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President Rodney Erickson Tells 'Face the Nation' Penn State Says People Will Have to Assess Paterno's Legacy 'Personally'

by on July 29, 2012 6:00 AM

Updated at 11:44 a.m. 

Penn State President Rodney Erickson talked to host of "Face the Nation" Bob Schieffer Sunday morning about NCAA sanctions, the Freeh report and civil lawsuits filed against Penn State. 

Erickson said he considering the alternatives Penn State faced had the NCAA launched an investigation, he felt the contract he signed was the best possible alternative.

He also said he believes he has the support to remain in his position as university president. 

Below is a partial transcript of the interview between Schieffer and Erickson:

Joe Paterno was a legend, an icon. Did he stay too long?

"Coach Paterno's legacy, as far as I'm concerned, and I think everyone will have to assess that personally how they see the coach's legacy, from my standpoint I see the cocah's contributions to the educational life to the university, and that's one of the reasons why I said I felt strongly the Paterno name should stay on our library.

"I think when some years pass and we'll get more perspective, we'll get more perspective, we'll understand he had a very important role over 60 years in the education, our educational goals and aspirations for our university."

Why did you take his statue down?

"I thought the statue had become kind of a symbol, kind of a lightning rod, if you will, of controversy that had erupted over the past eight months.

I felt that it was kind of an open wound for victims of child abuse across the nation and in that respect I thought it should be removed."

What will you do with it?

"It's in a safe place right now."

Could you see it coming back, being put back on display?

"We're certainly not prepared to make any decision on that at this time. We need perspective, we need time."

How will you pay the $60 million fine?

"In all likelihood, the university will have to extend the athletic department a long-term loan that they can pay back as they get on their feet, and as we adjust their budget going forward in the football program.”

What do you say now to these children who were molested, some of them are older now, but what does the university want to say to them? 

"We're deeply sorry and sad, regretful that this happened at our university. We want to do the right thing and help them in their healing process.

"We want to make sure that Penn State becomes a national leader in this whole area of child abuse prevention and treatment. We've already taken some number of very concrete steps.

"We're committed to being the national leader in this to make sure that hopefully, some good in the larger prespecitve of things can emerge from this very tragic situation.

"And of course, the $60 million fine will go into an endowment, the proceeds of which will go to assist the prevetion and treatement of abuse."

As difficult as this was, what is the lesson here? What happened then that can never happen again, and how do you keep that from happening?

"I believe there are several lessons here, Bob that we can learn from this. One of course is to be very mindful of our children and the circumstances under which they engage in, activities and so forth. Our children are our most important assets.

"Another lesson to be learned is one of accountability of the moment. We need to make sure everyone, regardless of their position or standing, is held accountable for their actions. We need to make sure that all the units across the university interact and are sharing information."

Why were people afraid to talk about this? Why did this happen?  How did this happen? That's the part I find so difficult. How could people have known about this and not tried to do something about it or just tried to tell somebody?

"I think that's a very difficult question for all of us to come to grips with. When I read the grand jury presentment last November, I was horrified at what I read.

"The first question that came to my mind was 'How could something happen at a place like this, that after 35 years I thought I knew quite well.'"

"And so I think many of us are still asking that question.

"Is it something again related to the kind of organizational structure that we have? How much of it is simply related to human frailty, not willing to step forward when they see something terrible happening and it's again, accountability to the moment.

"So we need to again, every one of us, even though we don't have clear answers to that, needs to reach inside our own hearts and think about that issue very deeply.

"And going forward, we can't change the past but we can look to the future and we can hold ourselves accountable, not just to our children but to all aspects of the world we interact with."

Earlier at 6 a.m. 

President Rodney Erickson discusses all things Penn State on "Face the Nation" Sunday morning on CBS.

He said in a taped interview the university is "adequately covered" to handle lawsuits stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Erickson also said "we hope to be able to settle as many of these cases as quickly as possible" so as not to "drag victims through another round of court cases and litigation.

CBS released a preview of Erickson's interview, which is available here

"He does have a plan, he talks at some length about it," Schieffer said in the preview.

Currently, at least three lawsuits have been filed against Penn State in an attempt to hold the university liable for abuse suffered by boys at the hands of Jerry Sandusky. The first two plaintiffs, neither one a victim identified in the original grand jury presentment, are identified only as "John Doe 1" and "John Doe 2." 

On Thursday, attorneys representing a man claiming to be Victim 2 said another suit would be filed against Penn State. Mike McQueary testified he saw Victim 2 being abused by Sandusky, 68, in the Lasch Football Building shower in Feb. 2001. 

Meanwhile, Erickson has come under fire over the past week for his acceptance of the NCAA's harsh sanctions dealt to Penn State, which include a significant loss of scholarships, a four-year bowl ban, all wins under Joe Paterno vacated between 1998-2011 and a fine of $60 million, which will go toward charities that support victims of child abuse. 

Erickson said he signed the contract because Penn State faced a four-year death penalty otherwise.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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