The family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno dropped its four-year-old lawsuit against the NCAA on Friday afternoon, filing a one-sentence motion that asked the Centre County Court in Pennsylvania to discontinue the case “with prejudice.”
The lawsuit, filed in 2013, claimed the NCAA damaged the Paterno estate’s commercial interests with its investigation into Penn State’s handling of the child sex-abuse crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky, one of Paterno’s top assistants for three decades. A report compiled for the NCAA by former FBI director Louis Freeh claimed Paterno and other top Penn State officials did little to stop Sandusky’s predatory ways for fear of scandal, and the NCAA levied significant sanctions against the Nittany Lions football program (though it later rolled back many of them).
According to the Freeh report, Paterno did the bare minimum when he learned in 2001 that Sandusky was raping children, informing his superiors instead of calling the police. The Hall of Fame coach, who died in 2012, told a grand jury in 2011 he did not know of any child-abuse allegations against Sandusky before 2001, but it has since been revealed in court documents that he had been aware of them since 1998 and perhaps since 1976, when a child allegedly told Paterno that Sandusky had molested him (Paterno’s family denies this).
In a statement, the NCAA made it abundantly clear that it had not settled with the Paterno family out of court — making that point with the second sentence of the statement — and that it indeed viewed the lawsuit’s withdrawal as a victory.
“The Paterno family characterized this case as a ‘search for the truth,’ ” said Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer. “Its decision today, after years of investigation and discovery, to abandon its lawsuit rather than subject those facts to courtroom examination is telling. We believe that the powerful record developed during discovery overwhelmingly confirmed what the NCAA has believed all along: The NCAA acted reasonably in adopting the conclusions of an eight-month investigation by Louis Freeh.”
The NCAA said the Paterno family dropped its lawsuit only hours before the organization was scheduled to release a 100-page legal brief “detailing the results of years of exhaustive discovery regarding plaintiffs’ claims.”
“It is disappointing that so much time, effort, and financial resources have been wasted on efforts by the Paterno family in this litigation,” Remy said. “We must not lose sight of the fact that the real victims are the dozens of innocent children abused by Jerry Sandusky. ”
Sue Paterno, Joe Paterno’s widow, nevertheless claimed victory in a statement to the Associated Press.
“In the fallout from the Sandusky tragedy and the subsequent mishandling of the investigation by the board and Louis Freeh, I was determined to do everything in my power to defend the honor of Penn State and set the record straight on Joe,” she said. “Although the fight has been long and difficult, enormous progress has been made. The unprecedented sanctions imposed on the University were reversed. The wins, which were unjustly stripped from the players, were reinstated. And even Mr. Freeh has stated under oath that his many alleged ‘findings’ were, in fact, merely his opinions.”