Author: Paternos never tried to influence book
The author of a new biography of Joe Paterno says the late Penn
State coach and his family never tried to limit his access to them
after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke.
Joe Posnanski told The Associated Press on Tuesday the Paternos
wanted their story to be told and trusted him to do it fairly.
”The one thing they were so good about, they never, from Joe
all the way down, they never tried to influence the book,”
Posnanski said. ”They never said, `Hey, leave this out or don’t
put this in.’ Or this might be misconstrued or whatever. They were,
every one of them, said tell the truth the best you see it.”
”Paterno” was released Tuesday.
”(Paterno’s children) believed that if the truth came out that
people would see their father for what he was,” said Posnanski,
who has worked for The Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated.
”So I reached for that.”
Posnanski began the project well before Sandusky, Paterno’s
longtime assistant coach, was charged with sexually abusing boys
last Nov. 5.
He had extensive access to Paterno before and after the scandal,
which led to Paterno’s firing by Penn State within a week of
Sandusky being charged. Soon after Paterno was diagnosed with lung
cancer and he died Jan. 22 at age 85.
”Pretty quickly after the scandal blew up, I realized that this
was not just one chapter in his life but this was sort of the
all-consuming chapter of his life,” Posnanski said.
Sandusky is jailed and awaiting sentencing after being convicted
in June on 45 criminal counts involving 10 boys.
Former athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired school
administrator Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of lying
to a grand jury and failing to report the abuse allegations against
Paterno was not charged, though the NCAA last month slammed his
beloved football program with a range of tough sanctions. Among
them, the Nittany Lions were forced to vacate 112 wins from
1998-2011, meaning Paterno no longer has the most coaching
victories in major college football.
The penalty seemed to grow from a report commissioned by the
school from former FBI director Louis Freeh. It said Paterno,
Curley, Schultz and former school president Graham Spanier
concealed allegations against Sandusky dating back to 1998.
Paterno’s family and the three officials all deny those
Posnanski said Paterno to his death did not acknowledge doing
anything illegal and felt as if he was fooled by Sandusky. Paterno
did tell Posnanski, as he had said publicly, ”I wish I had done
Posnanski said neither he nor his editors at Simon &
Schuster ever considered calling off the project or delaying it as
the Sandusky scandal mounted and became an enormous national news
story that stoked fiery emotions both in Paterno’s supporters and
”There were certainly some down moments in the middle of all of
this,” Posnanski said. ”The way I took it was, I’ve come here to
write about a man’s life, I thought it only was more important when
all this happened.
”Suddenly you’re in the middle of this immense, immense story
and you’re getting all this access, I just thought I felt like I
had a big responsibility and my responsibility was to put the
reader there with me. In the house, in the middle of all this. To
listen to his words. It was so important for me to back away at
that point. Just let people decide what they wanted to think.”
Posnanski said that while the Sandusky scandal was still making
headlines, in December and January, inside the Paterno home the
focus was now on Paterno’s battle with lung cancer.
”He was in like in a daily fight for his life … He really
wanted to beat it so he could spend time with Sue and all that sort
of thing. That was really the driving force in those last few
months. Much more than anything else. The cancer treatments and the
radiations and everything else that he was going through.”
”That was where I really wanted to bring the reader. Take you
inside there to that moment where he’s talking through those
horrible coughing fits. He was a very, very sick man.”
Posnanski, who had written stories praising Paterno in the past,
said not until he was doing his research for the book did he
realize the extent to which Paterno has been practically deified by
fans and the media at times in his life.
”No person could live up to those stories,” Posnanski said.
”That’s really when this whole idea struck me of that Joe Paterno
in so many ways has never been treated like a real person.
”All of these years he was treated like a saint and of course
now, he’s treated like the opposite. … He brought a lot of that
on himself. He demanded that of himself, too.”
”To see those extremes of his life. I knew my job was to try to
find the guy in the middle somewhere.”
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP