By Sam Bush

The drip, drip, drip of information about Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children is continuing.

Penn State’s legal settlements with Sandusky’s accusers cover alleged abuse dating to 1971, which was 40 years before his arrest, the university said yesterday, providing the first confirmation of the time frame of abuse claims that have led to big payouts.

The disclosure came as Penn State President Eric Barron decried newly revealed allegations that former football coach Joe Paterno (above right with Sandusky) was told in 1976 that Sandusky had sexually abused a child and that two assistant coaches witnessed either inappropriate or sexual contact in the late 1980s. Paterno, who died in 2012, had said the first time he had received a complaint against Sandusky was in 2001.

Barron said the accusations were unsubstantiated, and suggested that the university is being subjected unfairly to what he called rumor and innuendo.

Responding to questions about the president’s statement and claims against the school, university spokesman Lawrence Lokman told the AP he could confirm that the earliest year of alleged abuse covered in Penn State’s settlements is 1971.

Sandusky graduated from Penn State in 1965 and returned as a full-time defensive coach in 1969.

The university has paid out more than $90 million to settle more than 30 civil claims involving Sandusky, now 72 and serving a lengthy prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 children. The trial involved only allegations dating as far back as the mid-1990s.