Penn State reaches financial settlement with Joe Paterno’s family

Penn State and the Paterno family have buried the hatchet, according to a pair of statements released jointly Friday.

Sue Paterno, widow of longtime former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, said the eight years since the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal came to light “have been difficult.”

Sandusky was charged, convicted and sentenced to decades in prison for sexually abusing boys during and after his stint as Joe Paterno’s assistant coach.

On Friday, it was announced that the Paternos have dropped all outstanding legal claims and that the university would cover certain expenses incurred by the family.

The Paterno family and members of the Penn State community filed a lawsuit in May 2013 in an effort to get the NCAA’s severe sanctions against the university overturned.

Penn State lost scholarships and victories, and had to pay a $60 million fine in punishment levied by the NCAA. A settlement was reached in 2015 that restored Paterno’s and Penn State’s 111 victories, and restored their scholarships. Paterno’s 409 wins remain the most all-time by a major college football coach.

Joe Paterno was removed as coach on Nov. 8, 2011, when the Board of Trustees voted to dismiss him immediately instead of having him finish the season as he proposed. Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and he died of complications from the disease on Jan. 22, 2012.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh was hired by the university to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal and Penn State officials’ involvement in it.

Both statements issued Friday referred to the Freeh Report.

“Many differing reports and statements have been issued with respect to the events that have unfolded at Penn State over the last decade,” Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Dambly said for Penn State. “Many of those reports and statements, including the Freeh Report, contain opinions about individuals and matters that are not shared by the university.”

Sue Paterno was more direct in her language and made the report a focal point in her statement.

“The last eight years have been difficult, made more so by the opinions in the Freeh Report, which my family and I believe was deeply flawed, reached unsupported conclusions about Joe and unjustly criticized the culture of Penn State,” she said. “The university has made clear that Mr. Freeh’s opinions about Joe were never endorsed by Penn State. By confirming this position and reaching this understanding, the leadership of Penn State has acted in the best interests of the university, and for this I am grateful.”

Both statements also reflect the hope that Penn State and the Paterno family can move forward with this resolution, and will not revisit the past.

“Building on the strong foundation established by hundreds of thousands of alumni and supporters, including Joe, his coaches and players, I want to help create a new chapter of opportunity for students and faculty,” Sue Paterno wrote. “We will not support any public or private advocacy efforts to revisit the past, through further review or release of the discredited Freeh Report, Freeh’s materials, or otherwise.

“It is time to come together and devote our energies solely to education, research, and the advancement of one of America’s great institutions of higher learning.”

The Paternos have long supported efforts to improve Penn State’s academic facilities, including donating millions to the school to improve the library.

“(Sue Paterno’s) unwavering devotion to Joe, her family and Penn State remains an inspiration to all of us,” Dambly’s statement reads. “As time passed and controversies lingered, she always acted with grace and dignity. She also never stopped working in behalf of the greater good for Penn State.

“Penn State is grateful for their decades of devoted service.”

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