By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) — Penn State University has paid out $5.76 million to the estate of Joe Paterno, its heralded head football coach who lost his job as part of a spiraling sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants, a school athletic official said Thursday.
Jeff Nelson, an assistant athletic director and spokesman for the university, said via e-mail that more than half of the payout — $3 million — was in the form of a retirement bonus.
The school gave Paterno’s estate the balance of his employment contract because his exit as head of the Nittany Lions’ football program was officially considered a retirement, not a termination, according to Nelson.
More details will be posted on http://openness.psu.edu, a website set up by the school to provide information about the case.
The university’s board of trustees fired Paterno last November because its members thought he failed to take his knowledge of a scandal at the school to the appropriate authorities, the board said in a report posted last month.
The controversy revolves around Jerry Sandusky, 68, a longtime defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions. He faces more than 52 counts involving sexual acts with 10 boys dating back to 1994, with prosecutors alleging that some of this illicit behavior occurred in Penn State athletic facilities.
Paterno testified to a grand jury that a graduate assistant told him in 2002 that he had seen Sandusky in the showers “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
“While Coach Paterno did his legal duty by reporting that information the next day … to his immediate superior, the then Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, the board reasonably inferred that he did not call police,” said the report explaining Paterno’s firing. “We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.”
Curley and Gary Schultz, a senior vice president at the university, are charged with perjury and failure to report a crime in relation to the investigation — specifically, the account passed on to them by Paterno. Paterno himself was never charged with a crime.
His ouster as coach, hours after he issued a statement saying he’d retire at the end of the 2011 season, spurred riots by his supporters on the Penn State campus.
In his final interview in January, he told the Washington Post that he’d felt inadequate to deal with the initial allegation of abuse — saying he “didn’t know exactly how to handle it and … was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was.”
Paterno, 85, died January 22 at a hospital in State College after battling lung cancer.
Just before the scandal erupted, he’d become the winningest coach in major college football history by leading his teams to 409 victories.
In 46 years under his leadership, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times, according to his official Penn State biography.
— CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.