Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien among those who spent part of Thursday reading the Freeh report.
O’Brien, who was hired in January, plans to use the 267-page report as a guide when handling matters involving the football program.
“I am carefully reading the report and recommendations with respect to the football department, including any gaps that may exist to identify what changes can and should be made,” O’Brien said in an athletic department statement. “I stand with the University leadership in a shared commitment to driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels and within all units of our institution. We can and must do better.”
The report criticizes former coach Joe Paterno’s role in handling the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Paterno served as the Nittany Lions coach for 41 years before being fired in November. Paterno died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, which was 15 days after O’Brien’s hiring.
O’Brien purged most of Paterno’s staff, only keeping defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden. Neither assistant was mentioned in the report or has been linked to the scandal and alleged cover-up.
Jay Paterno, one of Paterno’s three sons and former Penn State quarterbacks coach, spent Thursday defending his father and the football program in multiple national media interviews.
“I think everybody has to keep some things in perspective,” Jay Paterno said on ESPN. “This is not a legal document in any way. This is a much lower bar and burden of proof. It’s really an opinion. There are no new facts in here after 3 million documents and 400-plus interviews. There are really no new facts. It’s just some interpretation of things.”
Still, the findings of the Freeh report stunned former players.
“Rest in peace, Joe Paterno,” said Quintus McDonald, a letterwinner from 1985-88. “But what we all have to realize is that we’re all human beings and we all have faults. Joe’s fault obviously was that he looked at his legacy above the welfare of those children.”
Some former players were too stunned to offer immediate comments.
“I’m kind of in the process of putting my thoughts together,” former tight Mickey Shuler Sr. when reached by the Centre Daily Times.
Outspoken former linebacker LaVar Arrington was one of the first players to react to the Freeh report.
“It’s sad and unfortunate that things weren’t handled differently,” Arrington told 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C.
Paterno wasn’t the only university employee blasted in the report. Athletic director Tim Curley, former university president Graham Spanier and former vice president for finance Gary Schultz were also heavily criticized in the independent investigation.
The report said the quartet “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade,” and concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, university community and authorities.
“There’s so much it’s really hard to grasp one thing,” former All-American Matt Millen said on ESPN. “There are so many things in here. In its simplest form, the thing that strikes me is the failure of leadership on a lot of levels and there’s a lot of blame and a lot of people to take that blame. It’s just the enormity of the whole thing.
“You thought that’s how it was going to play out, but you were hoping that it wouldn’t. But now that you are confronted with opinion based on fact, it kind of makes it a little tougher.”
The task of distancing the football program from the scandal now falls to O’Brien, who spent last year as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator. O’Brien was hired by acting athletic director Dave Joyner and he has spent the past six months trying to restore trust in the football program.
“I look forward to doing my part to ensure we emerge stronger than before,” O’Brien said in the statement.