A letter written by Joe Paterno before his death says the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse case was not an indictment of the football team and that Penn State alums around the world should feel no shame in saying they are from the university.
"This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one," the former coach says in a letter he wrote in late December and early January, more than a month after the university fired him in the wake of the scandal and just weeks before his death from lung cancer.
"It is not an academic scandal and does not in any way tarnish the hard earned and well-deserved academic reputation of Penn State," Paterno wrote.
The letter was obtained by FightOnState.com, which said it had been forwarded to former Nittany Lions players on Wednesday morning. It was posted online a day before the anticipated release of the Freeh report detailing Penn State's response to the abuse case.
Paterno says in the letter that he felt compelled to address comments made by university officials "decrying the influence of football" on the school after his firing.
"Let me say that again so I am not misunderstood: regardless of anyone's opinion of my actions or the actions of the handful of administration officials in this matter, the fact is nothing alleged is an indictment of football or evidence that the spectacular collections of accomplishments by dedicated student athletes should be in anyway tarnished," Paterno wrote.
He said any suggestion otherwise "is a disservice to every one of the over 500,000 living alumni."
Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after 46 years as Penn State's head coach. He died Jan. 22.
At the request of the attorney general's office, Paterno remained publicly quiet on the abuse case until about a week before his death when he told the Washington Post in an interview that he wished he had done more after hearing an assistant tell him he saw Sandusky in the Penn State showers with a boy.
Sandusky was found guilty last month on 45 of the 48 counts charging him with sexual abuse against 10 boys over a 15-year period. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced in September.