Paterno's family also called Sandusky, who was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus, a "master deceiver" in a lengthy statement released after former FBI director Louis Freeh announced he would unveil the findings of his investigation into the scandal on Thursday.
Freeh was hired to investigate by the Penn State trustees, who ousted Paterno days after Sandusky was arrested in November.
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month of 45 criminal counts. He maintains his innocence.
Paterno's family said Paterno "did not know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile."
"Joe Paterno did not act in any way to prevent a proper investigation of Jerry Sandusky," the family said. "To claim otherwise is a distortion of the truth."
Paterno's family said the Freeh team declined its offer to respond to recent news leaks after the family asked to review the findings.
The Hall of Fame coach supported the trustees' decision to hire Freeh to conduct a thorough investigation, but the recent leaks raised questions about fairness and confidentiality, the family said.
Paterno had issued in December a statement that said he relayed graduate assistant Mike McQueary's report in 2001 of seeing Sandusky with a boy in the team shower to athletic director Tim Curley and "that was the last time the matter was brought to my attention."
CNN reported last week on an excerpted email from Curley in which he indicated he changed his mind about going to child welfare authorities after speaking with Paterno. The report led to renewed public scrutiny on whether the longtime coach took a more active role in the decision than what he described.
The family said the "media spin that this is proof of some sort of cover up is completely false."
"When the facts come out," the family said, "it will be clear that Joe Paterno never gave Tim Curley any instructions to protect Sandusky or limit any investigation of his actions."
Paterno, his family said, never got a chance to present his case to the university before he died in January of lung cancer at age 85.
The coach had described the abuse scandal as one of the great sorrows of his life. Just before his firing, he acknowledged he wished he had done more after hearing about the allegations against Sandusky. His family said he is the only person to publicly acknowledge that sentiment.
Curley and retired Penn State vice-president Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they failed to properly report suspected child abuse and lied to a grand jury in the Sandusky case. They deny the allegations against them and have sought to have the charges dismissed.