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Paterno biography reaches bookshelves


February 16. 2013 6:20PM


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The author of a new biography of Joe Paterno says the late Penn State coach and his family never tried to limit his access to them after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke.


Joe Posnanski told The Associated Press on Tuesday the Paternos wanted their story to be told and trusted him to do it fairly.


"The one thing they were so good about, they never, from Joe all the way down, they never tried to influence the book," Posnanski said. "They never said, ‘Hey, leave this out or don't put this in.' Or this might be misconstrued or whatever. They were, every one of them, said tell the truth the best you see it."


"Paterno" was released Tuesday.


"(Paterno's children) believed that if the truth came out that people would see their father for what he was," said Posnanski, who has worked for The Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated. "So I reached for that."


Posnanski began the project well before Sandusky, Paterno's longtime assistant coach, was charged with sexually abusing boys last Nov. 5.


He had extensive access to Paterno before and after the scandal, which led to Paterno's firing by Penn State within a week of Sandusky being charged. Soon after Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and he died Jan. 22 at age 85.


"Pretty quickly after the scandal blew up, I realized that this was not just one chapter in his life but this was sort of the all-consuming chapter of his life," Posnanski said.


Sandusky is jailed and awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June on 45 criminal counts involving 10 boys.


Former athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired school administrator Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report the abuse allegations against Sandusky.


Paterno was not charged, though the NCAA last month slammed his beloved football program with a range of tough sanctions. Among them, the Nittany Lions were forced to vacate 112 wins from 1998-2011, meaning Paterno no longer has the most coaching victories in major college football.


The penalty seemed to grow from a report commissioned by the school from former FBI director Louis Freeh. It said Paterno, Curley, Schultz and former school president Graham Spanier concealed allegations against Sandusky dating back to 1998. Paterno's family and the three officials all deny those conclusions.


Posnanski said Paterno to his death did not acknowledge doing anything illegal and felt as if he was fooled by Sandusky. Paterno did tell Posnanski, as he had said publicly, "I wish I had done more."


"There were certainly some down moments in the middle of all of this," Posnanski said. "The way I took it was, I've come here to write about a man's life, I thought it only was more important when all this happened.


"Suddenly you're in the middle of this immense, immense story and you're getting all this access, I just thought I felt like I had a big responsibility and my responsibility was to put the reader there with me. In the house, in the middle of all this. To listen to his words. It was so important for me to back away at that point. Just let people decide what they wanted to think."


Posnanski said that while the Sandusky scandal was still making headlines, in December and January, inside the Paterno home the focus was now on Paterno's battle with lung cancer.


"He was in like in a daily fight for his life ... He really wanted to beat it so he could spend time with Sue and all that sort of thing. That was really the driving force in those last few months. Much more than anything else. The cancer treatments and the radiations and everything else that he was going through."


"That was where I really wanted to bring the reader. Take you inside there to that moment where he's talking through those horrible coughing fits. He was a very, very sick man."


Posnanski, who had written stories praising Paterno in the past, said not until he was doing his research for the book did he realize the extent to which Paterno has been practically deified by fans and the media at times in his life.


"No person could live up to those stories," Posnanski said. "That's really when this whole idea struck me of that Joe Paterno in so many ways has never been treated like a real person.


"All of these years he was treated like a saint and of course now, he's treated like the opposite. ... He brought a lot of that on himself. He demanded that of himself, too."




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