In a statement issued Sunday night, Penn State’s Head Football Coach Joe Paterno said he is "deeply saddened" by the recent sexual assault scandal that rocked the state school’s pristine reputation.
"If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters," said Paterno’s son, Scott, in a statement on behalf of his father.
“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 added.
Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach to Paterno, is charged with the sexual assault of eight boys over a period of 15 years, from 1994 to 2009.
He is suspected to have abused the boys during his participation in The Second Mile, a statewide nonprofit organization that helps at-risk kids. Sandusky founded The Second Mile in 1977.
“The Second Mile will continue to do everything in our power to be cooperative with authorities and will maintain our focus on doing what is best for the children,” said the organization in an email to the Associated Press on Sunday.
Top officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz stepped down from their posts at Penn State Sunday. Curley, the athletic director, and Schultz, vice president for finance and business, are charged with perjury and failing to alert police of Sandusky’s sexual misdoings.
In March 2002, a graduate assistant at the university notified Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a nude male victim in the locker room showers.
“As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at the time, I referred the matter to university administrators,” Paterno said.
Curley and Schultz took no action after hearing of the assault, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly. Paterno is not a suspect in the case.
Students are also expressing shock at the sex scandal surrounding football college Penn State.
“It’s shocking and surprising that’s it come up, and if it’s true then the strongest penalty should be taken against anyone engaged in a cover-up. I think it really is a shame because it is one of the few things that tarnishes Penn State football,” said Freshman Grant Brown, 18, to the Associated Press.
Paterno urged all Penn Staters to not let the scandal shake their faith in the university.
“I understand that people are upset and angry," Paterno said, "but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold.”