Penn State coach Bill O’Brien joined university leaders in pledging to foster integrity and accountability following former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report on the school’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
O’Brien, who succeeded the late coach Joe Paterno, said Thursday in a statement that he was reading the findings to identify changes that need to be made in the football program.
”I stand with the university leadership in a shared commitment to driving a culture of honesty, integrity, responsible leadership and accountability at all levels,” he said. ”We can and we must do better.”
Freeh in the report said Paterno and other top Penn State officials buried child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity, conclusions denied by the Paterno family. Paterno died in January of lung cancer at age 85.
O’Brien said he remained ”proud of the accomplishments and character of Penn State’s many generations of student-athletes, and I look forward to doing my part to ensure we emerge stronger than before.”
Paterno, Division I’s winningest coach with 409 victories, turned Penn State into one of the country’s marquee programs during his 46-year tenure which included national titles in 1982 and 1986.
Sandusky, who retired in 1999, was Paterno’s defensive coordinator on the title teams. He is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month on 45 criminal counts.
Freeh wrote in the report that a powerful ”culture of reverence” for the football program existed at the university. But President Rodney Erickson later Thursday downplayed a suggestion that football had too much power at the university under Paterno.
”We should be careful that we don’t paint the entire football program over a long period of time with a single brush…these things happen in schools, in churches, in youth camps…all over,” said Erickson at a news conference in Scranton, where trustees were holding regularly-scheduled meetings.
Regaining the public’s trust in Penn State was an important goal for athletics, said the department’s acting director, David Joyner.
”Through these difficult times, we remain committed to the highest ideal and embodiment of the student-athlete, and we will emerge a stronger institution,” Joyner said in a statement.