Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and other senior Penn State officials "concealed critical facts" about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse because they were worried about bad publicity, according to an internal investigation into the scandal.
The 267-page report released Thursday is the result of an eight-month inquiry by former FBI director Louis Freeh, hired by university trustees weeks after Sandusky was arrested in November to look into what has become one of sports' biggest scandals.
The report concluded that Paterno, president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
"In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university -- Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," the report said.
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."
Officials later did bar him from bringing children to campus.
Freeh called the officials' disregard for child victims "callous and shocking."
"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," Freeh said. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
Some of the most powerful men at the school "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 his affiliation 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."
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts for abusing 10 boys. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and the school's president.
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 1999 retirement to the 1998 police investigation.
The report said Spanier promised the prestigious "emeritus" status to Sandusky, but others voiced concerns it wasn't appropriate. The report disclosed that Spanier also approved a lump-sum payment of 168,000 to Sandusky, which other officials said may have been unprecedented.
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.
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.
Armas reported from Scranton and Scolforo from Harrisburg. Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.