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Penn State paying millions to Paterno estate; family lawyer says 'no release was signed'
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) ' Penn State has agreed to provide millions in payments and benefits to Joe Paterno's estate and family members under the late football coach's employment contract, although a family lawyer says the Paternos did not sign away their right to sue.
The school turned over four checks Thursday worth more than $3 million for bonuses that covered the season, bowl game and entire career, according to a university spokeswoman.
A breakdown provided by Penn State included the use by Paterno's family of a Beaver Stadium suite for 25 years and $900,000 from television and radio revenue from last season. Half the broadcast revenues were paid in February, and the rest will be paid later this year, the school said.
Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers issued a statement Thursday saying there has been no settlement but rather "a straightforward payment of moneys indisputably owed to the Paterno estate. The university had requested that the family agree to a full release in return for the payments under the contract. That request was declined and no release was signed."
Without a release, Paterno's estate could still sue under the contract or some other reason, if it wishes.
School spokesman Bill Mahon described it as the university and Paterno's estate finalizing the remaining payments that were due to the longtime coach, who was fired in November in the wake of former assistant Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child sexual abuse charges.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
The university also said it would pay the coach's widow, Sue Paterno, $1,000 a month for life, and provide her with on-campus parking and access to university hydrotherapy equipment.
Other elements of the package include a final paycheck of $34,000, a death benefit of $51,000 and $350,000 ' payable over five years ' under a 1986 consulting agreement. The university also agreed to forgive $350,000 in outstanding loans and debt. No explanation was provided regarding Paterno's debts to the school.
While the school said in a news release that the total value of the package was "over $5.5 million," added together the various elements are worth about $6.7 million. The stadium suite was valued at $1.5 million.
The university's breakdown said his contract was amended in August to include a $3 million career bonus if he retired at the end of the season, the payment that constituted the largest part of the money his estate received Thursday. After Sandusky was arrested, Paterno announced he planned to retire at the season's end, but he then removed as coach by the trustees, who have said a "failure of leadership" on his part contributed to their decision.
Mahon said the trustees decided to honor the terms of Paterno's contract as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 season.
"That contract recognized Coach Paterno's decades-long contributions to our football program and to the entire university," Mahon said.
Paterno spent six decades at Penn State and 46 seasons as head coach, winning two national championships and becoming the face of the university.
Sandusky is awaiting a June trial on 52 charges for alleged abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period, allegations he has repeatedly denied. Also charged were athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, accused of lying to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse. They also await trial and have denied the allegations.
The scandal also led to the departure of university president Graham Spanier, who remains a faculty member.