By Jeremy Roebuck and Susan Snyder
July 8, 2012
In April 2007, more than two dozen Pennsylvania State University football players forced their way into an off-campus party and started a brawl that left several injured, resulted in criminal charges against six team members, and, eventually, convictions for two.
On campus, the incident sparked another fight, one pitting athletic department officials against top university administrators in a heated debate over how best to punish those involved.
In the end, football won out. None of the charged players missed a game, despite vocal objections from the university vice president who oversaw student conduct and Penn State’s judicial affairs office.
That incident five years ago has attracted new interest from investigators, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, probing the university’s role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
According to sources interviewed by the Freeh group in recent months, investigators asked about that fight, the response of head football coach Joe Paterno, and whether university officials had intervened in any other disciplinary crises involving student athletes.
Their questions suggest that Freeh’s final assessment will delve well beyond the facts surrounding the Sandusky case and into the sway figures such as Paterno exerted on university decision-making.
The Freeh report, which was promised this summer, could be released as early as this week, according to a trustee who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to discuss the issue. Penn State president Rodney Erickson and others have said they expect a report before the end of this month. More details could be released at the board of trustees’ next regular meeting Friday in Scranton.
“They’re covering everything – protocol, procedures, processes,” said one university employee interviewed by Freeh’s group. The source declined to be named publicly because of a confidentiality agreement with the investigators.
Penn State’s trustees hired Freeh in November to investigate the university’s handling of previous allegations against Sandusky, who was convicted last month on 45 counts of child sex abuse.
Two top administrators – athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a former vice president in charge of the campus police – await trial on charges that they failed to report one of those accusations and later lied about it to a grand jury.