PSU's board authorizes Sandusky settlements


PSU's board authorizes Sandusky settlements

UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- Penn State could soon be paying out millions of dollars to victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after disclosing Friday it had tentative agreements with some of the young men who say he sexually abused them.

The school does not plan to comment on specifics until the deals are made final, which could happen in the coming weeks. University president Rodney Erickson called getting approval for settlement offers "another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky's victims."

"As we have previously said, the university intends to deal with these individuals in a fair and expeditious manner, with due regard to their privacy," Erickson said in a statement issued after the university's Board of Trustees approved a settlement resolution.

Sandusky, 69, was convicted a year ago of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including violent attacks on boys inside school facilities. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term and maintains he was wrongfully convicted. He is pursuing appeals.

More than 30 claimants have come forward with sexual abuse allegations involving the longtime assistant to late coach Joe Paterno. The deals will be limited to a range of dollar values and subject to final approval by a committee empowered by the board to handle the claims. A university spokesman said the school plans to release the total amount it pays to settle lawsuit but will not provide amounts for individual cases.

Sandusky's arrest in November 2011 touched off a massive scandal that led to the dismissal of Paterno, then Division I football's winningest coach, along with criminal charges against other high-ranking school officials and ultimately NCAA sanctions that included stripping Paterno of 111 victories.

Board chairman Keith Masser said it was part of getting past the scandal and the collateral damage it has done to the university.

"We're just chipping away at getting these issues behind us," Masser said.

Legal experts say the "value" of a child sexual abuse claims depends on several factors, including the victim's age and the nature and frequency of the abuse. Many details about the Sandusky abuse claims have not been made public, but other molestation cases suggest Penn State may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to several million, to reach settlements.

Ira Lubert, the trustee who chairs the Committee on Legal and Compliance, told the board that "tentative settlements have been reached on a number of existing claims" without detailing how many have settled, how many remain and how much money -- individually or in the aggregate -- might be involved.

Lubert said his committee was empowered to authorize the settlements itself, but thought it was important that the trustees approved the move in a public meeting. The trustees voted unanimously to make the settlement offers.

The committee was briefed in detail on the proposed settlements during a June 25 executive session and another such meeting Friday morning, before the trustees met publicly at Penn State-Fayette, a satellite campus near Uniontown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Harrisburg attorney Chuck Schmidt said his client was one who expects to finish a deal based on terms provided by the university over the past week. He said only confidentiality provisions remain to be ironed out.

"We have an offer, and we have, basically, an agreement with the client to accept the offer," Schmidt said.

Schmidt's client, who filed a lawsuit that has been on hold, was not among those who testified at Sandusky's trial.

The firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP has been helping the university reach the settlements. It brokered mass litigation settlements stemming from incidents as varied as the September 11 terrorist attacks to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre.

Friday marked one year since the release of a university-funded report about its handling of the Sandusky scandal that was highly critical of the actions by Paterno, former president Graham Spanier and former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz await a July 29 preliminary hearing on criminal charges over an alleged cover up of complaints about Sandusky. All three men deny the allegations.

Spanier remains a faculty member on leave, while athletic director Curley and vice president Schultz have retired. Paterno died last year of lung cancer.

Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa.

After beating Ohio State, Penn State ranked for 1st time since 2011

After beating Ohio State, Penn State ranked for 1st time since 2011

After its signature win over Ohio State on Saturday night, Penn State finds itself ranked for the first time since 2011.

The Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) are ranked No. 24 in the latest AP poll. The Lions stunned the Buckeyes, 24-21, on Saturday in a White Out at Beaver Stadium (see game story).

With the loss, Ohio State drops from No. 2 in the country to No. 6 (see full poll).

While head coach James Franklin sidestepped the signature win question after the game (see story), there is no question the Ohio State win is one that has been lacking in the Franklin era at State College. Even junior cornerback Grant Haley, who scored the go-ahead, 60-yard touchdown off a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter, believes it was much-needed too.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map," Haley said. "We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight."

Penn State heads to Purdue next Saturday for a noon kickoff against the Boilermakers.

Penn State's signature win over Ohio State has it feeling it's back on map

Penn State's signature win over Ohio State has it feeling it's back on map

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – In another day and time, the late John Facenda — the voice of NFL Films and the very “Voice of God,” as he came to be known — described Marcus Allen “running with the night” while scoring a particularly memorable touchdown for the Raiders in a Super Bowl victory over Washington.

On Saturday, another Marcus Allen went soaring into the night, not to mention Penn State lore.

A blocked field goal by the Nittany Lions’ junior safety resulted in a go-ahead 60-yard TD return by teammate Grant Haley, as PSU upset No. 2 Ohio State in Beaver Stadium, 24-21 (see story). That led to the team’s fans, dressed appropriately for a White Out, to storm the field, and led to the kind of emotions that hadn’t been felt on campus in a long, long time.

“This is for everybody,” coach James Franklin said.

The Langhorne native talked about the game being “a big step in the right direction” as far as healing a community wounded by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal. He talked, with tears in his eyes, about the death of his brother-in-law four days earlier.

Yet he didn’t wish to discuss whether it was the kind of signature victory he needed to propel the program back toward prominence (or, for that matter, ensure his job security).

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” he said, adding that he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he said, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”

Understandable, since the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (No. 14 Wisconsin), beat a team ranked in the top five for the first time since 1999 (No. 4 Arizona) and earned a victory over their highest-ranked opponent since knocking off No. 1 Notre Dame in 1990.

PSU also snapped a 20-game road winning streak on the part of the Buckeyes (7-1). Seventeen of those victories had come in Big Ten play.

Few people saw it coming, though middle linebacker Jason Cabinda said that amid a sleepless Friday night at the team hotel, he and his roommate, fellow ‘backer Manny Bowen, allowed themselves to dream.

“We were just talking about how great it would be to pull this off,” he said, “and how we believed we could pull this off, and how it would be like writing history.”

It was already etched upon the pages of Brandon Bell’s mind.

“This was no fluke,” the senior linebacker said. “This is what we train for. This is what we go out there and play for. Obviously everybody is (saying) we shocked the world, but this is what you expect. Or what I expect.”

Bell, playing for the first time since the season’s second week because of a leg injury, had a career-high 19 tackles and one of his team’s six sacks. Cabinda, playing for the first time since the opener because of a hand injury, had 12 tackles and a sack of his own. Bowen added 11 stops, and defensive end Garrett Sickels, suspended for the first half for violating a team rule, had career highs of nine tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and 2½ sacks.

“Maybe,” Franklin said, “I should suspend him for the first half for the season.”

With Cabinda and Bell back, the Lions were more aggressive on defense than they had been, more varied. Yet the game seemed to be getting away from them when Ohio State built a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes’ splendid quarterback, had thrown for one touchdown, Curtis Samuel had busted off a 71-yard run for another and PSU’s repeated special-teams blunders (a blocked field goal, a fumbled punt and a bad snap on a punt) had left the Lions staring up at a team that had won its previous 78 games when leading by 14 points or more in the fourth quarter.

OSU had, however, been extended to overtime the previous weekend at Wisconsin, while PSU had a bye, two things that might very well have contributed to all that happened next. You had Lions QB Trace McSorley capping a brisk 90-yard drive with a scoring run early in the final period. And freshman linebacker Cam Brown blocking a punt (even though the block wasn’t on) to set up Tyler Davis’ field goal, cutting the gap to 21-17 with 9:33 left.

Then Allen blocked Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard field goal attempt as well, the first time since 2007 the Lions had rejected two kicks in the same game. Haley collected the rebound and set sail down the left sideline.

Durbin and holder Cameron Johnston gave chase, and Johnston, the punter, closed the gap on Haley, one of the fastest guys on Penn State’s team.

“I told him, ‘If you would have gotten caught by the kicker I never would have let you live that down,’” McSorley said.

Never mind that — Haley admitted he would have never forgiven himself.

He managed to make it the distance, though, and after Ohio State’s final drive ended with a pair of sacks, PSU had the victory.

When the gun sounded several Lions sprinted toward the student section at the south end of the stadium and performed their own version of the Lambeau Leap. And as the fans spilled out onto the field, two male spectators turned to each other high up in the west stands.

“We’re back in business,” one said to the other.

That seemed to be the feeling in the locker room, too.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

All because Marcus Allen soared, and took everyone else along with him.