Paterno family drops lawsuit against NCAA over Freeh report

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, Scott Paterno, left, looks on as students greet his father Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as he arrives at his home in State College, Pa. Scott Paterno said in a tweet sent May 6, 2016 that an allegation made by insurers that a boy told the longtime Penn State football coach in 1976 that he had been molested by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is “bunk.” (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s family dropped a lawsuit Friday against the NCAA over its use of a report in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal to punish Paterno and the university.

Paterno’s estate, his son Jay and former assistant William Kenney discontinued their case. The NCAA called it a voluntary decision and said there was no payment involved.

NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy claimed a total victory for his organization, which he said acted reasonably in adopting conclusions from a university-commissioned report authored by a team led by former FBI director Louis Freeh.

“The Paterno family characterized this case as a ‘search for the truth,'” Remy said. “Its decision today, after years of investigation and discovery, to abandon its lawsuit rather than subject those facts to courtroom examination is telling.”

He said the Paterno family wasted time, effort and money in the case.

In response to a text message from AP, Jay Paterno referred to a one-page statement released by his mother and Joe’s widow, Sue Paterno. In it, she said the family had accomplished its goals and continuing litigation would not yield anything new.

“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,” Sue Paterno 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.”

The lawsuit had claimed that college sports’ governing body damaged the Paterno estate’s commercial interests through its use of the Freeh report. Kenney and Jay Paterno alleged the Freeh report rendered them unable to find comparable coaching work.

The Freeh report concluded Joe Paterno and other administrators hushed up a 2001 complaint against Sandusky showering with a boy, for fear of bad publicity.

Paterno, who died in early 2012, was never charged criminally, but three others who were at high-ranking jobs when he was coach are expected to soon report to jail to serve criminal sentences for their response to the 2001 complaint.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was convicted in March of misdemeanor child endangerment for his failure to report the complaint about Sandusky apparently sexually abusing a boy on campus. Former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz had earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge.

The judge who sentenced Curley, Schultz and Spanier did not spare Paterno, saying he could have called police “without so much as getting his hands dirty. Why he didn’t is beyond me.”

The three are expected to report to county prison July 15 to serve two or three months.

The Paterno family and his legion of supporters have long objected bitterly to the Freeh report’s depiction of the hall of fame coach as having failed to do the right thing in 2001. Sandusky had been one of Joe Paterno’s top assistants for decades before his 1999 retirement.

Paterno told a grand jury in 2011 he did not know of child molestation allegations against Sandusky before 2001. But an insurer has alleged, a judge noted in a court document last year, that a child told Paterno in 1976 that Sandusky had molested him, a claim Paterno’s family has strongly denied.

Jay Paterno, a Nittany Lions assistant coach for 17 years, was elected by alumni in May to a seat on the Penn State board. He starts as a trustee next month.

The university removed a statue of Joe Paterno from outside the football stadium in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, and it has not been replaced.

The NCAA also took away 111 of Paterno’s wins, but they have since been restored, and with it his status as major college football’s winningest coach with 409 victories.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains his innocence while serving a 30- to 60-year sentence, and is appealing.