Joe Paterno’s family tries to preserve his football legacy in lawsuit

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Relatives of Joe Paterno, once considered the winningest coach in college football history, will file a 40-page lawsuit on Thursday to see that Paterno’s legacy doesn’t end because of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The lawsuit — to be filed by the Paterno family, several members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, faculty, former players and coaches — takes to task the NCAA and a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, whom the sports body hired to conduct an independent investigation of Penn State’s handling of the scandal.

“The report on which the NCAA relied for its actions is fundamentally wrong, incomplete and inaccurate,” a release from the parties filing the lawsuit said.

The NCAA vacated 111 of his wins over a 14-year period, fined the school $60 million, reduced scholarships and banned it from bowl games for four years.

Freeh’s 267-page review blamed Paterno, former university President Graham Spanier, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz for allegedly taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.

The scandal led to Spanier’s ouster and shocked the nation after Freeh’s team concluded that the school’s top administrators had “empowered” Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the football team, to continue his abuse.

In 2002, a graduate assistant brought to Paterno allegations of Sandusky’s sexual abuse in one of Penn State’s facilities. Paterno informed his supervisors of the report, but the school’s board of trustees fired Paterno in November 2011, saying he could no longer perform his duties in the shadow of scandal.

Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts of child sex abuse. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

In addition to overturning the sanctions, the lawsuit seeks money for damages and legal costs. The Paterno estate says it will donate any money it receives from the lawsuit to charity.

“The one thing everyone should agree on is that the Sandusky scandal deserves a thorough, fair and careful review,” said Wick Sollers, the attorney for those filing the lawsuit. “The NCAA’s actions sought to limit the knowledge of the case and trample the rights of the individuals and institutions that were unfairly and inaccurately blamed by the Freeh report.”

The suit is the second filed against the college sports governing body.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett filed an anti-trust lawsuit in January against the NCAA on the grounds that its punishments for the university are “overreaching and unlawful.”

 

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