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May 30, 2013

Paterno family advocates blast Freeh, NCAA

For roughly 45 minutes late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, Americans were offered an entirely different perspective of the Freeh Report and late-Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.

Hosted by Emmy-winning journalist Bob Costas, the program "Costas Tonight" welcomed three panelists - Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn, former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh, and Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers - for an in-depth discussion of the Louis Freeh-led investigation into the Jerry Sandusky crimes at Penn State.

Readily acknowledged by Costas as a one-sided panel, thanks in large part to rejected invitations from both Freeh and NCAA president Mark Emmert, the four went into great detail verbally kicking holes in Freeh's report and his suggestion of Paterno's role, along with the NCAA's reaction to the report and subsequent sanctions leveled against the program.

"The report itself is deeply flawed, and it is, in many respects, incomplete, inaccurate," Thornburgh said. "In our review, we found that it relied much more on speculation and conjecture than on facts that were developed through the investigation."

As a result, the deeply flawed report has led to an inescapably negative perception of Paterno that must be reconciled, the group urged.

"Here's what you need to know about Paterno," McGinn said. "He was never interviewed once when he was fired. [The NCAA] had no conversation with him after 60 years of service. We engaged with Freeh and said, 'We'd like to have the chance to respond to any charges.'

"They put the report out. There was no filter. They put it out immediately. It blew up. It was like taking a blow torch to a dry set of woods."

Much of the conversation focused around the notion of a cover-up, led in part by Joe Paterno as claimed by Freeh in one of the main tenets of his report, and really, how entirely ridiculous that very notion was, they said.

"There's no instance where Joe Paterno ever asked anybody not to fully investigate, not to report, not to do the right thing," Sollers said. "We know that from conversations with the lawyers, from other key protagonists in this matter, and across the board. Joe Paterno did what he thought was right with the information he had at the time."

By the end of the lengthy segments, Sollers revealed the lawsuit being filed on behalf of multiple people and organizations, including "certain trustees, certain former players, certain former coaches, certain former faculty members, as well as the estate of Joe Paterno" in an effort to set the record straight and undo some of the damage done by the NCAA and Freeh.

"The lawsuit is being filed against the NCAA and Mark Emmert, in his individual and official capacity as the president of the NCAA, and Edward Ray, who was the chairman of the executive committee of the NCAA," Sollers said. "It's being filed… to redress the NCAA's 100 percent adoption of the Freeh Report and imposition of a binding consent decree against Penn State University.

"The reality is that consent decree was imposed through coercion and threats behind the scenes and there was no ability for anyone to get redress. There was no board approval, there was no transparency, and there was no consideration of this consent decree."

Though Sollers acknowledged that the NCAA is likely to "fight tooth and nail" to prevent the lawsuit from moving forward, being granted standing and entering into the discovery phase, McGinn insisted that the lawsuit's purpose is critical.

"It's designed to try to correct the record here. We know that you can't undo all the damage that's been done. We know that this is going to be a fight for the long term," McGinn said. "When I speak of the damage, it's not just to the Paterno family, the Paterno name; it is to Penn State, a great institution that has a great history and tradition in sports. It's to the alums there, the students, the faculty, and the community. The NCAA wrecked enormous damage to this community, and this is just one way to get the record right."


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