Nightly News   |  January 14, 2012

Paterno: 'Didn't know exactly how to handle it'

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, in an interview with The Washington Post, says he wishes he had done more to find out what was being done about Jerry Sandusky's alleged behavior. NBC national Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff reports.

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>>> coach joe paterno is telling his side of the story. speaking out for first time since the jerry sandusky sexual abu abuse accusations first broke. here is michael isikoff .

>> reporter: legendary penn state coach joe paterno was abruptly fired last november in the wake of the jerry sandusky sex abuse scandal, setting off a near riot by the penn state students. now the 85-year-old paterno speaks for the first time about the scandal in an interview with "the washington post ."

>> and then i called in my superiors and i said, hey, we've got a problem, i think. old you guys look into it. i had never had to deal with something like that. i didn't feel adequate.

>> reporter: paterno said he was confused in 2002 when mike mcqueary first told him he had seen sandusky fondling a young boy in the penn state locker room the night before. he reported this to tim curley, but acknowledges he never followed up. i didn't know exactly how to handle it he tells the post. in hindsight i wish i had done more. he said he had no inkling about any allegations about sandusky prior to that time. and was never told about a 1998 police investigation of him. his relationship with sandusky was professional, not social, he says. sources close to paterno say he was at first furious when he was fired in the phone call . but in the interview, paterno tried to stay positive.

>> i have had a wonderful experience here at penn state . i don't want to walk away from this thing bitter.

>> reporter: penn state 's new president rodney erickson said that the school will pay the legal fees in the probe and continue to pay out his contract even though he has been fired. penn state also wants to find a way to honor paterno for his past service. but not a spokesman says for his conduct in this matter.