That phrase has dogged Spanier and was crucial in the Freeh's reports assessment of what he knew and how he failed to act.
"'Vulnerable' was not best choice of a term," Spanier told ABC News, adding that "it was a reaction to the possibility that we didn't want this to happen."
Spanier said he had "no recollection of being concerned" that the school might be held legally liable.
Spanier recalled the anger with the university when the grand jury indicted Sandusky, leading ultimately to Spanier's demotion to professor and the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
"I opposed the firing [of Paterno]... There could be riots, it could be a rush to judgment, they knew it was his last season" and Paterno should have been allowed to finish the season, he said.
Spanier said he and Paterno had secretly signed agreement that the coach would retire at the end of 2012.
In July, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of abuse against 10 boys. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failing to report child abuse.