The legacy of Joe Paterno absorbed another blow Saturday as the New York Times reported that the late Penn State coach sweetened his contract at the school amid the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The Times' Jo Becker writes that in January 2011, Paterno and his superiors began discussing a new contract for the coach that would pay Paterno $3 million if he retired following the 2011 season. These talks occurred during the same month Paterno testified before a grand jury about his former assistant Jerry Sandusky, convicted last month of sexually abusing children.
Paterno's contract had been set to go through the end of the 2012 season. His amended contract was finalized in August and agreed to by then-Penn State president Graham Spanier. It included perks such as the use of Penn State's private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for the next 25 years. Wick Sollers, an attorney representing the Paterno family, told The Times that many of the perks existed in previous contracts for Paterno.
Penn State's board of trustees reportedly had no knowledge of the renegotiated contract until Sandusky was charged and arrested in November.
From The Times:
Board members who raised questions about whether the university ought to go forward with the payments were quickly shut down, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
In the end, the board of trustees -- bombarded with hate mail and threatened with a defamation lawsuit by Mr. Paterno's family -- gave the family virtually everything it wanted, with a package worth roughly $5.5 million. Documents show that the board even tossed in some extras that the family demanded, 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.
You can make your own judgments here, but the curtain of Penn State's culture of secrecy -- and the powerful role Paterno and the football program played into it -- is gradually being lifted.