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Freeh Report on Penn State Sends Message to All School Administrators

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Athletics can't ever come before the safety of students.

If that message wasn't obvious before today, it should be coming through loud and clear after the release of former FBI director Louis J. Freeh's report regarding the child-sex-abuse scandal involving former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The report, released Thursday morning, accuses Penn State administrative leaders of "total and consistent disregard ... for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims."

It specifically implicates former Penn State President Graham Spanier, athletic director Timothy Curley (who remains on administrative leave), former Vice President Gary Schultz, and the late former head football coach, Joe Paterno, for having "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

Despite learning of sex-abuse accusations against Sandusky in 1998, Curley, Paterno, Schultz, and Spanier held off alerting the university's board of trustees to the investigation once the district attorney filed no charges against the assistant coach.

After then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly witnessed Sandusky assaulting a young boy in a shower on campus in 2001, the four men corresponded again, deciding against telling the state Department of Welfare in favor of offering Sandusky "professional help." In an email, Spanier replied, "This approach is acceptable to me. The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it."

The report concludes that Curley, Paterno, Schultz, and Spanier "concealed critical facts" from the authorities in fear of any potential negative publicity. (Oh, the irony.)

The findings of the report have some, such as USA Today's Christine Brennan and Jen Floyd Engel of FOXSports.com, calling for Penn State to temporarily shut down its football program.

"Everyone in the Penn State community needs to stop thinking about the game and start thinking about the awful things that happened at the school because of it," Brennan wrote after the Freeh report was released. (The NCAA is currently conducting its own investigation into the actions of the Penn State administrators.)

Regardless of what happens to the university's football program, the Freeh report won't do much to help Penn State's case when defending itself against civil lawsuits filed by Sandusky's victims.

"It was even worse than the leaked information might have suggested, and there is a lot more info," Matthew Casey, a lawyer for some of Sandusky's victims, said of the report, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. "Words like 'concealment,' words like 'shocking,' used by a former federal judge who was hired by Penn State, those are bad words for any institution that now has to assess their own liability."

After the report's release on Thursday, Nike officials removed Paterno's name from the child-care center at their Portland, Oregon-based world headquarters, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

It's not a well-kept secret that certain athletes and athletic figures receive preferential treatment in some circumstances. The average head major-college football coach earned $1.47 million this past year, according to USA Today, and college coaches are often the highest-paid employees at universities with major sports programs.

The Freeh report should serve as a stark reminder to school administrators at all levels about the real importance of athletics. The reputation of Penn State as a university as a whole has been tarnished by a sports scandal involving an assistant football coach.

Major sports programs appear to lead to a rise in applications and donations from alumni, according to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, so it's safe to say that they won't be going away any time soon.

Instead, administrators must be more vigilant than ever.

If they're ever considering putting their sports program before the safety of a student, they'll only need to think back to the controversy surrounding Penn State before thinking twice.

Below is a copy of the full Freeh report:

Photo: Penn State students gather around a television in the student union on the school's main campus to listen to the press conference held by former FBI director Louis Freeh after the release of his report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in State College, Pa., on July 12.
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

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