STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Moving aggressively to contain the damage from the child sex abuse scandal engulfing its football program, the Penn State board of trustees Friday named member Kenneth C. Frazier to head its investigation into why former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was permitted to remain closely associated with the university even after allegations of deviant sexual behavior were made against him.

In accepting the position, Frazier said the school's investigation will be "complementary" to the criminal investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly that led to Sandusky's arrest, and perjury charges against former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz. Iconic football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier also were fired for their failure to pursue the matter with legal authorities.

"We are retaining independent counsel to figure out what has happened on this campus," said Frazier, an attorney who is president and CEO of the Merck pharmaceutical company. "An independent counsel will have unfettered access and can reach any conclusions that they want to reach.

"Everything we are doing has to be complementary and consistent with the main criminal investigation, which is being done by the attorney general. What we will do is make it public, and we will take the actions inside the university that we believe are necessary to ensure this kind of thing never, ever happens again."

While Kelly focuses on the prosecution of criminal behavior, it's clear the board of trustees investigation is aimed at rooting out anyone at the school who knew or should have known of Sandusky's alleged sexual assaults and covered it up. That obviously included Paterno and Spanier, who were informed of a 2002 incident in which current assistant coach Mike McQueary -- then a graduate assistant -- witnessed Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a boy whom McQueary estimated to be about 10 years old, and reported it to Paterno, who passed the information to athletic director Tim Curley, according to the grand jury report.

"The board has taken a step with regard to president Spanier and coach Paterno that was appropriate," Frazier said.

Among the aspects of the case the board of trustees likely will examine is the relationship between the school and the Second Mile Foundation, a charity Sandusky founded in 1977 to help at-risk youth and through which he met most of his eight alleged victims. That relationship and the fact that Sandusky had access to Penn State facilities even after his 1999 retirement might expose the school to civil liability claims that could run to the millions.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I have no comment on civil liability," Frazier said. "We're going to do the best we can to find the facts, and the chips will fall where they may."

Frazier put no time frame on the investigation and declined to speculate on what consequences might flow from it. He pledged to provide everyone connected with Penn State the "clearest understanding" of the committee's findings.

"I want everyone to understand that this board is deeply, deeply sorry for whatever has transpired with respect to those victims," Frazier said. "We wish them well. They're in our thoughts and our prayers."