Though delayed by overtime hockey, Costas Tonight eventually devoted a whole hour last night to a re-examination of the Freeh report. Bob Costas said at the outset—and at the end of the program—that he had invited Louis Freeh and NCAA president Mark Emmert to participate in the discussion. They declined. Which meant the pro-Paterno camp had the floor to themselves.
What viewers got was a roundtable discussion that featured Costas and three men who feel Freeh's report was a bum deal for Joe Paterno—Wick Sollers, the Paterno family's attorney; Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and former Pennsylvania governor; and Dan McGinn, the Paterno family's spokesman.
You can watch videos of the Costas Tonight broadcast here. The discussion mostly parsed the arguments that had been put forth by the Paternos in February, when the family released its own critique of the Freeh report, including one analysis that had been prepared by Thornburgh.
As we said at the time, the evidence presented by Freeh to ascribe a sinister cover-up motive to Paterno is almost entirely circumstantial. Freeh offered no proof that Paterno instructed anyone to keep quiet about Jerry Sandusky, or that he destroyed or withheld evidence, or directed anyone else to do the same. Remember: Paterno was never charged with a crime, and the Pennsylvania attorney general praised him for testifying honestly that he was told Sandusky had been doing something "sexual" with a child in a Penn State shower back in 2001. Paterno then reported what he was told to two of the three administrators who are still awaiting trial for their role in the alleged cover-up. And while Paterno may have had a hand in the decision not to report Sandusky to outside authorities and while he certainly discharged only the minimum of his responsibilities as Happy Valley's sainted moral leader, the evidence offered by Freeh on that failure to report allegation is not dispositive.
So what was new from last night's show? That the Paternos have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, which levied severe sanctions upon Penn State based entirely on Freeh's findings—a report that was commissioned and paid for by Penn State. The suit, filed in Centre County, Pa., where Penn State is located, accuses the NCAA of "unlawful conduct" for its "improper interference in and gross mishandling of a criminal matter that falls far outside the scope of their authority." It is also not the first Penn State-related lawsuit brought against the NCAA. We've already expressed our support for one of those suits.
The Paternos' suit will likely take years to adjudicate, which means it likely won't affect the sanctions in any tangible sense. Penn State is not a party to the suit, though a handful of trustees, faculty members, and former players and coaches are. If a judge determines the
suit plaintiffs have standing, it will be fun to see the NCAA have to make its inner workings public.
The Paternos' lawsuit can be read in its entirety below.
Photo credit: Associated Press