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PSU board member, former player Taliaferro defends Paterno Report

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

Adam Taliaferro, who nearly lost his life playing football for Penn State and is a member of the school's Board of Trustees, said the Paterno Report should be strongly considered when assessing everything from Joe Paterno's legacy to sanctions the NCAA levied against the Nittany Lions' football program.

The Paterno Report, released Sunday, is a rebuttal to the Freeh Report, which concluded last July that a conspiracy of silence at Penn State enabled former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to sexually abuse boys for more than a decade. The NCAA used the Freeh Report as the basis for sanctions that included a four-year ban postseason play and the loss of more than 40 scholarships.

“I think the Paterno Report showed that this isn't a clear-cut case as to what happened,” Taliaferro said. “I think there are a lot of unanswered questions from the NCAA's point of view. I think with this level of sanctions you really want there to be open-shut evidence, and I think it would be fair for (the NCAA) to read the report and then come to reasonable conclusions.”

An NCAA spokesperson said in an email to the Tribune-Review that the organization stands behind the sanctions.

Taliaferro, who defied long odds to walk again after suffering a catastrophic injury in 2000, had received criticism from Penn State alumni for his measured responses to events following his election to the Board of Trustees last April.

Taliaferro said he waited to speak out for two reasons: he wanted the Paternos to have their say and he followed a lesson from his former coach. Joe Paterno, Taliaferro said, always told his players to gather information before speaking out on an issue.

“I think it should be known that the board never accepted the conclusions of the Freeh Report, but those conclusions were put out there for the entire world to see,” Taliaferro said. “I think it's only fair and appropriate, for me personally and everyone on the board, to see Paterno's side of the story because he never got an opportunity to come in front of the board and tell his side of the story. That's why this whole thing has been so hard for me, because the way Joe has been portrayed, that's not the person I know.”

Paterno was fired in November 2011 following a grand jury indictment of Sandusky that eventually led to Sandusky's conviction on more than 40 charges of sexual abuse. Paterno died in January 2012, and the Freeh Report concluded the legendary coach was part of a cover-up. The Paterno Report has been alternately hailed as a repudiation of Freeh's findings and criticized as a self-serving attempt to restore Paterno's image.

Several other Board of Trustees also said the Paterno Report needs to be taken into consideration.

Ryan McCombie, elected to the Board last April, said former FBI profiler Jim Clemente provided valuable insight in the Paterno Report on how to spot a child pedophile. It also offered a solution to a widespread problem that is misunderstood by most people, McCombie said.

“The Clemente report is the first thing that has made any sense to me since this whole debacle began,” he said.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

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