A boy told then-Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno in 1976 that he had been molested by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, an insurer in litigation with the university claimed in court documents released Thursday.
The bombshell claim was mentioned in a pre-trial order by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer regarding insurance coverage for Sandusky-related claims against the Big Ten university.
Glazer's order also cited reports by unnamed assistant coaches that they witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in 1987 and 1988, with one incident allegedly referred to the university's then-athletic director.
The new allegations were first reported by PennLive.com.
Sandusky was sentenced in 2012 to between 30 and 60 years in prison for sexual abuse of 10 boys, the earliest incident of which was reported in 1998. Concrete evidence of earlier allegations had not previously come to light, even though Sandusky was convicted of abusing children he met through the children's charity Second Mile, which he founded in 1977.
Paterno, who died in January 2012, went to university higher-ups in 2001 after an assistant reported seeing Sandusky abusing a child in a locker room shower, and told a grand jury in 2011 he did not know of any other incidents involving Sandusky.
"I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it," Paterno testified 10 months before Sandusky was first charged, along with two university administrators accused of covering up complaints about him.
Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers said late Thursday there is no evidence to corroborate the new disclosure and that Paterno never covered up Sandusky's actions.
"Through all of this review there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct by Coach Paterno," Sollers said. "To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate."
"Because of a single sentence in a court record of an insurance case, Joe Paterno's reputation has once again been smeared with an unsubstantiated, forty-year-old allegation," Paterno's family said in a statement of its own. "In response to this allegation and the subsequent media hype, the Paterno family is demanding a full public review of the facts."
Paterno also told The Washington Post in 2011 he knew nothing about a 1998 police investigation into a mother's complaint about Sandusky showering with her son.
"You know it wasn't like it was something everybody in the building knew about," Paterno told the paper. "Nobody knew about it."
Penn State spokesman Lawrence Lokman told Pennlive.com that university officials involved in the Sandusky scandal's legal fallout knew broadly of the insurance case's allegations.
"Many, many people, potential victims and victims have come forward to the university as part of that (settlement) process," Lokman said. "We do not talk about their specific circumstances."
According to PennLive.com, Glazer ruled that Penn State's insurer has no obligation to cover claims related to abuses committed by Sandusky between 1992 and 1999. The insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co., is claiming that it is not obligated to reimburse Penn State for more than $60 million in Sandusky-related civil settlements paid by the university.
Paterno won 409 football games and two national championships during a 45-year head coaching career at Penn State, but was fired shortly after Sandusky's arrest in November 2011.
Three former high-ranking university officials who worked with Paterno await trial on criminal charges for their handling of the Sandusky scandal.
An appeals court recently threw out many of the charges against former president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, and state prosecutors did not challenge that decision. No trial date is set.
Also Thursday, Sandusky was granted a hearing set for later this month as he pursues appeals of his 45-count child sexual abuse conviction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.