Joe Paterno’s widow, Sue, issued a statement Saturday striking back at the NCAA’s take on the lawsuit being dropped by the longtime Penn State coach’s family, opening the door to the release of all discovery from the case.
The Paterno estate brought the lawsuit against the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in 2013.
Paterno won his 409th victory on Oct. 29, 2011. It would be his last game, a 10-7 win over Illinois that broke a record, making the guy in cuffed khakis and black shoes the winningest coach in college football.
A week later, the team had a bye week and retired defensive coordinator Sandusky was arrested. Before the next game, Paterno was fired by Penn State. The university hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an independent investigation, and court documents in a separate case showed that the NCAA was in contact with Freeh’s people as early as November 2011 about that investigation, which it would ultimately use as a basis for historic sanctions announced in 2012, including stripping Paterno of his wins and record.
The Paterno estate sued the NCAA over its use of the Freeh report, claiming it damaged the estate’s commercial interests.
“The Paterno family characterized this case as a ‘search for the truth,’ ” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, in a statement Friday when the Paternos voluntarily dropped their case. “Its decision today, after years of investigation and discovery, to abandon its lawsuit rather than subject those facts to courtroom examination is telling. We believe that the powerful record developed during discovery overwhelmingly confirmed what the NCAA has believed all along: The NCAA acted reasonably in adopting the conclusions of an eight-month investigation by Louis Freeh.”
Sue Paterno did not agree.
She cited a report from state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on June 22. In a press conference, DePasquale had harsh words for the NCAA, calling it worse than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee in terms of corruption. He also took aim at Penn State for hiring Freeh rather than permitting an outside agency to conduct a more independent investigation.
“More specifically, he stated that the NCAA’s actions manifested an apparent ‘vendetta’ against Penn State. That vendetta, and the NCAA’s propensity to distort matters to improve its image, once again manifested itself in its statement yesterday,” Sue Paterno said in her statement.
She also refuted Remy’s suggestion that the timing of the dismissal was to avoid a 100-page filing from the NCAA becoming public.
The NCAA’s implication that the litigation was ceased out of a fear of discovery being revealed is absurd on its face.
“The NCAA’s implication that the litigation was ceased out of a fear of discovery being revealed is absurd on its face,” she said. “At every stage of this litigation we have sought to make a complete record available. As recently as three weeks ago, the NCAA successfully kept the evidence in this matter under seal. It was this reality — that we could not make these records available for public inspection — coupled with the financial burden of private individuals facing a billion-dollar entity with limitless funds that prompted the ending of the litigation.”
Sue Paterno said she had hoped her statement about the dismissal Friday would have been the last time she spoke about it.
We do not oppose the complete release of the discovery in this case, and support any effort for that record to be made public in its entirety.
“But given the NCAA’s statement, we felt this response was necessary,” she said. “So, with that in mind, we wish to make the following clear: We do not oppose the complete release of the discovery in this case, and support any effort for that record to be made public in its entirety. We have seen enough half-truths in this matter, a complete record of all discovery would be welcome.”
The Paterno family has continued to be a part of the Penn State community since the coach’s death in January 2012, including involvement in fundraising events for the university and events held on campus like the Paterno Beaver Stadium Run on Blue White Weekend to benefit Special Olympics.
On July 20, son Jay Paterno, a former Penn State quarterback and quarterbacks coach under his dad, will take his seat at his first meetings as an alumni-elected trustee on the university’s board.