STATE COLLEGE (AP) – A day before they celebrated this year’s end of Penn State spring football practice, more than 200 alumni and fans gathered Friday for an event hosted by Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris about the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
They remain angry about the circumstances surrounding the firing of the late coach Joe Paterno in the wake of Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011.
Presenters during the three-hour gathering claimed Penn State’s firing of Paterno and acceptance of NCAA sanctions were done too hastily and without enough information.
“Not everything is as it appears,” Harris said, “and that’s why we’re here.”
They cited what they called discrepancies on several topics, notably between court testimony of Sandusky’s trial and a lack of evidence in former FBI investigator Louis Freeh’s report for the school that accused Paterno of covering up child abuse.
Penn State trustees in January 2012 said they decided to oust Paterno in part because the football coach didn’t meet a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities about allegations against Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator.
School leadership has also stood by the Freeh report for its recommendations to improve governance and security measures. Trustees have not formally discussed the conclusions in the report, nor have they met to vote on it.
Critics also took issue with media coverage, alleging journalists created a salacious narrative that inappropriately highlighted Paterno’s role.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after being convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse last year. He maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.
Paterno died in January 2012 at age 85. Event organizers wore T-shirts and stickers honoring Paterno as they handed out photos and diagrams that they said alleged discrepancies in courtroom testimony.
Panelists also said that Penn State unjustly took the fall for the blame, especially over other organizations, including The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky founded to help underprivileged children, and through which prosecutors said he met his accusers.
Many attendees left the event with a sense of hope that Paterno’s name can be cleared.
“I would like to see the truth come out and the university stand up,” said alumnus Terry Stambaugh, 67, of State College. “The one thing I know – Joe didn’t know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile.”