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Corbett's Camp Fires Back at ESPN's Report Linking Him to Paterno's Firing

by on April 04, 2012 11:45 AM

UPDATED @ 2:15 p.m.:

After a detailed report by ESPN's Outside the Lines Wednesday said Gov. Corbett was the driving force behind the firings of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, the governor's camp jumped to his defense.

In a statement to the Patriot-News, Corbett's press secretary, Kevin Harley, said:

"ESPN's report from the grassy knoll merely adds another chapter to the growing list of conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandusky case. It is a disappointment to read something so long, filled with so many errors, that offers so little by way of new or even real fact.

"The fact remains that Jerry Sandusky is charged with serious crimes of sexually abusing children and that the evidence against him is overwhelming."

[email protected] 11:45 a.m.:

ESPN's Outside the Lines issued a detailed report Wednesday, slamming Gov. Tom Corbett and releasing Joe Paterno’s prepared statement from his canceled Nov. 8 press conference.

Additionally, the Board of Trustees and the Paterno family are currently at odds over the payment of the $4.5 million that remained from Paterno's last contract, which expired after the 2011 season.

Corbett's Role

Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier were dismissed Nov. 9, and ESPN cited one senior Penn State faculty member as seeing Corbett at a local bar the next night and calling him effusive.

“It was like a victory celebration,” the faculty member told Outside the Lines. “I remember thinking at the time that it just seemed a strange thing … a kind of gratuitous political piling on.”
That Saturday, the day of the Penn State-Nebraska football game, former player Bob Capretto told ESPN he had a conversation with Corbett about the board’s actions to fire Paterno.
“And the governor said, 'I told them to do it,' " Capretto said. "He was proud of it. I told him, 'You don't realize what you have created here. The damage to Penn State is enormous.' "

In the Outside the Lines piece, Corbett is painted as zealous at the chance to play a role in the Penn State scandal.

Specifically, the report states, most members of the university’s Board of Trustees “felt uncomfortable with his role,” according to one unnamed trustee, who went on to refute that Corbett played a minor role in decision to dismiss Paterno and Spanier.
Furthermore, a former state congressman blasted Corbett, who launched the state investigation into Jerry Sandusky as attorney general, for using more resources to prosecute his wrongdoing rather than Sandusky’s.
Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Bill DeWeese, convicted Feb. 6 of five counts of theft, one of conflict of interest and one of criminal conspiracy, said Corbett’s investigation of him was politically motivated and was “a mammoth diversion of resources.”
The report also states Corbett, a member of the Board of the Trustees, did not attend the first four board meetings since becoming governor but had booked hotel rooms in State College eight days before the Grand Jury presentment was released Nov. 5 so he would be at the Nov. 11 board meeting.
Paterno’s Statement
Joe Paterno was prepared to address the media at the weekly Tuesday press conference Nov. 8, his family has said.
However, the Board of Trustees pulled the plug an hour before the press conference was to start, leaving Paterno silent save for the now infamous statement of: "This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Outside the Lines obtained a copy of the statement Paterno would have read Nov. 8, and it said former assistant coach Mike McQueary had “done the right thing” in informing him of an alleged incident between Sandusky and a young boy in the Lasch Building showers in March 2002.
The complete 405-word statement follows:
"Let me begin by offering Sue and my prayers for all of the people impacted by these events.  I know it is small comfort given the circumstances.
I also understand that there are a lot of questions regarding the events involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. However, because of the status of these ongoing legal matters, I will not speculate or answer questions about the charges or the people involved beyond this brief statement. 
As the Grand Jury report notes, I was subpoenaed last January to testify regarding an incident in 2002.  As my very brief testimony established, my role was limited to a single report made to me by an assistant coach in 2002.

The coach in question came to my house on a Saturday morning and informed me that he witnessed former coach Jerry Sandusky in a shower with a young boy.

The coach made it clear that he felt strongly that there was something inappropriate going on and that he was very upset by what he saw. The coach made no specific allegations of any identified sexual act, nor did he use any graphic terms – just the idea that what he saw was wrong and that he did not know what to do next.
At that time I told the coach that he had done the right thing and that I would take the appropriate next step.  After consideration I determined that, given Sandusky’s status as a retired employee governed by a retirement package negotiated with the administration, I had no authority to act directly.

The next day, in accordance with University policy, I contacted the head of my department and related what was told to me. That was the last time the matter was brought to my attention until this investigation and I assumed that the men I referred it to handled the matter appropriately.
I know that there are many other questions that people want to ask, but I ask that we all be patient and give the judicial process time to do its deliberate work. Finding the truth is what will benefit the victims most of all, and that is who we should all keep in mind as we deal with this tragedy.
In order to give that process adequate time I will not be answering any questions on this matter, nor will I have further comment, until the legal process is completed."
Other highlights from Outside the Lines

  • The board and the Paterno family are currently at odds over the payment of the $4.5 million that remained from Paterno's last contract, including a $3 million retirement bonus that the coach and Spanier had added to the agreement last August.
  • The Paterno family is considering filing suit against the university for wrongful termination, which could last years and cost Penn State tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.

Related coverage:

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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