As the Jerry Sandusky trial began to play out, Joe Paterno started to renegotiate his contract and was able to score a huge single year payout from Penn State in exchange for shortening his existing contract by a year.
The New York Times' Jo Becker reports Paterno began to renegotiate his contract with Penn State officials in January 2011, the same month he learned his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was being investigated for sexually assaulting young boys and that he was being subpoenaed to testify at the trial. Paterno reached a deal with university President Graham Spanier on a new contract that would make the 2011-2012 season his last year, but they kept it a secret. Paterno's contract wasn't set to run out until the end of the 2012-2013 season:
Mr. Paterno was to be paid $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last. Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of the retirement package. He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.
According to Becker, "Details of the agreement were known to a handful of board members but not shared with the full board, according to people with knowledge of the events." The Board of Trustees didn't find out about the deal until November when Sandusky was arrested. The Board opted to fire him instead of waiting out the season. There was internal debate over whether they still needed to pay the specifics of the new contract, but in the end, facing mounting pressure from university supporters and, after Paterno's death, threats of a defamation lawsuit from the Paterno family, they relented. And then some. They gave the Paterno family a package worth $5.5 million, and gave in to additional demands from Paterno's family, "like the use of specialized hydrotherapy massage equipment for Mr. Paterno’s wife at the university’s Lasch Building, where Mr. Sandusky had molested a number of his victims." According to Becker, the university balked at requests from the Paterno family to continue using the stadium box reserved for the head coach located right next to the university President's box, and their request to use the university's corporate jet.
This is yet another blow to Paterno's legacy at Penn State following the release of the Freeh report. The university is trying to figure out how to move forward in the wake of everything that's happened. Their identity has effectively been stripped away, and now they're left standing naked trying to find new clothes. The university is currently debating whether they should remove the statue of Paterno on campus. One of the Paterno's most famous contemporaries, former Florida state coach Bobby Bowden, says the statue should be removed because it no longer represents the coach's legacy of football. It can only serve as a reminder of the scandal that brought him down, and the university should work to move past that. The sculptor, Angelo DiMaria, is torn over the statue's fate. Some on Twitter think it should stay.
The odds of the statue staying up, at this point, are even. The university painted Sandusky out of a campus mural earlier this week, but left Paterno in. Now, they've announced they're gutting and renovating the Lachs Building locker rooms where Sandusky's assaults took place. The move, according to the university, is a "direct result" of Sandusky's crimes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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