Penn State: No evidence Paterno, staff knew early Sandusky allegations

Penn State coach Joe Paterno walks the field before a 2004 game against Michigan State in State College, Pa.

Pennsylvania State University president Eric Barron said Sunday that the university has found no evidence to support the latest allegations that Joe Paterno and members of his coaching staff knew about Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children as early as the 1970s.

Barron turned the heat on the media for reporting the allegations, some of which surfaced in court papers last week. Others were reported by CNN and NBC News.

If true, they indicate that Paterno and other Penn State authorities knew about Sandusky's actions years earlier than had been alleged. Previously, a graduate assistant's 2001 report of Sandusky attacking a boy in a campus shower was the earliest that Paterno was alleged to have known of Sandusky's sexual abuse.

"None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of university employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity," Barron said in a statement emailed Sunday to the Penn State community.

"Unfortunately, we can't control the 24/7 news cycle, and the tendency of some individuals in social media and the blogosphere to rush to judgment," Barron said. "But I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media. We have all had enough. . . . I am appalled."

The court filing in a dispute between Penn State and its insurance company over who should cover the cost of settlements paid to Sandusky's victims referenced one man's allegation that he told Paterno in 1976 that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, had sexually abused him - decades before law enforcement got onto the case. The case was among 32 that the university has settled since 2013, paying out a total of nearly $93 million.

But Barron said the university can find no evidence that the accuser made the claim to Paterno.

"We cannot find any evidence, related to a settlement or otherwise, that an alleged early assault was communicated to Coach Paterno," Barron said in the statement. "This raises considerable credibility issues as to this press report."

Also last week, a 60-year-old State College man told CNN that Paterno pressured him in 1971 not to report that Sandusky had raped him. And NBC News, citing anonymous sources, reported that "as many as six" of Paterno's longtime assistants might have witnessed inappropriate behavior involving Sandusky and boys dating to the 1970s.

Barron said that over the last two days, the university has been unable to find any evidence supporting the claims.

"None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of university employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity," Barron said.

Some of the allegations, he said, are "clearly incredulous, and should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe."

Last week's revelations have revived controversy over the legendary coach's legacy at Penn State. The university fired Paterno as head football coach in 2011 after Sandusky was indicted. Paterno died of lung cancer in 2012 and was never charged in the case.

The NCAA stripped the university of 111 wins under Paterno and Penn State removed a large bronze statue of the coach from outside Beaver Stadium. The wins have since been restored but the statue has not been returned, and the university has not formally honored the coach for his decades of service.

Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after his conviction for sexually abusing 10 children between 1994 and 2008.

The Paterno family and some members of Penn State's board of trustees have denounced the new allegations as groundless and vowed to fight the accusations.

"Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them," Barron said. "His family has denied them."

Staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.