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Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Society | 7 comments

“Joe Paterno was a liar”

That’s how Sally Jenkins leads her story on Joe Paterno in the wake of Thursday’s release of ex FBI-director Louis Freeh’s report (pdf). She writes:

In a news conference Thursday, Freeh charged that Paterno, along with athletic director Timothy Curley, university president Graham Spanier and vice president Gary Schultz, engaged in a cover-up, “an active agreement of concealment.”

Paterno was not only aware of the ’98 investigation but followed it “closely” according to Freeh. As did the entire leadership of Penn State. E-mails and confidential notes by Schultz about the progress of the inquiry prove it. “Behavior — at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties,” Schultz wrote. “At min – Poor Judgment.” Schultz also wrote, “Is this opening of pandora’s box?” and “Other children?”

In an interview with Jenkins shortly before he died, Paterno “was categorical and clear as a bell”:

“Nobody knew,” he said.

Everybody knew.

Never heard a rumor?

“I never heard a thing,” he said.

He heard everything.

Had he not died, would he have been indicted?

In an interview with Poynter, Jenkins talks about the impact of this relevation on Paterno’s legacy.

She did decide to remove one portion of the column from the print edition. (It’s gone from the website as well.) Towards the end, she wrote that “everything else about Paterno must now be questioned.” She followed that with a line wondering whether Paterno’s modest house was part of his carefully constructed image, considering that he owned a multimillion dollar beach house in New Jersey.

She wanted to address the larger issue of what Paterno’s dishonesty meant for his legacy. “When you have that image and you cultivate it for so many years and you are then caught in a foundational lie, it provokes sportswriters like me to go back and say, ‘Was he really so modest? Who was he, really?’ ”

Thursday night, she learned that Paterno had bought the house for $380,000 in 1984. Still a lot of money at the time, but not quite so extravagant, and perhaps unfair to mention. So the line was deleted.

I feel compelled to speak to that purchase.

In 1984, my then-husband and I bought a three bedroom, 2.5 bath, two-story house outside of Carlisle PA for $100,000. I would not have called it a modest home at the time: 2,000 square feet plus unfinished daylight basement on a 15,000 square foot lot. Two-car garage. Fireplace and central heat/air. Hardwood floors.

Today the average listing price for that zip code (17015) is $287,000.

The most expensive zip code in the State College area today (16868) shows an average listing price of $389,500. The current average listing price for Paterno’s zip code (16803) is $298,730.

Based on this quick analysis, I don’t see how anyone can say, with a straight face, that a $380,000 home in State College in 1984 was “modestly” priced or that a 4,000 square foot home, even if originally built in 1958, would be considered “modest” in 1984. I don’t know of anyone who thinks a 4,000 square foot home is “modest” even in 2012.

I think Jenkins was correct in her first pass – that Paterno cultivated an image and that the image, eventually, came first.