The report, commissioned by school trustees following the former assistant football coach's arrest last year, is expected to reveal how the university treated Sandusky after fielding complaints about his encounters with young boys in 1998 and 2001. It is also expected to cast additional light on how Paterno exerted control over the football program while Sandusky worked under him and after Sandusky retired from coaching.
Not only could the report shape how Paterno is remembered, but it also could affect an ongoing NCAA probe into the school's conduct and criminal cases against two Penn State administrators.
The report is being issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who was hired by the university to find out what school officials, including Paterno, knew about the child molester in their midst. It will be published online at 9 a.m. Thursday. Investigators will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia to discuss the findings and recommendations in the report.
The announcement came the same day that ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier's lawyers said he told Freeh's investigators last week that he was never informed that Sandusky was spotted molesting a boy in a school shower. The lawyers were rebutting reports that indicate Spanier could have tried to cover up the abuse that ultimately led to Paterno's firing.
Both Spanier and the Hall of Fame coach were ousted by school trustees a few days after Sandusky was arrested in November. Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month on 45 criminal counts.
"At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues," said a statement from the lawyers, Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie.
Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. Prosecutors described how he culled the most vulnerable children from his charity for at-risk youth and used gifts and his access to Penn State facilities to abuse them over a 15-year span.
After Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, he still had an office at the school and used its locker rooms.
The 68-year-old is awaiting sentencing, but given the seriousness of the offenses and state guidelines, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The seven-month university review was led by former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh and was designed, according to trustee Ken Frazier, to reveal "who know what, when" among Penn State officials. When Freeh was hired two weeks after Sandusky's arrest, he promised a wide-ranging investigation.
Freeh said he would not interfere with the state's criminal investigation but promised to conduct "a thorough, fair, comprehensive manner, leaving no stone unturned, and without any fear or favor." Several of the more than 400 people interviewed by Freeh's investigators have said they were asked questions that went beyond Sandusky and the child sex-abuse scandal.
The focus and tact of questioning depended on who was being interviewed, but among the broader subjects have been Paterno's influence outside of football and how Spanier and the administration handled athletics, including disciplinary issues.
The university has disclosed that Freeh's organization turned up emails that have been turned over to prosecutors.
Two Penn State administrators are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report suspected abuse when a graduate assistant described an attack in a team shower by Sandusky on a boy in 2001. Athletic director Tim Curley, now on leave, and vice president Gary Schultz, who has since retired, deny the allegations. Their trial date has not yet been set, but it could be announced soon.
Paterno was fired by the trustees shortly after Sandusky was arrested in November. He said in December that he alerted Curley to the 2001 complaint by Mike McQueary but that was the last time the matter was brought to his attention. He died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
CNN recently reported on an email from Curley to Spanier that said Curley changed his mind about going to child welfare authorities in 2001 after speaking with Paterno.
The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted "institutional control" in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct. The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.
The Freeh report is not being released in advance to Penn State trustees or any other officials, his public relations agency said in its statement.
"The publication of the report will be the first time anyone outside of Judge Freeh's investigative team will in any way receive the report, including The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees and the Special Investigations Task Force," it said.
Penn State trustees are holding closed-door meetings Thursday in Scranton, followed by public meetings on Friday.
Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa.