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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2012

Paterno pact talks, testimony coincided

Penn State board learned of contract package after Sandusky scandal broke


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State football coach Joe Paterno began talks that resulted in a sweetened retirement contract the same month he testified before a grand jury in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case, according to a published report.

Not all members of the board of trustees were informed of the new package before the scandal engulfed the university, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Mr. Paterno and the university reached agreement on the amended contract that eventually totaled $5.5 million in August, months before charges were filed against Sandusky, but they began negotiating in January, according to the report.

The amended contract included a $3 million career bonus if Mr. Paterno retired at the end of the 2011 season, as well as forgiveness of $250,000 in outstanding indebtedness and an extra $100,000 in loans.

The package included access to a stadium box for his family for 25 years as well as parking privileges and access to on-campus hydrotherapy equipment for his wife.

The newspaper cited university records in saying Mr. Paterno broached the idea of revisiting his contact in January. But the paper, citing "people with knowledge of the events," said details of the pact were known to a handful of board members but were not shared with the full board, which learned about the contract when Sandusky was arrested in November and two university officials were charged.

Mr. Paterno then announced he would retire at season's end in a statement that told trustees to focus attention on other matters.

"I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the board of trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can," Mr. Paterno said at the time.

"This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Trustees, who agreed Mr. Paterno had not done enough to stop the abuse, fired him that day, a decision that led to rioting in State College.

Mr. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.

Sandusky awaits sentencing after being convicted of 45 counts of having molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers told the Times it was Penn State that proposed the retirement package and that many elements, such as the luxury box and use by Mr. Paterno of a private aircraft, existed in previous contracts.

Asked if the university planned to try recover money from the Paterno estate, trustees Chairman Karen Peetz said, "Contracts are contracts, and no, there's no plan to do that."

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