Franco Harris and two other former Penn State football players say the report about Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal "is highly flawed, and factually insufficient."
Harris, Rudy Glocker and Christian Marrone sent to other Penn State alumni an email and letter criticizing the Freeh report that they plan publish in The Wall Street Journal and other large publications.
The email and letter were obtained by the Associated Press on Friday.
The players claim there was a rush to judgment by the media, the board of trustees, university officials and the NCAA after the blistering report was released two weeks ago.
The report compiled by a team led by former FBI director Louis Freeh accuses school officials, including late coach Joe Paterno, of covering up the abuse to avoid bad publicity.
"A grave injustice has occurred over these past two weeks that began with the issuance of the Freeh report," the email states. "After much review, it's clear the report is highly flawed, and factually insufficient. Yet, the media, the Board of Trustees, University officials and the NCAA, seem to have read only the conclusions and not the content of the report and have failed to question the report's evidentiary basis or lack thereof -- they have rushed to judgment. As a result, OUR program has been brutally harmed and our Coach has been completely tarnished."
Sandusky, the former longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State under Paterno, was convicted of using his position at Penn State and as head of a youth charity to molest 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He's awaiting sentencing.
Penn State was sanctioned by the NCAA for its handling of the Sandusky case, based largely on the findings in the Freeh report. The NCAA did not conduct its own investigation nor did it wait for criminal cases against two other Penn State officials to play out.
The NCAA's penalties wiped away 14 seasons' worth of victories for Paterno, taking away the record he held as the winningest coach in the history of Division I college football. Penn State was also banned from postseason play for four seasons by the NCAA and had severe scholarships limits placed on its football program.
The email asks those who support its claims to sign the letter and return it by Saturday.
Harris is one of Penn State's greatest players. He played fullback for Paterno in the early 1970s and went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Glocker graduated from Penn State in 1992. Marrone graduated in 1997.
The letter, dated July 27 and titled "Rush to Judgment," claims the "snap judgments reached by the Freeh report about what Coach Joe Paterno knew and what he did deserve further analysis. In short, we believe this report has irresponsibly impugned Paterno's reputation without sufficient evidence."
The players criticize the thoroughness of the Freeh report because the investigators did not interview many of the central people in the case, including Paterno, who died in January, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz, who are both awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse, and former assistant coach Mike McQueary, who was a key witness in the case against Sandusky.
The players say Freeh made what he deemed "reasonable conclusions" about Paterno's alleged "cover-up" based on three emails. But the emails, two from 1998 and one from 2001, do not support that conclusion, the players say.
The players say an email from Curley to then-Penn State University President Graham Spanier dated May 5, 1998, was used as evidence by the report to conclude "Paterno was fully and completely informed of the details of the investigation" of allegations against Sandusky.
"But how does Mr. Freeh know for sure?" the players say in the letter. "Freeh's investigators did not interview Curley, and Penn State President Graham Spanier (who was interviewed), didn't remember the email at all."
The players say an email dated May 13, 1998, from Curley to Schultz, titled "Jerry" and asking, "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands," is too vague to be used as proof of a cover-up.
The players point out the District Attorney chose not to prosecute Sandusky after a report was filed by police in 1998 about an allegation of sexual abuse.
The players also say an email from Curley to Spanier and Schultz sent in 2001, after McQueary had seen Sandusky assaulting a boy in the showers of Penn State's football building, "unjustifiably portrays Paterno as omnipotent apparently for the sole purpose of tearing him down," in the Freeh report.
"We will never hear from Coach Paterno, but those of us who knew him believe he, deserves the benefit of the doubt and like all citizens, is presumed innocent until proven guilty."