For Franco Harris, search for Penn State truth continues
Franco Harris, right, with Jay Paterno, behind the the statue of Jay's father, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, outside Beaver Stadium in April.
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Franco Harris said today that while he has doubts about the Freeh Report, he would be willing to change his opinion of Joe Paterno based on that report as well as other information that might be revealed in future trials of Penn State officials.
Harris, who just returned from a trip to Texas, said he has only caught pieces of information about the Freeh Report from ESPN and CNN and has not yet had a chance to comb through the information released Thursday morning on Paterno and other Penn State officials.
"Oh, oh, sure. Yeah. As I said, we just want the truth," he said about changing his opinion on Paterno. "I don't think it's complete yet."
Harris, the former Steeler and Penn State football star who played for Paterno from 1969-71, was one of the coach's staunchest defenders when the Penn State Board of Trustees fired Paterno in November 2011 in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.
"There's some players in this who are still very, very important, who were a part of this all.. . . ," Harris said in an interview in his office in McCandless. "I'm just not making a decision and I'm definitely not making a decision based on the Freeh Report."
Harris said he questioned the integrity of the Freeh Report after emails from Penn State officials were leaked prior to the reports's release. One of those emails indicated that Paterno played a role in a decision not to notify authorities of a report that Sandusky assaulted a young boy in a locker room shower.
"I mean, they really lost me on the importance of it once they started doing things like that," Harris said of the leaked email. "They lost me as far as the integrity of it. What are they really trying to accomplish here?"
Harris also questioned the truthfulness of the report, adding that he believes the eventual trials of former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley would say more about what really happened.
"The Freeh Report, a lot of people are taking it as gospel, that this is the truth. I don't think there's absolute truth to the Freeh Report. There's no way it can be unless you have the three [Spanier, Curley and Schultz] as part of that. I've mentioned that for months now I've been waiting for that part of it more than anything else," he said. "I mean, at the Sandusky trial, justice was served. Justice was served and that was great. But now this one's a whole different matter. I really can't form an opinion on this one until this due process happens."
For Harris, the "quest for truth" will continue to play out no matter how people interpret the Freeh Report.
"Some people will interpret things anyway that they want to go with their line of thinking, and I understand that. As they say, people don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are. But that's just human nature so there's nothing we can do. People are going to read it according to how they want to see it. So in our quest for the truth, we will keep going at it."
And if information about Paterno's involvement continues to come out as future trials occur, Harris said he would be willing to accept it -- even if it speaks negatively to Paterno's character.
"The truth is the truth and I'm willing to accept the truth, there's no doubt about it," he said. "When that day comes, based on a number of events, then I'm fine with that. The Freeh Report doesn't do it for me."
Brandon Boyd: email@example.com, (412)-263-1724. Twitter: @brandonmboyd
First Published July 13, 2012 2:50 pm