Patricia L. Schmidt: Freeh report fueled by assumptions

Louis Freeh

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.

Everyone by now has heard about the Sandusky affair at Penn State and the NCAA's sanctions against the football team. Unfortunately, the document which most influenced the ruling, the Louis Freeh Report on Penn State, deserves further scrutiny. Though one can quarrel with much of the report, its primary weakness is that Freeh leaps from data to conclusion, fueled only by his own assumption that at Penn State, football rules.

Allegedly all decisions thus flowed from an effort to protect the program. That unproven assumption shapes his analysis of the actions of Penn State administrators and Head Coach Joe Paterno in the Jerry Sandusky case. In other words, he selects a motive and makes the evidence fit it. That may work on cop shows, but even there, forensic evidence often later disputes initial certainty about motive and suspect.

In Freeh's 162 page report, the strongest evidence presented is against top administrators in Old Main (the equivalent of Tygert Hall) But he cannot show that their unwillingness to confront Sandusky or deny him access to the facilities (which would have avoided much of the problem)was motivated by some attempt to avoid publicity and protect the football program. Motive, like all other human circumstances, is often muddled. An equally plausible cause was cowardice and an aversion to dealing with an unpleasant situation.

Conversely, the evidence that he offers against Joe Paterno is sketchy at best, even though he works very hard to implicate Paterno, along with what he calls "the Penn State Way." For decades that phrase has meant class, and mettle, and fair play, the antithesis of duplicity and double-dealing. To indict a whole university on the flimsiest of evidence and call it "the Penn State way" is what Hall of Famer Franco Harris has called "a grave injustice." I wish that Freeh's words had been as measured. The report can be found on line. I urge all to read it in its entirety.

Patricia L. Schmidt,


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