STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State tailback Silas Redd still stands by his former coach Joe Paterno. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill does, too.
Redd, Hill and the rest of the Nittany Lions are trying to weather another stormy period after former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal concluded that Paterno and three other top school officials concealed allegations against his former defensive coordinator.
Most Nittany Lions, before a player-organized charity event Friday, said they didn’t watch the news conference Thursday about the probe, but had at least heard of the findings.
Nearly all the Nittany Lions declined comment about the report itself, trying to refocus attention for the "Uplifting Athletes" charity event for which they had gathered to raise money for the Kidney Cancer Association.
"It has nothing to do with us," Redd said about the findings. "We’re just talking about this event and this season."
But Redd said his opinion of Paterno, the coach that recruited him to Penn State, hadn’t changed. He said Paterno, in his view, remained "the best college football coach of all time."
Some newspaper columnists and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden have said the statue should be taken down — but not Redd.
"Because I feel he did a lot more good than bad for this university," he said.
Hoping to take a picture at the statue in cap and gown when he graduates, Hill said he would be sad if the statue was removed. His opinion of Paterno hasn’t changed, either.
"I’m still a big supporter of coach Paterno and he is one of the reasons that I’m here," he said. "All you can really say is no man is perfect at all."
Now that Freeh’s findings have been released, Penn State can now concentrate on answering the NCAA’s own inquiry into the scandal. President Rodney Erickson has said the school plans to respond to questions about institutional control and ethics in the coming weeks.
It’s possible the NCAA could then launch a formal investigation which could lead to sanctions.
Whether that could include the so-called "death penalty" — where a program is shut down — seems unlikely, at least for now. It has happened just once, against SMU back in the 1980s. Current NCAA rules limit the penalty to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation.
"When that time comes, if it comes, then we’ll worry about that," Hill said. "Right now, our eyes are looking forward to what’s coming up."
Linebacker Michael Mauti said he read the report, but like others, said "it wasn’t his place to talk about it."
"All we can do is show up for work and prepare for the season. All we can do is this right here," said Mauti, a redshirt senior and defensive leader, as he gestured out to field where the offense vs. defense competition was being held. "Stay together."
It’s a familiar refrain for players since early November, when school trustees fired Paterno days after Sandusky was arrested.
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien took over as head coach in early January. Two weeks later, Paterno died of lung cancer.
In June, Sandusky was convicted of 45 criminal counts. And this week, Freeh’s long-awaited report placed blame on Paterno and three other high-ranking school officials for concealing allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001 to avoid bad publicity for the school and program.
The Paterno family has said the late coach would not cover up allegations, and that they hoped to release a comprehensive response to put conclusions in a different context and offer a "complete picture."
"I don’t think it’s really my place to say," Mauti said when asked about criticism of Paterno’s legacy. "You can’t really take away what he’s done ... I don’t worry what other people say. I know what he’s meant to me and meant to my family."
Once they got into the event, the roars from a field sounded as if it were a football scrimmage. The offense beat the defense in a tug-of-war to take a round in the annual charity competition, which had been scheduled for Friday for months.
"I hope all the stuff that’s been going on doesn’t cast a shadow over what we’re doing out here today," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "This is something we’ve put on each and every year and I don’t want everything that’s happened to effect what we’ve done out here today."