HARRISBURG - For two days, prosecutors portrayed three former leaders of Pennsylvania State University as more focused on protecting the school's reputation than the consequences of burying reports that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting children.

On Tuesday, District Judge William Wenner agreed that they had offered enough of a case that former president Graham B. Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley should be held for trial on charges that include perjury, child endangerment, obstruction, and failing to report abuse.

"It's a tragic day for Penn State University, to say the least," Wenner said. A trial is not expected until next year.

The three are accused of covering up concerns about Sandusky's behavior with children stemming from two incidents, the first in 1998 when a mother complained that he had showered with her 11-year-old son in a campus locker room, and the second in 2001, when they heard an eyewitness account of Sandusky's sexually assaulting another boy in a shower. Attorneys have contended the defendants are innocent.

Elizabeth Ainslie, lawyer for Spanier, said the witnesses called over the two-day preliminary hearing had little, if anything, to say about Spanier's culpability. Thomas Farrell, representing Schultz, said his client went "above and beyond" to help the Sandusky investigation as it unfolded.

In previous grand jury testimony, the three administrators claimed to have had only limited knowledge of allegations that Sandusky acted inappropriately with boys on campus. In the 2001 incident, all three said Mike McQueary, the eyewitness, did not convey the seriousness of what he had seen. McQueary testified Monday that he had been clear that he had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy.

Curley's lawyer, Caroline Roberto, did not hide her disdain for McQueary, a former assistant football coach whose story of witnessing Sandusky's sexual assault on a boy in a locker-room shower has become one of the cornerstones of the case.

Of McQueary's testimony this week, she said, "We heard some embellishment, like we always do."

McQueary's testimony Monday included assertions that after he reported the sexual assault to former head coach Joe Paterno, to Curley, and to Schultz, he sometimes discussed it with Paterno as the years went by, and no legal action was taken. According to McQueary, Paterno said the school "screwed up" its handling of the report.

A Centre County jury convicted Sandusky last year of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys. He is serving from 30 to 60 years in prison.

After the hearing Tuesday, Roberto said she wondered if McQueary's new testimony about Paterno was emerging now because Paterno's death in January 2012 meant there were "no witnesses" to the conversations.

Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano said after the hearing that the case remained troubling to all at the university.

"I find it hard to believe these gentlemen wanted to harm young people," he said.

Spanier's own grand jury testimony was used against him Tuesday. Spanier, who served as president of Penn State for 16 years, told the grand jury he had never heard about a 1998 investigation into Sandusky's behavior with a young boy in a campus shower.

That ran counter to e-mails presented Monday that showed Spanier was looped into at least two discussions concerning the incident. But Ainslie suggested that Spanier may never have seen them, saying he regularly received 100 e-mails a day. She said he never responded to the Sandusky-related e-mails and was out of the country when one was sent.

Spanier also told the grand jury that when Curley and Schultz asked him for advice on the 2001 incident, they never said it involved sexual abuse.

"They were horsing around in the shower. I believe that was the language used," said Spanier, according to the grand jury transcript. Spanier said he recommended that Curley ask Sandusky not to bring children to the campus anymore and inform the head of Second Mile, a charity for underprivileged youth Sandusky founded.

That version of events is consistent with e-mails exchanged among Spanier, Curley, and Schultz, but prosecutors pointed to additional statements in the e-mails as proof that the three took the incident seriously - specifically Curley's suggestion that he was "uncomfortable" with the idea of not talking to Sandusky directly, as well as Spanier's comment implying that the school could possibly be made "vulnerable" by not reporting the incident. Prosecutors also argued that the three never took steps to enforce the ban on Sandusky's bringing children to campus.

Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer argued that Schultz's and Curley's behavior in the days after McQueary came forward showed that they knew the situation was serious.

After Paterno reported that McQueary had come to him about the 2001 shower incident, Curley and Schultz sprang into action, Beemer said. Even before talking to McQueary, Schultz consulted with a lawyer about "reporting of suspected child abuse," according to Penn State billing records presented in court.

In other testimony Tuesday, Lisa Powers, director of public information at Penn State, said Spanier informed her and others in October 2011 about the coming charges against Schultz and Curley. He said the allegations against Schultz and Curley were unfounded, she testified.

When Spanier initially drafted a statement to address the charges that were filed against Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz, it lacked any mention of the victims and expressed unconditional support for Schultz and Curley, Powers said.

"There was no indication of empathy, or any concern expressed," she said.

Spanier later added two sentences that the allegations needed to be fully investigated and that children should be protected.

Contact Allison Steele at 610-313-8113 or asteele@phillynews.com.