They acted with "total disregard" for the sexually abused children and showed a "striking lack of empathy" for the victims.
The 267-page report is the result of an eight-month investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who was hired by university trustees a few short weeks after Sandusky was arrested in November.
It concluded by stating that Paterno, president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
Emails released in the report show that all of the top officials in question were more than aware of Sandusky's showering young boys as far back as 1998--14 years ago--and had concerns then that it bordered on sexual abuse and could yield other victims.
"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized," the report continued. "Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
That same year (1998), the mother of who we now call "victim 6" contacted the local university police department and reported that her son came home with wet hair after spending time with Sandusky, stating the two had showered together.
No charges were pressed at the time, but Schultz notified Spanier and Curley of the incident and wrote in his notes that it was "at best inappropriate, @ worst sexual improprieties." He asked: "Is this the opening of Pandora's Box? Other children?"
Freeh also noted that Sandusky's conduct was in part a result of the school's lack of transparency, which arose from a "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees. He later confirmed in today's press conference that he believes there was a lack of institutional control, especially within the football program.
For example, Freeh said the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who was afraid for his job and opted to not report seeing sex abuse in a school locker room in 2000, showing the true colors of the Penn State football culture.
"(The witness) spoke to the other janitors, who were shocked by it," said Freeh during the press conference. "But what did they do? They said 'We can't report this, because we'll get fired.' They knew who Sandusky was. One of the janitors watched him growing up as a famous defensive coordinator coach. They were afraid to take on the football program, that the university would circle around it.
"It was like going up against the President of the United States," he continued. "If that's the culture on the bottom, God help the culture at the top."
With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as characterized in a letter sent to the school last fall:
"Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action," said Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. "We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."
The conclusion of the Freeh report opens the door for the involvement of the NCAA, which could impose future scholarship limits, vacated wins, bowl bans, etc.
But if the NCAA feels as if the Sandusky abuse case was a blatant result of the Penn State top officials' lack of action--including those of the football program--the Death Penalty will be heavily considered.