The long-awaited results of former FBI director Louis Freeh's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child- sex abuse case condemn a large number of university leaders, including late former head football coach Joe Paterno.

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," the 267-page report, released Thursday, says.

"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

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 and will likely spend the rest of his life in jail after he is sentenced later this year.

Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after 46 years as Penn State's head coach amid accusations he didn't do enough to stop the abuse. He died Jan. 22 of lung cancer.

Freeh's report was released eight months after he was hired by Penn State's board of trustees to look into the university's response to the abuse case.

The chairwoman of the Penn State board of trustees said Paterno's reputation and long service to the university had been "marred" by the scandal. She said the board "accepts full responsibility" for what happened and will take action to make sure it never happens again.

"We are horrified, we are saddened. There are not enough superlatives to use," Karen Peetz said.

Freeh's team conducted over 430 interviews of individuals including current and former university employees from various departments, as well as current and past trustees, former coaches, athletes and others in the community. In addition, over 3.5 million emails and other documents were analyzed.

Gary Schultz, the former senior vice president of finance and business, and Tim Curley, the athletic director on administrative leave, declined to be interviewed. Schultz and Curley were charged on Nov. 4 for failing to report the allegations against Sandusky and for allegedly committing perjury during their January 2011 testimony to a grand jury.

The Freeh report claims Penn State changed its plan of action and decided not to alert authorities after talking to Paterno following the incident in which former assistant football coach Mike McQueary said he witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy in the Penn State showers.

It was this incident which led to charges against Curley and Schultz and to the firing of Paterno, who was told of the abuse by McQueary.

"In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence of their proposed plan of action in February 2001 that included reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities. After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities.

"Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child's identity, about what McQueary saw in the shower on the night of February 9, 2001."

As a reason why Paterno and president Graham Spanier decided against taking action, Freeh's report cited Paterno's interview with the Washington Post in January, the coach's only real public comments on the matter before his death, in which he said he wished he had done more.

"I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was," Paterno told the paper. "So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."

Spanier told the Special Investigative Counsel that he was never told by anyone that the shower incident involved the sexual abuse of a child but only "horsing around." However, he never asked what "horsing around" by Sandusky entailed.

A statement from Paterno's family calls Sandusky "a great deceiver" and says Paterno "wasn't perfect." It says he made mistakes, but was also the only person in a position of power "to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more."

"The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept. The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn't fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events," the statement says.

"Sandusky was a great deceiver. He fooled everyone -- law enforcement, his family, coaches, players, neighbors, university officials, and everyone at Second Mile."

The family calls the notion that Paterno protected Sandusky to avoid bad publicity "simply not realistic." It says if Paterno "understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions."

A letter written by Paterno before his death and posted online Wednesday says the abuse case was not an indictment of the football team and that Penn State alums around the world should feel no shame. He bristled at the notion that it was a "football scandal."

Thursday, the Freeh report concluded that "the most powerful leaders at Penn State University -- Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large. Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky's victims."

Freeh states that the four men showed no concern about the 1998 criminal investigation into the shower incident. They failed to alert the board of trustees about the investigation or take any further action against Sandusky.

"At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building," the report says.

Despite no evidence that showed the Penn State board of trustees was aware of the allegations, the Freeh report says that the board "failed to create an environment which held the University's most senior leaders accountable to it."

Freeh adds that the board did not have regular reporting procedures or committee structures to ensure disclosure of major risks to the university; some trustees felt their meetings were a "rubber stamp" process for Spanier's actions; and the board did not independently ask for more information or assess the underreporting by Spanier about the Sandusky investigation after May 2011.

The board also comes under criticism for being over-confident in Spanier's abilities to handle crises, including the firing of Paterno.

The NCAA said it was reviewing the report and would decide if it needed to take further action against Penn State.

Freeh and his team gave the board of trustees 14 recommendations in January and the report stated that almost all of those have now been implemented. In addition to the interim recommendations, a total of 119 other recommendations were set forth in Thursday's report.

Some longer term changes also suggested include the creation of a comprehensive and stringent Compliance Program, including board oversight through a Compliance Committee.

The above facts in the report show that Penn State's "Tone at the Top" for transparency, compliance, police reporting and child protection was completely wrong.

Freeh says the report "marks the beginning of a process for Penn State, and not the end."

It had ramifications elsewhere. Nike announced that it would change the name of its Joe Paterno Child Development Center, with chairman Phil Knight saying he was "saddened" by the report.

He said Paterno "influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands" but the that investigation showed the coach "made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences."

Ken Frazier, a member of the Penn State board of trustees, said they were "deeply ashamed" by what happened. In reference to Paterno, he said anyone's life should be measured by all they have done -- "by the good they've done and the bad they've done," he said.

Also from Frazier:

- He said adults failed in their "fundamental responsibility to safeguard the children in their communities." He called it an "inexcusable failure" on the part of Paterno and others to do that.

- He was critical of the board's role and said trustees failed to provide the proper oversight. "We are accountable for what's happened here," he said.

- "Let me be clear," Frazier said, "an event like this can never happen again in the Penn State community."