Paterno has remained largely silent on the case, with the exception of a few written statements, until now. (Source: CNN)
(RNN) - In an interview with The Washington Post, the ailing former Penn State University football coach, Joe Paterno, told his side of the story surrounding the case of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to clear the air on speculations about his involvement with the scandal.
His interview tells the story of an old-school, old-fashioned man trying to deal with circumstances he did not fully understand.
Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator and one-time heir apparent to succeed Paterno as the head coach, was charged by a grand jury with 40 criminal counts accusing him of molesting eight young boys between 1994 and 2009.
Police said Sandusky used his charity program, Second Mile, to recruit and groom potential victims, and believe there may be more out there.
The allegations first came to light in 2002. Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant coach, testified before a grand jury that he told Paterno in 2002 that he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower at the football facility at the university.
Paterno reported the incident to the athletic director, but somehow the information stopped there.
It wasn't until multiple allegations of child abuse later by parents of children in the Second Mile program that Sandusky was arrested in 2011, causing public outrage and questions as to just how much the administration of Penn State, including Paterno, knew about the abuse.
Paterno said in the interview that when he first learned of the abuse in 2002, he was at a loss for what to do and was unfamiliar with the allegations.
"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. "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."
Paterno said he was confused by what McQueary told him, who testified that he had been less graphic in his description of the act to the then 75-year-old coach.
"You know, he didn't want to get specific," Paterno told The Washington Post. "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."
The scandal ended the career of Paterno, who was the head coach of Penn State for 46 years.
Sandusky retired in 1999 and had not worked with Paterno, who said the two were not close, in three years. He said their relationship was "professional, not social," during the three decades they worked together and at the time did not remember the last time he had spoken with him.
He said he was had no idea the police were investigating a report of child abuse in 1998 from the mother of a child in Second Mile, and said that at the time he thought Sandusky had retired to focus on his charity work after Paterno told him he would never become head coach.
Paterno said he waited a day after McQueary told him about what he saw because he wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing.
"And then I called my superiors and I said, 'Hey, we got a problem, I think. Would you guys look into it?' 'Cause I didn't know, you know," Paterno told The Washington Post. "We never had, until that point, 58 years I think, I never had to deal with something like that. And I didn't feel adequate."
In December, Paterno's son announced that his father is battling lung cancer. During the interview, 84-year-old Paterno was confined to a wheel chair as he struggled with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
In a previous statement, Paterno expressed remorse for not doing more to help the alleged victims.
"This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life," Paterno said in a release announcing his decisions to step down, which was later rejected as he was fired before the season ended instead. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
Police believe there may be more victims in the Sandusky case who have not yet come forward. Meanwhile, Sandusky has maintained his innocence and waived a right to a preliminary hearing in December.
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