STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case is drawing to a close and the findings are expected within weeks, which would enable the university to confront the next difficult chapter in the scandal well ahead of the new academic year.
Following the former assistant football coach's arrest in November, university trustees appointed former FBI Director Louis Freeh to lead the sweeping investigation. His central mission was to find out how and why Penn State failed to stop Sandusky — who was convicted last month on 45 criminal counts for sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus — and recommend changes to help prevent more abuse.
With football training camp opening in a month and classes starting Aug. 27, the latest timetable, if met, will assure that the university's own failings can be identified before another school year gets under way.
Freeh's inquiry helped uncover new evidence for the ongoing criminal investigation and will also be central to other inquiries. It is expected to shed more light on the relationship between athletics and the administration and the influence wielded by the late coach Joe Paterno. A fractured Penn State community, meanwhile, is still seeking answers about the events that led to the ousters of Paterno and school President Graham Spanier.
The U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of crimes on campus. And the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, is conducting its own inquiry.
More than 400 people were interviewed as part of the Freeh investigation, including everyone from top administrators and trustees to retired secretaries and former staffers in the athletic department.
A spokesman for Freeh this week declined to comment on when the report would be finished, and the university on a website on the response to the scandal hasn't deviated from its late summer timeline.
But school president Rodney Erickson recently told the Centre Daily Times newspaper that he expects the Freeh report by mid- to late July.
Five people in leadership roles at the university told The Associated Press this week that they had either been told or received indications that findings could be released within weeks, if not sooner, and no later than the end of the month. Trustees could offer an update at the next board meeting July 13 in Scranton.
Recently revealed emails among top school officials about a 2001 molestation allegation also apparently led to another round of interviews.
NBC first reported on the email traffic last month. CNN reported this week on an excerpted email from Athletic Director Tim Curley that indicated he changed his mind about reporting the 2001 allegation to child welfare authorities after speaking with Paterno, which suggested the Hall of Fame coach took a more active role in the decision than what he described.
Two people at the university familiar with the investigations told The Associated Press that athletic department staffers were among those interviewed by Department of Education officials since revelations about the email exchanges. The two people, who were also interviewed by Freeh's team, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigations.
Paterno died in January of lung cancer at age 85. His family issued a statement this week that the leaked materials presented only a fraction of the story, and called for both Freeh's team and the state attorney general to release all relevant and records pertaining to the Sandusky investigations.
The NCAA has said it expects the school to provide a more detailed response to its inquiry once Freeh's investigation was complete. The NCAA is examining Penn State's "institutional control" over the events that occurred, along with whether school officials followed policies on honesty and ethical conduct.
The NCAA could choose to undertake a more formal investigation that could lead to sanctions. While school officials remain worried about that happening, officials have also remained optimistic Penn State would not be penalized because the Sandusky allegations didn't directly impact the football program or give Penn State a competitive advantage, said two people at the school familiar with the NCAA inquiry.
Penn State also hopes the NCAA takes into account corrective steps already taken, said the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the university. Such steps include increased training for school employees to recognize and report abuse allegations.