Paterno family delivers effective rebuttal
Infallibility is not a human trait. Even the pope must invoke it specifically on doctrinal matters. Joe Paterno was not endowed with it. Neither was Louis Freeh. Neither was NCAA President Mark Emmert.
Yet Freeh's report to the Penn State Board of Trustees about the Jerry Sandusky scandal widely was greeted as the definitive, unquestionable word. The board didn't contest it. National news media - particularly the talking heads of the electronic sports media - treated it as gospel. The NCAA accepted it and imposed draconian sanctions against the Penn State football program, while violating its own bylaws by not conducting an investigation of its own.
Now an exhaustive four-part report commissioned by the Paterno family raises valid questions about the Freeh report. Freeh called the rebuttal "self-serving," which it might well be, but any objective reading of it also would find it to be thorough, factual, professional and enlightening.
Its authors - former Pennsylvania Gov. and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, attorney Wick Sollers, former FBI pedophile profiler James Clemente, and Johns Hopkins professor and sexual disorders expert Dr. Fred Berlin - expose in detail multiple issues in the Freeh report, the most obvious of which always has been the Freeh group's failure to interview all of the key figures in the case. Inevitably, the Freeh report filled that gap with opinion. The rebuttal demonstrates that some of those opinions are not supported by facts (the full reports are online at www.paterno.com).
But the rebuttal went further, touching on many areas that were ignored by the Freeh report, including the insidious nature of Sandusky's conduct and the failure of professionals in the field, not merely a football coach and university administrators, to identify and stop it.
Freeh concluded that Paterno and university officials engaged in a conspiracy to cover up Sandusky's conduct, yet the rebuttal demonstrates that dozens of people were aware of a criminal investigation in 1998 that did not produce any charges against him.
If the NCAA truly is interested in fairness, it will seriously consider the rebuttal's findings relative to the Freeh report and conclude that it, like Paterno and Freeh, is not infallible. It should conclude that its own bylaws precluded its intervention, that the courts of Pennsylvania are perfectly capable of rendering justice relative to Sandusky's victims, and that it unfairly punished people who had nothing to do with the multiple tragedies unleashed by Sandusky.