Penn State Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Peetz, responding to a damning report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal, said Thursday the board accepts "full responsibility for the failures that occurred" and vowed to work with the school's administration to make sure such events never happen again.
Penn State University President Rodney Erickson speaks Thursday as Chairman of the Board of Trustees Karen B. Peetz listens at a news conference in Scranton.
Peetz addressed the news media in Scranton, Pa., on the eve of Friday's regularly scheduled board meeting at Penn State's Scranton campus and was joined by President Rodney Erickson and board member Kenneth Frazier, chair of the board's special investigation task force, USA Today reported.
Former FBI Director Freeh made the report of his eight-month investigation public earlier Thursday and said the board did not perform its necessary oversight duties in the case, which let senior university officials, including former President Graham Spanier and the late football coach, Joe Paterno, conceal Sandusky's crimes.
Peetz and Frazier acknowledged that board members did not ask the right questions of Spanier and allowed him to frame the case as less grave than it turned out to be. "We did not press the issue," Frazier said.
Peetz, who became chair in January, two months after Sandusky was arrested, said board members should have had "their antennae up" when a newspaper report concerning the state attorney general's investigation of Sandusky was published in the spring of 2011.
Peetz said any talk of honoring or not honoring Paterno, major college football's winningest coach with 409 victories, will have to be carefully weighed in the months ahead by the board and the entire university community because of the sensitive nature of Paterno's legacy.
"Sixty-one years of excellent service to the university is now marred," she said.
Erickson said the culture of football at the school is among aspects under review but stopped well short of condemning the program.
"We need to be careful we don't paint the entire football program over a long period of time with the same brush," he said. "Were there particular aspects of football that allowed these things to go on? We will look at that, but football had been an important part of university life. We want to take a look at all aspects of our culture [at the school] to make sure this never happens again."
Spanier denied any role in a cover-up, saying he had never been told of Sandusky's misconduct before 2011, Reuters reported.
"Not only did Dr. Spanier never conceal anything from law enforcement authorities, but prior to 2011 he was never contacted by law enforcement officials, or any other officials, about any criminal activities now attributed to Sandusky," his lawyers, Timothy Lewis and Peter Vaira, said in a statement.
Freeh blamed Spanier, Paterno, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university Vice President Gary Schultz for working in concert on a cover-up that began as early as 1998, when university police investigated allegations of abuse but let Sandusky off with a warning.
The report could influence Penn State as it prepares for potential civil lawsuits. The university has already invited victims to try to resolve claims against the school.
Curley and Schultz have pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury and failure to report suspected abuse in the case. Spanier and Paterno were not charged.
"There was no information that leads to new criminal charges. There's virtually no impact on criminal litigation," Paul Callan, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, said of the Freeh report.
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