A little over 10 years ago, the public learned of the horrific sexual-abuse crimes committed by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The fallout was swift and sweeping.
In addition to Sandusky’s conviction and imprisonment, three high-ranking Penn State administrators received jail time, and the winningest coach in major college football history, Joe Paterno, was abruptly fired.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2012, 74 days after Penn State fired him for his role in Sandusky’s crimes. He was 85. A decade later, the stunning and sudden end to Paterno’s 61-year coaching career continues to divide the Penn State community and beyond, and many of those involved, including Sandusky’s victims, are still reckoning with what he did and what school officials did after that.
ESPN recently interviewed key surviving figures from the most wrenching period in Penn State’s history to see how they want to reconsider Paterno’s legacy a decade later.
Initially identified in court documents as “Victim 1,” Aaron Fisher was the first survivor of Sandusky’s sexual abuse to come forward, first to his psychologist, then to Pennsylvania State Police.
Fisher’s decision as a 15-year-old to speak with detectives about Sandusky’s serial sexual abuse launched a police investigation that spanned more than three years and led to criminal charges that would land Sandusky in prison for 30 to 60 years — effectively a life sentence.
Looking back, Fisher says his main concern in coming forward was that he “wouldn’t be believed.”