(Reuters) - Penn State football coach Joe Paterno began trying to amend his contract in January 2011, the same month he learned that his former assistant coach was under criminal investigation for child sex abuse, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
By August 2011, university officials had reached an agreement with Paterno to reward him with a $3 million bonus if he retired at the end of the 2011 season, one season short of his existing contract, which would have expired at the end of 2012, according to the newspaper.
A Penn State spokesman said the contract was set to expire at the end of the 2011 football season, not at the end of 2012 as the Times said. He declined further comment on the Times story.
The university's full board of trustees did not learn of the agreement until November 5, 2011, when the former coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with molesting several young boys over the course of more than a decade, at times on university grounds.
A spokeswoman for the Paterno family had no immediate comment on the New York Times report.
Last month, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse and child endangerment, and is facing life in prison when he is sentenced this autumn. His lawyers have indicated they will file an appeal of the conviction.
After Sandusky's arrest, the university fired Paterno, who had won more games than anyone in major college football history. Paterno died of lung cancer in January 2011, five months before the verdict against his longtime assistant coach was delivered.
Once they learned of the arrangement university officials had reached with Paterno, a divided Penn State board of trustees reportedly debated whether it would be "unseemly" to pay the veteran coach. The university ultimately paid everything the agreement required in April, a package worth roughly $5.5 million, according to the newspaper.
On Thursday, former FBI Director Louis Freeh released scathing conclusions of an eight-month investigation into the university's handling of the Sandusky affair. His report found that the Penn State leadership, including Paterno, failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children Sandusky victimized.
Freeh blamed Paterno and other university officials for working together on a cover-up that began as early as 1998, when university police investigated allegations of abuse but let Sandusky off with a warning.
"In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University ... repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," Freeh said, adding that bad publicity would have upset donors and damaged the Penn State brand.
(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Greg McCune, Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)