Penn State's legal settlements with Jerry Sandusky's accusers cover alleged abuse dating to 1971, which was 40 years before his arrest, the university said Sunday in providing the first confirmation of the time frame of abuse claims that have led to big payouts.
The disclosure came as Penn State president Eric Barron decried newly revealed allegations that former football coach Joe Paterno was told in 1976 that Sandusky had sexually abused a child and that two assistant coaches witnessed either inappropriate or sexual contact in the late 1980s. Paterno, who died in 2012, said that the first time he received a complaint against Sandusky was in 2001.
Barron said the accusations were unsubstantiated and suggested that the university is being subjected unfairly to what he called rumor and innuendo.
Responding to questions about the president's statement and claims against the school, university spokesman Lawrence Lokman told The Associated Press and ESPN's Josh Moyer that he could confirm that the earliest year of alleged abuse covered in Penn State's settlements is 1971.
Sandusky graduated from Penn State in 1965 and returned as a full-time defensive coach in 1969.
The university has paid out more than $90 million to settle more than 30 civil claims involving Sandusky, now 72 and serving a lengthy prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 children. The trial involved only allegations dating back to the mid-1990s.
The settlements, including the one covering the 1971 allegation, were reached after Sandusky's 2012 conviction. But few details have been provided on the payouts by either the school or lawyers for those who said Sandusky victimized them.
The allegations about Paterno and the assistant coaches were cited last week in a ruling by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer in litigation between an insurance company and Penn State over how much of the settlement costs the school must bear.
The insurers cited an allegation that in 1976 a boy told the longtime Penn State football coach that he had been molested by Sandusky. The court document also cited statements, from those claiming they had been Sandusky's victims, that two unidentified assistant coaches said they witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in the late 1980s.
Lokman declined to answer questions about what steps the university took to verify abuse claims during the settlement process or about what it had done to investigate the new allegations that Paterno and members of his coaching staff knew about Sandusky's abuse decades before his 2011 arrest.
The university hired settlement experts Kenneth Feinberg and Michael Rozen to handle the claims. Feinberg declined comment. Rozen did not respond to an email from the AP.
In 2001, Paterno told high-ranking university officials that one of his assistant coaches reported seeing Sandusky acting inappropriately with a child in a team shower. In 2011, Paterno told a grand jury that he did not know of any other incidents involving Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999.
Paterno was fired following Sandusky's November 2011 arrest, and he died of lung cancer in January 2012. He was not charged with any crime, and his family is pursuing a lawsuit against the NCAA for commercial disparagement.
Three university officials, including former president Graham Spanier, await trial on criminal charges for their handling of the Sandusky scandal.
ESPN's Josh Moyer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.