CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As Penn State fans look forward to the upcoming season, a former president is taking a look back at the most challenging time in the university’s history. Graham Spanier has released a new book about the Jerry Sandusky scandal that cost him his job and his reputation as he tries to rewrite history and change public perception.
“In the beginning, I didn’t want to write about this at all it was just gonna be too painful,” Spanier said, in an exclusive interview with Dennis Owens.
In “The Lions’ Den” the former president has written 30 chapters on the most painful chapter in PSU history.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here
“There’s so much misinformation out there, I felt somebody had to tell the truth about what really happened, what the story was, and how so many people were unfairly thrown under the bus,” Spanier explained.
The book begins, “I LOVED MY JOB as president of Penn State University.”
Why wouldn’t he? Spanier was high-profile, highly paid, and highly regarded until November 9, 2011. On that day, Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno were relieved of their duties. It stems from their handling of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was accused and later convicted of abusing boys. Many believed Paterno and Spanier helped cover up those crimes to protect Penn State’s reputation. Just not so, Spanier insists.
“I only had one discussion with Jerry Sandusky in my life. I didn’t know him,” Spanier said.
But emails show Spanier was informed of an incident between Sandusky and a boy in a shower in 2001, which was witnessed by former quarterback Mike McQueary. It was never reported to the police. Spanier says he never knew it was serious or sexual.
“Sandusky was charged with 48 crimes, found not guilty on three, including the one we’re talking about right now, which was the shower incident at Penn State,” Spanier noted.
But Spanier was eventually convicted of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment in a case that spanned ten years, six attornies general, nearly two dozen judges, and numerous prosecutors, many of whom were later reprimanded or sanctioned.
Get the latest Pennsylvania politics and election news with abc27 newsletters!
“It was a roller coaster of charges being made, and then thrown out, then being overturned, then new charges being leveled it was a colossal judicial mess,” Spanier said.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office responded with a statement that read in part, “A jury of Mr. Spanier’s peers found him guilty, and the fact that his conviction and sentence was ultimately upheld by state and federal courts speaks for itself.”
Spanier spent 58 days in the Centre County Jail. “I did not do anything wrong. I did not deserve to be there.”
Spanier also says he did nothing wrong as president of Penn State, and wouldn’t have done anything differently if given the opportunity. But what does he say to Nittan Nation, who just wants the Sandusky saga to go away? How does another book help with the healing?
“Penn State has 700,000 living alums and their identity is very much attached to their history with Penn State so they can’t forget and they won’t forget,” Spanier said.
He also devotes a chapter to blasting the media called Media Culpa and notes that the Dauphin County jury foreman who convicted Spanier later said he made a mistake.
Spanier made several million dollars from Penn State in the years following the Sandusky scandal but says he is now retired from the University. He said he is, however, doing security consulting. Though he had open-heart surgery and battled prostate cancer, the 74-year-old said he is feeling well, plays racquetball and bikes regularly, and still resides in State College.