Morning Joe   |  May 30, 2013

Rewriting Joe Paterno’s legacy

NBC’s Bob Costas joins Morning Joe to explain why the Paterno family is filing a lawsuit against the NCAA. The panel also discusses the current state of Paterno’s legacy and whether it will change over time.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> mr. free has been named as someone who was a cooperating individual, a coconspirator in this lawsuit.

>> we have given a lot more allowance to louis fry than he did to joe paterno and the other people he named in his report. we don't know what his motivations were. we just know he got it wrong.

>> that was the attorney for the paterno family on " costas tonight" last night. joining us now the coast of " costas reports", bob costas .

>> happy to be on. this may be and this is an ancient reference, the worst trade since febrock. exit tom brokaw . exit hanks. enter costas . in the overall this is not good.

>> we will take costas any day of the week. you have been on the paterno story. talk about the show last night and the paterno family pushing back on the ncaa .

>> my feeling is this. a number of people, not just the people at the fringes, there are always people at the fringes of every issue, a number of credible people are taking issue with the free report. most people have read about it but haven't read the report itself. the former pennsylvania governor issued a review that was highly critical. the family hired him. criticisms have come from other directions.

>> what is thornburg's criticism?

>> the basic criticism is while there are individual flaws in the report that he assigned motivations especially to paterno that were pure conjecture. first and foremost in order to avoid consequences of bad publicity that paterno knowingly covered up sandusky 's on going abuse of children whereas the paterno family and others would contend there were signs here that might have been missed. it is when all of the pieces of the puzzle have been put together many years down the roadt that we see the full mark of sandusky 's heinous activities and paterno was unaware of it at the time and would have had no reason to engage in this kind of coverup. too many people knew about it for a cover up to have existed. if there was an on going cover up.

>> do you agree with that?

>> i agree --

>> do you understand where they are coming from?

>> i felt they were deserved to be heard. the report came out. the penn state board accepted it. ncaa handed down harsh penalties. penn state accepted it. now there is pushback. i'm not sure which side is right. probably neither side is 100% right. i'm sure the other side deserves a hearing.

>> isn't the problem here the fact that they have a chain of e-mails. paterno is not in the middle of it.

>> paterno didn't use e-mail.

>> he seems to be above it. i don't think nick sabin would be writing e-mails about this either. all we have is conjecture. paterno says we report it to the athletic director . this guy was penn state . it is hard to take away over 100 victories based on that conjecture. we are in a tough position.

>> they are going to contend the ncaa overstepped their bounds. they are concerned with paterno 's legacy that he led a virtuous life for the most part and what happened at the end we can debate. was he guilty of a moral failure despite the virtues or was it something less than that as representatives contend that in retrospect he wishes he acted more proactively but at the time he only had a vague understanding of what sandusky was about.

>> you agree with with many people who knew paterno well. their contention is if you knew joe paterno , a virtuous man, a religious man, the idea of an underling going to joe paterno and explaining in graphic detail what was going on they wouldn't do it. they didn't want to shock him.

>> mike mcquery , the assistant coach who reported the incident in 2001 with sandusky and one victim said he spared paterno some of the graphic details out of respect for paterno 's age and position and gave more graphic testimony to the grand jury and in the sandusky trial itself. out of 48 counts sandusky was found guilty on 45. one of the three he was not found guilty of was the incident in the shower which mcquery reported to paterno and paterno subsequently reported to the higher ups. where i come down on this and have said several times before paterno was never charmged. likely had he lived he never would have been charged. if he was charged almost certainly he would have been exonerated. we hold joe paterno to a higher standard. if any of us knew only this we knew there was an investigation in 1998 even though no criminal charges came out of it. now we hear something that would have creeped us out that happened in 2001 . whether or not there was a rape that took place, he is showering with a boy after hours in a university building. if you knew only those two things about a person, wouldn't you disassociate yourself from that person? wouldn't you say i run this football program. he doesn't have an office here anymore. he doesn't have premium football tickets anymore.

>> he was on the sidelines with the boys which for me, how could paterno not look down the sidelines and see sandusky and put those things together? it is all conjecture. you wonder how --

>> could he have known everything in the grand jury report? that is not realistic. did he know the full extent of sandusky 's on going activities? i don't think so. those things would have set off alarm bells for most of us to say jerry sandusky no longer sets foot on our property and no longer can use any of the prestige of penn state in connection with his own name.

>> based on what you said obviously the responsibility has to be some on paterno . this is not just about his legacy and about how the school is now and the football program. we put up a full screen of the penalties, four year probation, 100 plus wins, $60 million, scholarships. is there any chance of any of that changing?

>> according to the attorney for the paterno family there is a possibility of a settlement.

>> the school got crushed on this.

>> the school got crushed and the board at penn state is going to be held to account to some extent for accepting the penalties. and there is going to be a claim that they didn't follow up on their fiduciary penalties. if you all allowing to settle with them you are acknowledging guilt and shelling out more than $100 million and they may claim that wasn't a responsible exercise of their duties.

>> you talked about guns famously. it is obviously an issue that means an awful lot to you, right?

>> in retrospect i didn't have as much time as i needed to get into the nuances. as a matter of technique i think i could have done better. if i could have rewritten it i could have said if we are looking for perspective on an issue like this. you always hear this puts it in perspective and no one retains perspective after the next play is run. so what i should have said if we are looking for illusive perspective we are going to have to look at the issue of domestic violence. the effects of football we know it has cognitive effects and has led to tragedies. what about in the short term? does it increase aggression. does it have an impact on impulse control? what aboutt the relationship between athletes and guns? not talking about second amendment rights. guns are proliferating in sports. the head of the nfl players association sent me a hand written note thanking me for what i said. if you talk to roger goodell and david stern , you ask them would you better off if all of your players were lawfully armed or if none of them were armed ever you know they would take choice b because you have a lot of guys carrying guns as a misplaced symbol of manhood or street cred . almost never does anything good come out of it and often tragedy and folly comes out of it. that was the larger point i was trying to make. i think some of what i said was misinterpreted as a broad side against the second amendment.

>> thank you so much. you can catch " costas tonight" on the nbc sports network.

>> wasn't he so much better than tom brokaw and hanks?

>> i think so.

>> this was a trade that turned out very well.

>> if i spend for me maybe a year growing a mustache, can i come back?

>> would you shave his mustache?

>> i want to see it.

>> if you do it for charity.

>> you name the charity. i