Joe Paterno 'Despised' Sandusky Long Before Sex Scandal, New Book Claims

New biography shows Joe Paterno as Sandusky scandal engulfs Penn State.

August 20, 2012, 3:11 PM

Aug. 21, 2012— -- Long before Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse crimes led to Joe Paterno's downfall, the two Penn State coaches "despised each other," according to a new biography of Paterno.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski describes in his new biography, "Paterno," how tension built between the two men as Paterno grew frustrated with Sandusky, whom he thought paid more attention to his charity, The Second Mile, and children than to the Nittany Lions football team.

"These feelings had built into a crescendo over the years, as they sometimes do with longtime colleagues," Posnanski writes, describing how the men never got along.

Sandusky hated meetings, overlooked details and was uninterested in recruiting. He and his wife did not drink much alcohol, while the Paternos drank socially.

"The tension between Paterno and Sandusky gurgled just below the surface," Posnanski writes.

When Sandusky retired after the 1999 season, Sports Illustrated asked Sandusky if he would miss Paterno.

"Well, not exactly," Sandusky responded.

Despite the tension, the book maintains that Paterno never knew that Sandusky sexually abused children, and only had a vague idea that Sandusky had acted inappropriately with a boy in the Penn State showers in 2001, based on a description by graduate assistant Mike McQueary.

"Many of the people who had come to admire Joe Paterno believed that, no matter his own legal role, he should have made sure the incident was reported to the police. 'But, to be honest, that's just not how Joe was in the last years,' said one of the people in his inner circle. 'He was not vigilant like he used to be. I think a younger Joe would've said to Tim after a few days, "Hey what's going on with that Sandusky thing? You guys get to the bottom of that? Let's make sure that's taken care of." But he didn't understand it. And he just wasn't as involved as he used to be,'" the book reads.

Posnanski notes that after Paterno's family convinced him to read the grand jury presentment outlining the charges against Sandusky and two other Penn State officials, the 85-year-old coach asked his son, Scott Paterno, "What is sodomy, anyway?"

Sandusy has been convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse, and is awaiting sentencing in a Pennsylvania jail.

Paterno, who died in January, said that he wished he had done more to investigate the incident involving Sandusky and the boy in the shower. He maintained that he never knew about a 1998 investigation into Sandusky, though a report released in July by former FBI chief Louis Freeh found that he had known about it.

The new, 400-plus page tome covers Paterno's life before the scandal, though its main focus shifts to the fallout from Sandusky in the latter half of the book. Posnanski, a former Sports Illustrated journalist, began working with Paterno on the book before the allegations against Sandusky became public.

When Sandusky was arrested, it became apparent to the nation and Paterno's family that the coach would have to explain his role in the abuse that occurred on campus. To Paterno, however, it was less clear, according to the book.

"On Monday, the family tried to persuade Paterno to read the presentment," the book says. "He objected that he already knew what was in there, but they told him there was no room left for illusion. [Family adviser Guido] D'Elia would remember telling him, 'You realize that the people out there think you knew about this? They think you had to know because you knew about everything.'

"'That's their opinion!' Paterno shouted. 'I'm not omniscient!'"

Paterno told his son, Scott Paterno, that he did not know anything about Sandusky's sexual abuse, noting that he did not listen to rumors and only knew what McQueary told him.

"'I didn't hear anything, why are you badgering me?' Paterno told his son. 'What do I know about Jerry Sandusky? I've got Nebraska to think about, I can't worry about this.' Nebraska was the next game.

"'I had to do everything I could to not cry right then,' Scott recalled."

Posnanski also describes the night Paterno was fired by his beloved Penn State, as the board of trustees told him to cancel a press conference Paterno had called to discuss what he knew about the abuse.

"About an hour before the scheduled time, a university representative called D'Elia and said the press conference had been canceled by order of the board," the book says. "Later, a rumor surfaced that the university was going to have its own press conference. 'That's it,' D'Elia told Paterno family members. 'They are going to take Joe out.'"

The day after he was fired, Paterno sobbed uncontrollably, the book reports.

"He had his dark moments, certainly, when he wondered how old friends could turn so suddenly on him and how people at Penn State, the school he had loved and championed for most of his life, could believe such terrible things about him," the book reads.

In the end, however, Paterno seemed to shrug off the criticism.

"'[The criticism] really doesn't matter,' said Paterno in our last conversation," Posnanski writes. "'It really doesn't. I know what I tried to do. Maybe everybody will see that in time. Maybe they won't. Maybe they will judge me by what I tried to do. Maybe they won't. What difference does it make? I just hope there is justice for the victims.'"

The book details Paterno's struggle with lung cancer from November 2011 through January 2012, when he died. In final interviews with Posnanski, Paterno came to accept what had happened with his reputation, Posnanski writes.

"'You know what?' Joe said. 'I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. Are you kidding? I've lived a great life. Healthy children. Healthy grandchildren. Loving wife. I look around the world and see people who have real problems, serious problems. I'm the luckiest guy.'"

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