The president of Penn State is decrying new allegations that former coach Joe Paterno was told that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a child as early as 1976 and that two assistant coaches witnessed the abuse of other children.
President Eric Barron said in a letter Sunday to the university community that he was "appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment" accompanying the stories.
Some of the allegations were revealed in an order last week by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer in a lawsuit between an insurance company and the university over payments toward Sandusky's accusers. The insurers cited an allegation that a boy had told the longtime Penn State football coach in 1976 that he had been molested by Sandusky, who was an assistant coach. The court document also cited reports by unnamed assistant coaches who said they witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in the 80s.
Barron said those allegations, and others raised in some news reports in recent days about allegations related to knowledge by Paterno, are "unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim."
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"Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them," he said. Some of the press reports, he said, "should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe."
And while saying few crimes were as heinous as child sex assault and the university was appalled by Sandusky's actions and committed to prevention, treatment and education, Barron said he had "had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media."
Sue Paterno, who defended her husband's legacy and said the family had no knowledge of new claims, also called for an end to what she called "this endless process of character assassination by accusation."
In 2001, Paterno told high-ranking university officials one of his assistant coaches reported seeing Sandusky acting inappropriately with a child in a team shower. In 2011, Paterno told a grand jury he did not know of any other incidents involving Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999.
Paterno was fired following Sandusky's November 2011 arrest and died of lung cancer in January 2012. He was not charged with any crime, and his family is pursuing a lawsuit against the NCAA for commercial disparagement.
Sandusky is serving a decadeslong prison sentence for his conviction in the sexual abuse of 10 children. The university has paid more than $90 million to settle 32 civil claims involving Sandusky. How far back the acts occurred has not been made public. Three university officials await trial on criminal charges for their handling of the Sandusky scandal.
The university said it was not able to comment because of the ongoing litigation.