Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State University football coach fired in the fallout from child sex abuse allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky, says he was unsure how to handle the first report about Sandusky that reached him in 2002.
"I didn't know exactly how to handle it, and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was," Paterno told The Washington Post in his first extensive public comments since being dismissed by the university in November.
"So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."
Those other people were Athletic Director Tim Curley and university finance official Gary Schultz, who was also the head of campus security until he retired after the scandal broke.
Paterno went to the two after he received a report from an assistant coach, Mike McQueary, who said he had seen Sandusky abusing a boy in a Penn State locker room shower.
Curley and Schultz face charges of perjury and failing to report the incident but are expected to enter not guilty pleas next week during their arraignment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is where state prosecutors allege they lied to a grand jury about their involvement.
Paterno said McQueary did not provide him with specific details about what he saw.
"You know, he didn't want to get specific. And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man," he said.
Paterno's decision to tell college officials and not police about the 2002 incident was the basis for his dismissal by the Penn State Board of Trustees' on November 9. Also fired was university president Graham Spanier.
The former coach, who faces no charges, spoke in an interview with Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins published on the paper's website on Saturday afternoon.
University spokesman Bill Mahon had no comment regarding Paterno's assertion that he thought he was turning McQueary's report over to the correct authorities.
'WANTED EVERYTHING TO SETTLE DOWN'
Paterno, 85, was admitted to a hospital in State College, Pennsylvania, on Friday because of minor complications from his treatment for lung cancer, which was diagnosed two month ago. Jenkins interviewed Paterno at his home this week.
A family spokesman said on Saturday afternoon that his condition had improved.
Paterno told the Post he was initially reluctant to speak. "I wanted everybody to settle down," he said.
News of his firing sparked rioting in State College where Penn State is located.
Sandusky faces 52 charges stemming from accusations by 10 men who say he molested them as juveniles over a 15-year period. Sandusky, 67, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and no date has been set for his trial. He is under house arrest.
If Sandusky is found guilty, "I'm sick about it," Paterno said.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Paterno was head coach of the Nittany Lions for 46 years. With 409 victories at Penn State, he won more games in Division 1 college football than any other coach in the sport's history.
Penn State hired New England Patriots assistant coach Bill O'Brien to replace Paterno as head coach a week ago.