The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

June 17, 2013

Former Penn St. players support Paterno family lawsuit

STATE COLLEGE — About 325 former Penn State players and coaches have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno and other former players seeking to overturn NCAA sanctions against the football program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Former player Brian Masella released the letter Monday in support of the lawsuit, which was also filed last month by some coaches, trustees and faculty. Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, and former NFL quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Todd Blackledge are among the notable names who signed on to the statement.

Masella said he and a few other former players organized the statement on their own after some of the plaintiffs explained their position in a letter to former players and sought their support.

He stressed the statement had no connection to the official football alumni group, the Football Letterman’s Club, which has roughly 1,100 members, though some individual members have signed on their own.

The former players in the statement said they stood with the others in the case in demanding “fairness, due process, truth, and a just outcome. Everyone – Sandusky’s victims, Penn Staters, and the public at large – deserves to know the complete truth.”

As in the lawsuit, the former players in the statement took issue with the NCAA basing its strict sanctions on what they called the flawed report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal for the school.

Freeh concluded that Paterno and three former school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator found guilty in June 2012 on dozens of criminal counts covering allegations on and off campus. Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to 30-to-60 years in prison.

Paterno died in January 2012. Freeh’s report was released the following July, and the NCAA issued its sanctions less than two weeks later. The landmark penalties included a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts.

Paterno’s family and the school officials have firmly denied there was a cover-up. The family earlier this year commissioned a critique which called Freeh’s report a “rush to injustice.”

Family attorney Wick Sollers praised the former players for a “powerful statement of support ... The purpose of the litigation is to have the issues reviewed in a forum where due process and facts matter.”

The lawsuit filed several weeks ago argues the NCAA sidestepped its own rules with uncharacteristic speed in levying sanctions, and sought to raise fresh questions about Freeh’s report.

“In speaking with a couple former players, we wanted to do something to support the (others) involved in the lawsuit,” Masella, a 1975 graduate who played tight end and punter, said in a phone interview.

“We had to start somewhere. It basically started to snowball.”

When asked, Masella also said their actions don’t take away from the full support that former players have for coach Bill O’Brien and the current team.  

They backed O’Brien “100 percent,” and wanted what was best for the current players in hoping to reverse the sanctions, he said.

The NCAA has not filed a response yet to the lawsuit. NCAA president Mark Emmert – named as a defendant – declined comment on individual cases last month.

“I’m perfectly fine to have an opportunity for us to state our case and have it heard in a court of law, then we’ll let a legal system do its work,” Emmert said in Irving, Texas, at a Big 12 meeting on May 30.

Earlier this month, two trustees said in an interview with The Associated Press that they hoped Penn State’s focus on reforms in the aftermath of the scandal might eventually persuade the NCAA to reconsider the severe penalties.

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