Bob Costas tactfully played devil’s advocate during Wednesday’s late-night segment re-examining the Freeh Report and discussing the new Joe Paterno family lawsuit.
On his hour-long “Costas Tonight” segment on the NBC Sports Network, he began by pointing out how he was not promoting an “advocacy position” of the pro-Paterno camp. He ended the show saying how the question and answer format may have differed — been more of a point-and-counterpoint feel — had Louis Freeh and NCAA president Mark Emmert accepted invitations to join.
Nevertheless, “There are credible people .¤.¤. who have issues with the Freeh Report, and at the very least they deserve to be heard,” Costas said. “Most sports fans know what the Freeh report is, but I’d guess less than one percent of them actually read (it).”
Though most all of the discussion was familiar to many Paterno followers and Penn State football diehards, the biggest news was the unveiling of yet another lawsuit against the NCAA. This one is on behalf of Paterno’s family, members of the Penn State board of trustees, faculty and former players and coaches.
And the main point of contention throughout centered around last summer’s Freeh Report, the university-commissioned study in reaction to the Jerry Sandusky scandal that became the basis for harsh NCAA sanctions against the school and the football program.
Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers corrected Costas near the show’s end, saying that the board of trustees never held a formal vote to accept Freeh’s findings. Rather, he said, that the consent decree was signed and the report was accepted because of the NCAA’s “behind-the-scenes threats of the death penalty” for the football program.
This edition of “Costas Tonight” will re-air today at 7 p.m.
Though Freeh was described in the lawsuit as a “co-conspirator” in the report and sanctions against Penn State, “We don’t know what his motivations were, we just know he got it wrong,” Sollers said.
Just before “Costas Tonight” began at 11:40 p.m., details of the 40-page lawsuit were released at www.paterno.com. The suit is expected to be filed in Centre County Common Pleas Court today.
On the Paterno web site, it is asserted that the NCAA, Emmert and former executive committee chairman Edward Ray “acted in clear and direct violation of the organization’s own rules based on a flawed report by former FBI director Louis Freeh.”
“This case is further proof that the NCAA has lost all sense of its mission. If there was ever a situation that demanded meticulous review and a careful adherence to NCAA rules and guidelines, this was it. Instead, the NCAA placed a premium on speed over accuracy and precipitous action over due process,” Sollers said in the release.
The suit brings six counts against the NCAA, Emmert and Ray, including breach of contract, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement. The purpose of the litigation is to overturn the NCAA sanctions against Penn State, as well as seeking “compensatory and punitive damages from the NCAA for its improper conduct and breach of contract, as well as reimbursement for legal costs.”
All net proceeds from any monetary recovery will be donated to charity, according to Paterno supporters.
Those involved in the suit include university board of trustee members Ryan McCombie, Anthony Lubrano, Al Clemens, Peter Khoury and Adam Taliaferro. Former football coaches Bill Kenney and Jay Paterno also are named in the suit, as are several former players.
Players included are Anthony Adams, Gerald Cadogan, Shamar Finney, Justin Kurpeikis, Richard Gardner, Josh Gaines, Patrick Mauti, Anwar Phillips and Michael Robinson.
This legal action follows Gov. Tom Corbett’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and the suit filed by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman to ensure that the NCAA’s $60 million fine against the university is distributed in-state.
The university, however, is not directly involved in any of these suits.
In Wednesday night’s show, Costas was joined by Sollers, Paterno spokesman Dan McGinn and former attorney general and Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh.
The suit’s goal is to “redress the NCAA’s 100 percent adoption of the Freeh Report and imposition of a binding consent decree against Penn State University, Sollers said.
Moving forward, Paterno supporters said they expect a “tooth and nail” fight from the NCAA to prevent the public from learning alleged details of the relationship between the NCAA and the Freeh group, “and other behind-the-scenes moves to cram down this consent decree.”
During the show, Costas questioned his guests on the possibility of Paterno participating in a cover-up of Sandusky’s actions to avoid negative publicity — a stance he believes is still held by many.
Costas then suggested that the cover-up notion may not make much sense, considering the facts.
“What does not make sense is that Joe Paterno would in any way risk his reputation to protect Jerry Sandusky,” a man he didn’t even get along with, Sollers said.
When speaking of Paterno, McGinn said the Freeh Report was released with “no filter. They put it out immediately. It blew up. It was like taking a blow torch to a dry set of woods.
“The Paterno family never said to me to clear our names. They never said just fight for the legacy, Joe Paterno,” McGinn said. “I was with him as he was dying and he said, ‘Just get the truth. I have confidence. Make sure the truth comes out.’”
Last summer, Costas was critical of Paterno’s role in the matter after reading a summary of the report, which had just been released.
But by early April, Costas said, “There is a narrative that people think has been tidied up by the Freeh Report, that it becomes, ‘cased closed.’ Even if certain aspects of that narrative are true or plausible, there are legitimate questions that can be raised.”
“What the Freeh Report amounts to is the indictment of the people involved,” and while some, such as former athletic director Tim Curley, will receive a court date, Paterno never will.”
Earlier this year, a group of experts hired by the Paterno family, and led by Thornburgh, released the Paterno Report, which challenged Freeh’s work.
In the Costas show, Thornburgh said the Freeh Report is “deeply flawed, and it is, in many respects, incomplete, inaccurate. In our review, we found that relied much more on speculation and conjecture than on facts that were developed through the investigation.”