(Reuters) - The widow of Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno said she felt “horror” upon learning Paterno’s long-time assistant Jerry Sandusky molested boys and insisted Paterno never hindered investigations into Sandusky’s behavior.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish we had done more,” Sue Paterno told Katie Couric’s syndicated daytime talk show in her first in-depth interview since the scandal.
“We didn’t have that benefit because we didn’t know anything,” she added in the interview, which aired Monday.
Until Sandusky’s arrest in late 2011 on charges he molested 10 boys, some in the Penn State locker room, Paterno was one of the most revered figures in American sports and the winningest coach in major college football history.
A scathing report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that Paterno, who died in January 2012, along with other university officials, covered up Sandusky’s sexual abuse for years and showed a callous disregard for the victims to protect a multimillion-dollar football program.
Freeh blamed Paterno, former university President Graham Spanie, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former university Vice President Gary Schultz for working in concert on a cover-up that began as early as 1998, when university police investigated allegations of abuse but let Sandusky off with a warning.
On Sunday, the Paterno family released a report they commissioned that said the Freeh report is “deeply flawed and that its conclusions as to Joe Paterno are unfair and unsupported.”
Freeh has called the Paterno family’s report “self-serving” and said it “does not change the facts established in the Freeh report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh report.”
Sue Paterno said she did not recognize her late husband’s portrayal in the Freeh report and said her husband did not know about the abuse by Sandusky, who found his victims through a charity he founded.
“That was Jerry being Jerry, being with young children. We didn’t have that mindset that he was doing anything more than teaching them, working out with them, and getting a shower,” she said. “It had nothing to do with suspecting he’s a pedophile. The people who saw Jerry every day had no clue.”
Paterno said she felt ill reading the grand jury report that detailed Sandusky’s behavior, and that she prayed every day for the victims, none of whom she knew personally.
Sandusky is now serving a 30- to 60-year sentence following his conviction last summer on charges he sexually abused 10 boys in a 15-year period.
Spanier, Curley, and Schultz have been charged with child endangerment, perjury, criminal conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse, and obstruction charges. Each has maintained his innocence, and they have not yet been tried.
Meanwhile, college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, ordered an historic $60 million fine and sanctions against the university.
Paterno was never charged with criminal wrongdoing.
Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by David Gregorio