That process will happen in different places at different paces. In a statement, the NCAA said it was too early to determine whether information in the report, compiled by investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, could lead to sanctions against the athletic department. Penn State still must answer questions contained in a letter, sent by NCAA President Mark Emmert last November, regarding “compliance with institutional control and ethics policies,” according to the NCAA’s statement.
But even with the dramatic information the report revealed — including Paterno’s knowledge of an investigation into former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s improper behavior in 1998 — there may not be evidence that would cause future problems for Penn State’s athletic department.
“The information in there about child sexual assault, those aren’t currently NCAA rules violations,” said Michael L. Buckner, an attorney whose firm frequently represents schools in NCAA cases. “The Freeh report documented — generally, philosophically — a lack of control. But did it lack institutional control as defined in the NCAA manual?”
The fallout from Freeh’s report wasn’t contained just to Penn State, either. Officials for Nike, the official supplier of Penn State athletic equipment and apparel, announced they would rename the Joe Paterno Child Development Center on its Beaverton, Ore., campus. Nike founder Phil Knight, an emotional and staunch supporter who passionately defended Paterno at his memorial service, issued a statement Thursday that showed the impact of Freeh’s report.
“According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences,” Knight said. “I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.”
The Sandusky case, and the lack of urgent response by a number of Penn State officials as outlined in Freeh’s report, has brought the question: How could this happen? But athletic department officials at several schools said Thursday they have long had procedures in place for reporting suspected crimes either involving athletic department staff or taking place on campus.
“We had policies and procedures and flow charts, and we were aware of all the necessary things we had to do legally even before the whole Penn State case,” said Tom O’Connor, the athletic director at George Mason. “It’s a priority with us. It’s always been a priority with us. Penn State didn’t trigger it, because we always felt we had the right policies in place.”