STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he was shocked, saddened and as surprised as everyone else to learn longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period, including four years when Sandusky still was a member of the Nittany Lions staff.
"If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers," Paterno in a statement issued Sunday evening by his son, Scott.
Paterno, a Hall of Famer and the winningest coach in Division I history, is not implicated in the case.
"Joe Paterno was a witness who cooperated and testified before the grand jury," said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office. "He's not a suspect."
Paterno referred to his grand jury testimony in which he testified that he was informed by an assistant coach in 2002 that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of the team locker room. Prosecutors have said Paterno had passed on the information to athletic director Tim Curley.
But Paterno said specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him.
"It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report," Paterno said in the statement. "Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."
In a phone interview, Scott Paterno, serving as his father's spokesman, said the first and only incident reported about Sandusky to Paterno was in 2002. Scott Paterno, a former lawyer, is a Harrisburg-based political operative.
Sandusky retired from his assistant's job in 1999. He is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. Overseeing the linebackers, Sandusky coached such prominent players including Jack Ham, Shane Conlan and Matt Millen.
Sandusky coached the defense in Penn State's 1982 and 1986 national title seasons, and was at one point considered a likely successor to Paterno. The grand jury report released Saturday said one victim, identified as "Victim 4," recalled a meeting with an emotional Sandusky after Paterno had told Sandusky about May 1999 that his assistant would not be the next coach at Penn State.
According to Scott Paterno, his father made the decision because he felt Sandusky was spending too much time at The Second Mile, a foundation Sandusky established to help at-risk kids, where authorities say he encountered the boys. Sandusky then made the decision to take early retirement, Scott Paterno said.
Curley and Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice president for finance and business, were charged Saturday with failing to report to state and county officials that the witness — who anonymous sources identified as then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, now the team's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator — told them he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a naked boy in the locker room showers in 2002.
Schultz and Curley were both also charged with perjury. Lawyers for all three men have said they are innocent.