STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and other senior officials "concealed critical facts" about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse because they were worried about bad publicity, an internal investigation into the scandal concluded.

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Key Points of Freeh Report

• Paterno and others showed "callous and shocking disregard for child victims."
• Evidence shows Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley did know of 1998 investigation and Paterno "failed to take any action."
• Penn State "concealed critical facts ... in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity."
• Penn State changed its plan and did not alert authorities of Sandusky's alleged actions after consulting with Paterno.
• Penn State failed to adhere to federal law requiring collecting and reporting crimes such as Sandusky committed.

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The 267-page report (read the report) released Thursday is the result of an eight-month inquiry by former FBI director Louis Freeh, hired by university trustees weeks after Sandusky was arrested in November to look into what has become one of sports' biggest scandals.

The report concluded 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."

"In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university -- Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," the report said.

Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the report said.

The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."

Officials later did bar Sandusky from bringing children to campus.

The report said that investigators found no evidence linking Sandusky's 1999 retirement to the 1998 investigation.

A chapter in the report issued on Thursday says Spanier promised the prestigious "emeritus" status to Sandusky, but others voiced concerns it wasn't appropriate.

The report discloses Spanier also approved a lump-sum payment of $168,000 to Sandusky, which other officials said may have been unprecedented.

Sandusky's retirement soon after the investigation has prompted questions about whether the two were linked.

The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program -- one built on the motto "success with honor" -- for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future 'visibility' at Penn State'," allowing him to groom victims.

In a press conference later Thursday morning, Freeh said the "most powerful men at Penn State failed" to take any steps for 14 years, calling out Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz.

When Freeh was asked directly if Paterno's firing was justified, he answered, "Yes."

The report noted a series of emails among school administrators following two accusations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, including one in which Schultz worries about becoming "vulnerable" if they fail to report an allegation.

After Curley opted not to report Sandusky for an alleged assault in 2001, Schultz called the decision to try and get Sandusky to seek professional help "humane." But he also noted that "the only downside for us is if the message isn't (heard) and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 45 criminal counts. The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and the school's president.

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, a critic of the board's dismissal of Paterno in November, said the board was still formulating a response.

Sandusky's trial last month included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys, sometimes on campus, and included testimony that showed he used his prestige as a university celebrity to manipulate the children.

By contrast, Freeh's team focused on Penn State and what its employees did -- or did not do -- to protect children.

More than 400 current or former school employees were interviewed since November, including nearly everyone associated with the football program under Paterno. The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer in January at age 85, without telling Freeh's team his account of what happened.

With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as outlined 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 U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of certain crimes on campus, including ones of a sexual nature. The report said Penn State's "awareness and interest" in Clery Act compliance was "significantly lacking."

Only one form used to report such crimes was completed on campus from 2007 through 2011, according to the Freeh findings. And no record exists of Paterno, Curley or assistant coach Mike McQueary reporting that McQueary saw Sandusky in a shower with a boy in 2001, as they would be obligated to do under the Clery Act.

As of last November, Penn State's policies for Clery compliance were still in draft form and had not been implemented, the report found.

U.S. Department of Education declined to comment on Freeh's report.

The Big Ten said it's continuing to monitor the Penn State investigation and is prepared to review the Freeh report.

"As we have said from the beginning, the conference will reserve judgment until all information surrounding the various proceedings is made available," the conference said in a statement. "Various federal, state and other investigations, including the grand jury investigation, are still ongoing, certain criminal trials have yet to begin, and key principals have yet to testify. "The unprecedented nature of these circumstances requires a prudent, thoughtful and patient review. Until the record is complete and has been thoroughly reviewed by our Presidents and Chancellors, we do not anticipate commenting further."

Mary Krupa, an 18-year-old Penn State freshman who grew up in State College, said the conclusion that the school's highest officials were derelict in protecting children didn't shake her love of the town or the school.

"The actions of five or six people don't reflect on the hundreds of thousands" of students and faculty who make up the Penn State community, she said while walking through the student union building on campus.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.