STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania – Joe Paterno could soon regain his title as the winningest coach in big-time college football history.
The 111 wins that the NCAA voided when it sanctioned Penn State University following the Jerry Sandusky scandal are likely being restored as part of a proposed settlement with the NCAA. Penn State’s board of trustees unanimously approved it, and now the NCAA and a judge will have to accept the settlement.
The settlement is part of a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania state Sen. Jake Corman. The suit began as a way to force the $60 million fine money the NCAA levied on Penn State to stay within the state of Pennsylvania, but it became a way to give Penn State supporters a place to legally challenge the validity of the sanctions.
Among them, the most controversial, was the loss of Paterno’s wins between 1998, when the first report of abuse against then-assistant coach Sandusky was made, to 2011, when Sandusky was charged with abusing 10 boys, many of them on campus.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of abusing the victims and is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence, which means he will probably spend the rest of his life behind bars. The same year, Paterno died at age 85.
“Today is a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy,” the Paterno family said Friday in a statement. “The repeal of the consent decree and the return of the wins to the University and Joe Paterno confirm that the NCAA and the Board of Trustees acted prematurely and irresponsibly in the unprecedented sanctions the NCAA imposed on the University, the players, coaches and the community.”
Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, still has many supporters who believe he was wronged by the university’s harsh reaction to the allegations against Sandusky.
Three administrators, including the former president and former athletic director, have been charged with covering up some of Sandusky’s crimes. Prosecutors allege they knew about at least two incidents reported to the university, but lied about it before a grand jury.
When Penn State hired an independent investigator to look into what happened, the investigator found that Paterno was also part of a coverup, creating a divide among Pennsylvanians and provoking a visceral response from his family and supporters who maintain he was not aware that Sandusky was a pedophile.
That independent report, done by former FBI director Louis Freeh, was what the NCAA relied on when it sanctioned the university.