Ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier convicted of child endangerment

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Ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier convicted of child endangerment

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Former Penn State President Graham Spanier was convicted Friday of hushing up child sexual abuse allegations in 2001 against Jerry Sandusky, whose arrest a decade later blew up into a major scandal for the university and led to the firing of beloved football coach Joe Paterno.

The jury found Spanier guilty of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment over his handling of a complaint against the retired assistant football coach but acquitted him of conspiracy and a second child endangerment count.

Spanier, 68, showed no emotion when the verdict was read after 13 hours of deliberations. He could get up to five years in prison. His lawyer said he will appeal.

The trial centered on how Spanier and two other university administrators handled a complaint by graduate coaching assistant Mike McQueary, who said he reported seeing Sandusky sexually molesting a boy in a team shower in 2001. The three officials told Sandusky he could not bring children onto the campus anymore but did not report the matter to police or child welfare authorities.

Sandusky was not arrested until 2011, after an anonymous tip led prosecutors to investigate the shower incident. He was convicted the next year of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving 10 to 30 years behind bars. At least four victims at Sandusky's trial said they were molested after 2001.

"Evil in the form of Jerry Sandusky was allowed to run wild," prosecutor Patrick Schulte told the jury.

The scandal sent shockwaves through Penn State. It led to the ouster of both Spanier and Paterno and resulted in the school paying out more than $90 million to settle claims by over 30 Sandusky accusers. In addition, the NCAA fined Penn State $48 million and briefly erased more than 100 of Paterno's football victories from the record books.

The Hall of Fame coach was never charged with a crime. He died of cancer in 2012 at age 85.

Another prosecutor, Laura Ditka, said Spanier was "convicted for all the children who came to Penn State after what Mike McQueary saw that night."

Two of Spanier's former lieutenants, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges a week ago and testified against Spanier. But all three denied they were told the encounter in the shower was sexual in nature.

"The verdict, their words and pleas indicate a profound failure of leadership," Penn State said in a statement. "And while we cannot undo the past, we have re-dedicated ourselves and our university to act always with the highest integrity, in affirming the shared values of our community."

The prosecution's key evidence included notes and email exchanges in which the three debated what to do after McQueary's report.

Spanier approved a plan to tell the retired coach to stop bringing children to athletic facilities and to inform The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth that Sandusky founded.

At one point, the administrators planned to inform the state Department of Public Welfare. Instead, Spanier approved putting that on hold, and the agency was never contacted. That decision formed the heart of the case against him.

"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," Spanier told Curley and Schultz in 2001 in the email exchange. He called the plan "humane and a reasonable way to proceed."

Spanier's attorney, Sam Silver, said the case involved judgment calls by the administrators. He said there was no evidence of a crime by Spanier.

Ditka said during closing arguments that the three university leaders wanted to protect the university's reputation at the expense of children.

"They took a gamble," she told the jury. "They weren't playing with dice. They were playing with kids."

A report commissioned by the university and conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded that Paterno and the three others hushed up the allegations against Sandusky for fear of bad publicity.

Freeh released a statement Friday night blasting the men and saying he was "very saddened once again for the many victims."

"Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Timothy Curley were the most powerful men who ran the Pennsylvania State University. Today, they are convicted criminals," he wrote in the emailed statement, which was verified later Friday by his lawyer Robert Heim. "And Joe Paterno's once iconic legacy is forever marred by his own decision to do nothing when he had the chance to make a real difference."

He said the conviction completely confirms and verifies the findings of his report. He also called for current Penn State President Eric Barron and several board members to step down, saying they are "more concerned about bringing back a bronze statue than worrying about the multiple child victims who have forever been so grievously harmed." He was apparently referring to a statue of Paterno that was removed in 2012.

No. 13 Penn State survives a scare from Pittsburgh

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USA Today Images/Matthew O'Haren

No. 13 Penn State survives a scare from Pittsburgh

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 126-year rivalry between No. 13 Penn State and Pittsburgh is going on indefinite hiatus for the second time in a generation. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi gave both sides something to chew on until they meet again, no matter how long the break lasts.

Down a touchdown with the ball at the Penn State 1 and less than 5 minutes on the clock Saturday, Narduzzi opted to attempt a field goal on fourth down instead of going for it. Alex Kessman's 19-yard kick clanged off the left upright, helping give the Nittany Lions the breathing room they needed to escape with a 17-10 victory.

"You need two scores to win the football game, unless you guys are playing for overtime," Narduzzi said. "We're trying to win the football game."

The 53-year-old Narduzzi joked before the 100th clash between the schools separated by 139 miles that the next time they face off, he'll either be retired or "in a coffin." He was kidding at the time. The smile was gone as he tried to explain the rationale for taking the ball out of quarterback Kenny Pickett's hands three feet from tying it.

"Again, we can look back at all the calls, guys," Narduzzi said. "All the armchair quarterbacks, you guys got those armchair desks there. It's easy to make those decisions. We were throwing the ball. We threw for over 300 yards."

Yet needing just one to even it on the road late, the Panthers (1-2) came up short thanks in part to Penn State's defense. Pickett rolled out on first-and-goal at the 1 and threw the ball away while getting chased by linebacker Cam Brown. A read-option on second down went nowhere, with Pickett unable to churn past Garrett Taylor and Jesse Luketa. Brown harassed Pickett into an incompletion on third down and out trotted Kessman.

"Players, we're all in there saying `Let's go for it,'" said Pickett, who threw for career-high 372 yards. "We all have confidence in (each other). I know my guys. I love them. They played so hard. It's tough. A loss like this is tough."

The Panthers had one more chance to draw even, moving from the Pitt 16 to the Penn State 26. But Pickett's heave to Taysir Mack on the final snap was broken up by Brown and fell to the turf to give the Nittany Lions bragging rights for now and possibly forever. Penn State improved to 53-43-4 all-time against Pitt, including a 3-1 mark during a four-game renewal that began in 2016.

"We're happy to be 3-1 in the series, we're happy to be 1-0 (this week)," Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said.

Leaving Pitt 0-1, something Narduzzi insisted won't linger even after instituting a media blackout for his players leading up to the game and admitting it would feel like "winning the Super Bowl" to beat the Lions for a second time in four years.

"A loss is a loss," Narduzzi said. "It doesn't matter who it's to, when it is. It's a nonconference game. All our goals are still ahead of us. We've got a resilient football team that I love. We'll be fine. We'll be just fine."

The takeaway

Pitt: Five seasons into his tenure, the swaggering, aggressive defensive style Narduzzi cultivated during his long run as an assistant at Michigan State has finally become a part of the culture at Pitt. The secondary may be the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the defensive line looks capable even with starters Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp both done for the season with knee injuries.

Penn State: The offensive line had issues with Pitt's exotic blitz packages, allowing Clifford to be sacked three times and get hit hard a handful of others. That needs to be corrected with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State still on the schedule.

Cagey Clifford 

The Nittany Lions found the sledding far tougher following blowouts over Idaho and Buffalo to open the season.

Journey Brown ran for 109 yards and a touchdown and Noah Cain's 13-yard third-quarter sprint to the end zone gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good.

Sean Clifford completed 14 of 30 passes for 222 yards while spending most of the afternoon under heavy duress.

"He's a winner," Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth said of Clifford. "Our whole team knew he's a winner from the start. We could tell in camp. He's not going to go down easy. You can keep hitting him, but he's going to keep getting back up."

Poll implications 

Don't expect Penn State to inch closer to the Top 10 after being taken to the last play by a 17-point underdog.

End of the line?

While Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke and Penn State's Sandy Barbour haven't ruled out getting the schools back together down the line, for now there are no plans for a 101st meeting, giving the game in front of 108,661 an air of finality.

"It's a rivalry game. Chippy game. Crowd yelling stuff. And we're yelling back and going at it with the players on the field," Pickett said. "It's a great game. I'm sure somewhere down the road they're going to bring it back. There's no reason not to."

Up next 

Pitt: Welcomes No. 17 UCF to Heinz Field next Saturday. The Golden Knights drilled the Panthers 45-14 last year in Orlando.

Penn State: Off next week then opens Big Ten play by traveling to Maryland on Friday, Sept. 27. The Nittany Lions have beaten the Terrapins by a combined 104-6 in the last two meetings.

No. 15 Penn State shrugs off slow start to beat Buffalo

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USA Today Images/Matthew O'Haren

No. 15 Penn State shrugs off slow start to beat Buffalo

BOX SCORE 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns and No. 15 Penn State overcame a halftime deficit to beat Buffalo 45-13 on Saturday night.

Trailing 10-7 at half, the Nittany Lions (1-0) took the lead for good when John Reid ran back an interception 37 yards for a touchdown early in the third.

Clifford opened the scoring with a 28-yard pass to Jahan Dotson on Penn State's second drive of the game. He tossed a pair of TDs to tight end Pat Freiermuth in the third quarter and Noah Cain added a 2-yard TD run to give Penn State a 35-13 lead heading into the fourth.

Jake Pinegar added a 32-yard field goal for the Nittany Lions and Clifford found Dotson again in the fourth. Clifford finished as Penn State's leading rusher with 11 carries for 49 yards.

Jaret Patterson led Buffalo (1-1) with 75 yards on 23 carries. Matt Myers was 16 for 31 for 236 yards with a touchdown pass to tight end Julien Bourassa late in the second quarter.

Alex McNulty kicked a pair of field goals for the Bulls.

The takeaway

Buffalo: The daunting environment didn't seem to bother the young Bulls. They controlled the pace in the first half, running 46 plays for 27 yards to Penn State's 20 plays and 82 yards.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions' strength is their defensive line and Buffalo's offensive front did a good job neutralizing Yetur Gross-Matos and his teammates for most of the first half. In the meantime, Clifford and his receivers were able to create some chemistry.

Poll implications 

Penn State cleaned up its mistakes at halftime, won going away and shouldn't be penalized for its slow start.

Up next

Buffalo plays at Liberty Saturday.

Penn State hosts Pittsburgh Saturday.