STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and other senior officials "concealed critical facts" about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse because they were worried about bad publicity, according to an internal investigation into the scandal concluded.
The 267-page report released Thursday is the result of an eight-month inquiry by former FBI director Louis Freeh, hired by university trustees weeks after Sandusky was arrested in November to look into what has become one of sports' biggest scandals.
The report concluded that Paterno, president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
"In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university -- Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," the report said.
Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the report said.
The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."
Freeh called the officials' disregard for child victims "callous and shocking."
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh said. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and the school's president.
Freeh also said Sandusky's conduct was in part a result of the school's lack of transparency, which stemmed from a "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees. He said the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who was afraid for his job and opted to not report seeing sex abuse in a school locker room in 2000.
The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program -- one built on the motto "success with honor" -- for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future 'visibility' at Penn State'," allowing him to groom victims.
With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as outlined in a letter sent to the school last fall.
"Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action," said Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. "We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press