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AP: Freeh report rebukes PSU for hiding abuse allegations

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AP: Freeh report rebukes PSU for hiding abuse allegations

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago for fear of bad publicity, allowing the former assistant football coach to prey on other youngsters, according to a scathing report issued Thursday on the scandal.

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of sports' biggest scandals. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

After an eight-month investigation, Freeh's firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that the Hall of Fame coach, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse."

Paterno "was an integral part of this active decision to conceal" and his firing was justified, Freeh said at a news conference. He called the officials' disregard for child victims "callous and shocking."

Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts for abusing 10 boys. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and Spanier. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges accusing them of lying to a grand jury and failing to report abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.

Asked whether the officials' actions amounted to a crime such as conspiracy or obstruction, Freeh said that would be up to a grand jury.

School leaders "empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access" to campus and to affiliate with the football program, the report said. The access, the report states, "provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims."

Freeh said officials had opportunities in 1998 and 2001 to step in.

Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the report said.

The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."

Then, in 2001, after a member of Paterno's staff saw Sandusky in a campus shower with a boy, officials did bar him from bringing children to campus and decided not to report him to child welfare authorities.

"There's more red flags here than you could count over a long period of time," Freeh said.

In a statement, Paterno's family said the longtime coach made mistakes that he acknowledged but "never interfered with any investigation" and was fooled by Sandusky.

"The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept. The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn't fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events," the statement said. "If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions."

Defense lawyer Caroline Roberto, who represents Curley, was reading the report and had no immediate comment, according to a spokeswoman. Messages were left for lawyers for Spanier and Schultz.

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, a critic of the board's dismissal of Paterno in November, said the board was still formulating a response.

Freeh also said Sandusky's conduct was in part a result of the school's lack of transparency, which stemmed from a "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees. He said the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who was afraid for his job and opted to not report seeing sex abuse in a school locker room in 2000.

The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program - one built on the motto "success with honor" - for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future 'visibility' at Penn State'," allowing him to groom victims.

Investigators, however, found no evidence linking his 168,000 retirement package to the 1998 police investigation. Freeh called the payout unprecedented but said there was no evidence it was an attempt to buy Sandusky's silence.

Sandusky's trial last month included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys, sometimes on campus, and included testimony that showed he used his prestige as a university celebrity to manipulate the children.

By contrast, Freeh's team focused on Penn State and what its employees did - or did not do - to protect children.

More than 430 current or former school employees were interviewed since November, including nearly everyone associated with the football program under Paterno. The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer in January at age 85, without telling Freeh's team his account of what happened.

Some of the report's most damning evidence against Paterno consists of handwritten notes and emails that portray him as being involved with a decision by the officials not to tell child welfare authorities about the 2001 encounter.

Spanier, Schultz and Curley drew up a plan that called for reporting Sandusky to the state Department of Child Welfare. But Curley later said in an email that he changed his mind about the plan "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe."

Spanier concurred but noted "the only downside for us is if the message isn't (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

The emails also show Paterno closely followed the 1998 allegation.

With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as outlined in a letter sent to the school last fall.

"Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action," said Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. "We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."

The U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of certain crimes on campus, including ones of a sexual nature. The report said Penn State's "awareness and interest" in Clery Act compliance was "significantly lacking."

Only one form used to report such crimes was completed on campus from 2007 through 2011, according to the Freeh findings. And no record exists of Paterno, Curley or assistant coach Mike McQueary reporting that McQueary saw Sandusky in a shower with a boy in 2001, as they would be obligated to do under the Clery Act.

As of last November, Penn State's policies for Clery compliance were still in draft form and had not been implemented, the report found.

U.S. Department of Education said it was still examining whether Penn State violated the Clery Act, but declined to comment on Freeh's report.

Mary Krupa, an 18-year-old Penn State freshman who grew up in State College, said the conclusion that the school's highest officials were derelict in protecting children didn't shake her love of the town or the school.

"The actions of five or six people don't reflect on the hundreds of thousands" of students and faculty who make up the Penn State community, she said while walking through the student union building on campus.

Freeh said he regretted the damage the findings would do to Paterno's "terrific legacy" but there was no attempt to pin the blame on the late coach.

"What my report says is what the evidence and the facts show," he said.

Christian Beveridge, a masonry worker who grew up near Penn State, said the findings will ruin Paterno's legacy but not the closeness that people in town and fans feel for him.

"He built this town," said Beveridge, 40, resting in the shade on campus during a break. "All of his victories, he'll be remembered by everyone in town for a long time, but there will be that hesitation."

___

Armas reported from Scranton and Scolforo from Harrisburg. Marc Levy in State College, Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.