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Exclusive Two-Hour Graham Spanier Interview Released

One of the more fascinating videos of the entire Sandusky-saga was released earlier this weekend by ABC. Sports reporter-turned-Good Morning America anchor Josh Elliott interviewed former Penn State President Graham Spanier for two hours in September 2012, and that entire tape was posted on ABC’s website as a result of a strange legal development. In testimony from former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin released last week, she alleges that Spanier lied in this interview. That apparently prompted ABC to post the full-length video.

It’s an incredible video in its entirety, as Spanier maintains composure for two-hours while Elliott grills him on every possible angle of the case. Most of Elliott’s questions surrounded, predictably, around how Spanier handled the 2001 McQueary report of Sandusky’s abuse. Spanier maintains consistently that he handled the situation appropriately given the information he had at the time. Elliott tried to find a crack in Spanier’s position by asking dozens of similar questions with slightly different wording, until finally Spanier refuses to answer the same question over and over again.

It’s an occasionally awkward exchange that is unlikely to change any minds but certainly speaks to Spanier’s composure. Elliott was especially critical of the fact that Spanier didn’t inquire more about who made the 2001 report, but Spanier continually maintained that it wasn’t a big enough issue at the time to merit further investigation.

Here are some of the most interesting moments from the interview:

  • 31:15 — “It was one of my great privileges in life to have the opportunity to work with Joe Paterno. We had as good of a relationship as any university president and a football coach could have…He was, in my estimation, a person of great leadership ability. He wanted Penn State to be a great university. He always put academics first…He didn’t break rules.”
  • 37:20 — “Joe was planning on retiring [in 2012]. We had an agreement on that– a signed agreement actually. He and I and Tim Curley and just a few leaders of the Board of Trustees that I took into my confidence knew one way or another that this was going to be his last year. We wanted him to have the courtesy of announcing it.”
  • 45:01 — “Never in my time as President of Penn State did I ever receive a report — or even a hint — that Jerry Sandusky was engaged in child abuse, a sexual act, criminal activity, or anything resembling that with any child. Had I know that, or had I even suspected it, I would have forcefully intervened. But I never heard a report of that kind, and you can ask me that question ten different times, and the answer is going to be the same.”
  • 1:08 — “With the benefit of hindsight, any of us who have been involved in this and have suffered consequences from this would have done more if we’d know more at that time…Given the information we had at the time, we acted appropriately about what we heard and what we knew.”
  • 1:14 — “If I had the opportunity, I would have gotten out in front of it, had a press conference, answered questions, and tried to exercise some control of it. Nothing much was happening in this regard until late that Wednesday night, but by then…in that vacuum, in the absence of someone from the university to stand in front of the cameras and reporters to answer questions, it spiraled out of control.”
  • 1:16 — “They also said that many members of the board were thinking about firing Joe Paterno and what would my advice be on that. I did not think that that would be a good idea. I thought that there could be riots and it was a rush to judgement. They knew very well that this would be Joe’s last season anyway and he deserved to be treated better and go out on a high note.”
  • 1:19 — “The NCAA’s actions go well beyond its mandate. There’s no precedent for what they did. I believe that Penn State deserved its day in court. I think accepting the Freeh report as a basis for the NCAA sanctions is not appropriate, it was not conducted for that purpose, and the conclusions of that report are not accurate.”
  • 1:121 — “We ran the cleanest program in all of collegiate athletics. I don’t care what people might think or say about that, but that is the fact…Seventeen years in a row, I met with every member of the athletic department staff at the beginning of each year and told them, ‘We follow the rules here. If anyone of you, ever, knowingly breaks and NCAA rule you are fired.’ We then met with all of the new athletes at Penn State — about 200 of them a year — in an auditorium. The athletic director and I made it very clear, ‘You are the representatives of the university. You will be disciplined if you break a rule. There will be no special favors.’ In recent years, I invited the district attorney to those sessions with me because we wanted to make it clear that we operated Penn State in the most honest way. We did not break rules. Joe Paterno never asked me to have the university break a rule or to give his athletes special privileges…He operated with integrity. We did not break rules at Penn State.”

About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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