Penn State's Paterno faces pressure to quit over sex abuse case
Penn State coach Joe Paterno addresses the media after a recent Penn State game.
November 8th, 2011
10:36 AM ET

Penn State's Paterno faces pressure to quit over sex abuse case

He's reverently and affectionately called "JoePa." He leads Penn State's storied Nittany Lions, their uniforms a pure white with dignified blue stripes, as they've delighted fans for decades in a stadium called Happy Valley.

Now, Joe Paterno, 46 years as Penn State's head coach - and just a week after notching his 409th victory, the most for any major-college football coach - is facing resounding calls to resign in disgrace.

The calls come after Paterno's longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with child sex abuse  for alleged incidents dating back to 1994. A graduate assistant informed Paterno of one alleged incident in 2002 that took place in a Penn State locker room shower.

Read the indictment in the case (PDF)

Paterno, who is not facing charges in the case, says he told his superiors in the athletic department about what the graduate assistant saw. Paterno was told that Sandusky was "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy," according to a grand jury.

Paterno has said in a statement that he "did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention."

On Tuesday, a Paterno news conference during which he was expected to face questions about the scandal was canceled.

"Due to the ongoing legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today's press conference cannot be held and will not be rescheduled," the university said in a statement.

Timeline of Penn State abuse case

With no new answers or explanations Tuesday, the prevailing opinion seems to be that Paterno didn't do close to enough; so little that there are widespread calls for him to resign.

"Remember, Penn State is not your typical college football program," writes Neil Rudel in The Altoona Mirror. "It is a kingdom and there is one king, regardless of whether he supposedly reports to anyone else."

"This was a moral test, one in which Penn State's leadership - led by Paterno because he's the king and all he had to do was tell all involved to turn in Sandusky - deserves an F," Rudel writes.

The moral issue came up again and again in comments Tuesday.

"Paterno did only the minimum the law required. Telling (athletic director Tim) Curley doesn’t absolve Paterno from a moral obligation. He should’ve taken action himself. Failing to do that allowed Sandusky to victimize boys for another seven years," the Newark Star-Ledger writes in an editorial.

The Star-Ledger was echoing a point made by Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly on Monday.

“Those officials and administrators to whom it was reported did not report the incident to law enforcement or to any child protection agency. Their inaction, likely, allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years," Kelly said.

"We don't yet know who is legally guilty. But several prominent employees at the state university are morally guilty. And one of them is Joe Paterno," writes Michael Rosenberg on SI.com.

Rosenberg likens Penn State to the Catholic Church, which has been rocked by sex abuse scandals.

"The allegations were so horrific that they threatened to undermine the reputation of the institution. The people in charge should have brought the allegations to light. But they were more worried about how the institution would look than the values it is supposed to uphold," Rosenberg writes.

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica also used the Catholic Church analogy.

"It was not a priest with a boy in the dark rooms of a church this time, it was the church of football at Penn State University," Lupica wrote.

"If the government can make its case against Sandusky — once Paterno's top football sergeant, and so a priest of football at Penn State — then nobody involved should survive this, starting with a coach who came out of Brooklyn Prep nearly 70 years ago to make his name one of the most famous and respected in the history of his sport," according to Lupica.

In the state capital of Harrisburg, The Patriot-News ran a full front-page editorial calling for the end of Paterno's time at Penn State.

The front page of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

"As for Joe Paterno, the face of Penn State and the man who has pushed for excellence on the football field and for the entire university, this must be his last season. His contract should not be extended," the editorial said.

Besides Sandusky, two other Penn State officials, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, face charges in the case for failing to report the abuse allegations to criminal authorities.

In a USA Today story, some questioned if they were trying to protect what the paper called "Paterno's saintly reputation."

"Sainthood is a word not often used in sports of any kind, college or otherwise," Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, is quoted as saying. "This story comes out of a program that seemed the epitome of squeaky-clean."

Earlier this year, another Big Ten conference coach who was seen by many as above reproach, Ohio State's Jim Tressel, resigned in disgrace after withholding program violations from the NCAA. Tressel's case was just the latest in a long list that have plagued college football, including cases at the University of Southern California, the University of Miami and several other top programs.

But commentators Tuesday said the Penn State case has taken the slimy side of college football down to a new depth.

"If these allegations are proven true, this scandal is far worse than anything that's happened at other universities. Exploiting dozens and raping young boys could never compare to the minor infractions of boosters buying a car for a player or a player selling his autographed football jersey for a few bucks," Roxanne Jones, a Penn State alumnae and founding editor of ESPN The Magazine, writes for CNN.com.

At age 84, Paterno has been seen as a candidate for retirement for decades. With the sex abuse scandal rocking the campus, The Philadelphia Inquirer says, Paterno's time has come.

"His oft-discussed retirement would be timelier than ever - even though leaving amid this scandal will provide a sad coda to an otherwise stellar career for the man who, until now, served as the reassuring public face of Penn State," The Inquirer said in an editorial Tuesday.

TIME.com's Sean Gregory said it would be tough for any fan to watch Paterno at work on a Saturday afternoon now.

"If these charges are true, how can we ever view him in the same light again? Who cares about all the wins? We’re not talking about a recruiting violation here. We’re talking about an unspeakable violation, to innocent children," Gregory writes. "We don’t see how Joe Paterno can still coach."

The Star-Ledger is starker.

"Given the disgusting nature of these widespread allegations, the insidious connections to Penn State football and Paterno’s lack of judgment when told, it’s time for him to take his 409 victories and Hall of Fame bust and leave. Quickly," the Ledger said.

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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Joe Paterno • Penn State • Sports
soundoff (1,486 Responses)
  1. B Maneri

    At first because of the media my thoughts were disappointment with Joe Paterno. But today I started crying when I saw how much the students love Mr. Joe Peterno. For the DA or Cops to blame Joe P, a 75 now 85 year old is cruel. My grandmother at that age was forgetful and just like many cases in life, if Sudensky was his friend perhaps, reporting to the officials at Penn State was a big deal for him. Meaning, this to him was like going to the cops. The person who runs the legal department, most if not all have legal counsel and the President of the school should be fired as well. I really think media, DA's, and the board of directors of Pinn should be ousted and harrassed the way this poor old Italian man is being hurt by doing the right thing. A least he was brave enough to report it. These news people who wrote this should also be fired. Because they are poor sources of information. Obviously, no one wins in this case, and there should be camera's and better cops at the school. It is a horrible crime against children. Where were these kids Parents? Didn't they care enough to know and report. ITs hard to believe with so many victums probably trying now to get money, none of these parents saw a change felt something

    November 10, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • charles

      Joe traded the opportunity to save the innocent for the discomfort and potential damage to his football team. He clearly knew what was in play, and chose to allow a rapist continue as this was more convenient and less damaging then stepping up.

      In life, we all have decisions – Honesty, Integrity is often compromised for expediency. Joe decided to make the compromise. I am only glad that he lived long enough to publicly pay the price of his lack of character.

      November 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cici

    why was he fired he reported the wrong doing to the head of the campus and he had no reason to be fired that was wrong in my opinion he did what he was suspose to do and for all her gave to this university and they did treat him like he is the criminal in my opinion that is wrong to blame the head coach oh well i hope him good luck in his next project he decides to do and the person who did this to the kids will be punished in the courts not in the media which is how it should be done

    November 10, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB

      Why don't they fire the coach that witnessed the shower scene in the first place and didn't stop it or call the cops?..He's still employed by the college!

      November 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jc

    To all the a holes who are throwing sgtones at Joepa, I'd love to know how "morally" perfect you behave. Just remember that Sandusky is the criminal and not the Coach. If anything the President failed and was rightfully terminated

    November 10, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jc

    Too bad none of the a hole PSU haters on this board has any anger at the actual pedophile. They must condone it the criminal behavior because they are more outraged by an innocent man rather than the criminal himself.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jc

    I'm sure most of these boys were gay blades anyway. There's no way I would let some old man touch me if I didn't like it , even when I was only 10 years old.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • whatever

      Jc gay has nothing to do with it. Obviously you are completely uneducated. A child is a child is a child. He is a pedifile.
      Gay men are not pedifiles. Read. Learn. Then come back.

      November 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark G

    Never in my fifty years have I ever seen a more expeditious rush to judgement of a person – Joe Paterno – a man who's not even under legal scrutiny. Joe Paterno is an x's and o's guy, period. A 28 year old grad student went to Paterno and reported what he saw to the coach. The 75 year old coach (at the time) received this information as second-hand information. As such, he completely fulfilled his moral and legal obligation by reporting it to his boss, the AD. It was the AD's legal responsibility to go to the cops, not Paterno's. He's an x's and o's guy, not the judge, jury, or executioner of second-hand information. Our media has sunk to an all-time low in the way they have vilified Paterno. I am beyond disgusted with the media. "Shocked" is a better word to describe how I feel that they (media) could sink lower still.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • hollybeth928

      Mark G- A 50 year old man huh? So the next time you have a known pedophile move down the street from you, your grandchildren, or children that you are close to, how will you react? No Sandusky is in no form innocent. But I just don't expect much out of a sick SOB that could hurt a child that way. But I do have more expectations out of a man who has guided countless young men and was an idol to many. It really cuts deep when someone who is suppose to be a roll model turns his head on so much evil. Let me ask you Mark G, at 50 years old: how many things can you think of that would be worse that having something trusted up your rear end. You have only got maybe 15 to 20 years until you may need a nursing home. I pray that the people who are suppose to be looking out for you have more balls that your beloved Paterno did. I pray that in your older years you don't become as defenseless as those poor kids. I hope you are protected and not let down like those kids were. The difference is, maybe time will be graceful to you if you are hurt. At least you are gonna be closer to death by then. Those 10 year old kids have to live with that for the rest of their lives. And none of you guys taking up for him are realizing that you already have his back a hell of a lot more than he did for those kids. It is so sad that all of you grown-ups are ready to leap up and shout to the roof tops for this coach, but who shouted to the rooftops for those kids? That grown and shining hero, turned his back and let it go on. No it doesn't fall only on him. But he was better than that. Yes, there are a few people that need to stand up and admit the truth. They let this happen to protect a reputation. It makes me sick. When did people loose sight of the truth that there are things worth dying for, but it isn't a winning football team. But an innocent child who doesn't have anyone else at the point when they need someone the most, yes, he could have used someone to save him. People would remember Patero longer for saving a child than for every football stat that man ever sees.

      November 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ian

    Paterno can't wipe his hands clean after merely telling his boss. He knew damn well what was happening and instead of doing the right thing which was to have Sandusky fired, and brought up on charges, he chose to bury it. He should have done that the very first time there was ANY evidence of it. Where are our kids safe today ? coaches, Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. We Think We're All Innocent

    Those in positions of authority SHOULD be held accountable for harm that they know WILL COME to young, innocent students. The fact that people are saying that Paterno "did what he had to do" and shouldn't be guilty.....COME ON. If this was Paterno's kid, do you think he would have just done 'what he needed to do"? Does it make you feel better, less guilty to know that you just did the BARE MINIMUM to help someone and then walked away from the mess you encountered, thinking someone else will clean it up? That's called COWARDICE.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. We Think We're All Innocent

    The more we excuse cowardice, the more it becomes acceptable.
    I, for one, am glad this act of "blameless wrongdoing" is being punished. Paterno chose to save face when he should have stood up to indecency. He was in a power to help the victims, but he chose not to. When he saw that Sandusky was still present at the university, and knowing this guy was a horrible human being and hurting innocent kids....and knowing he had all the power to dismiss Sandusky.....what did Paterno do?
    Nothing. He basically did nothing.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. whatever

    ok its obvious that some of you here were turning vans over last night..shame on you.

    November 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. whatever

    James Virginia JoePa actually wiped his but with you. Your still very much kissing it. " )

    November 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. whatever

    All of you saying Joe pa did nothing need to read the sandusky grand jury presentment!! JoePa knew, and didn't care enough, The ass. who saw should have kicked Sandusky's butt and gotten the boy away. Simple morals. vs. No Morals

    November 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Buzz Aldrin

    He did exactly what he should have, reporting it to his superiors.

    He is not responsible for the school, just driving teams to excellence. Those with the responsibility share the burden. They should have contacted law enforcement.

    Should Joe have contacted law enforcement on his own, without the support of his superiors, and should the man have been proven innocent, JOE WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED FOR CREATING SCANDAL.

    Joe did exactly what he should, and all of you crying for blood are idiots. The molester should go to jail, and Jo Pa's superiors should resign.

    But Joe Pa shouldn't resign

    November 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • lolita

      You should be ashamed of yourself. If it was your son/daughter/sister/brother or whoever else you care for, you would most certainly want to punish all parties involved no matter how great a COACH they are. Everyone is whining because a coach is leaving a team and focusing on that and not on who the victims really are. Even reporting it to his superiors and not seeing any action being done should have given him a clue as to it not being taken care of properly. He should be ashamed of himself, too. This is ridiculous. Anyone sticking up for JoePa is probably just a selfish Penn State fan and don't want to see their team go down and again I repeat, shame, shame should be written on your faces. And you're right, he shouldn't have to resign, he should be fired for lack of man. He's not a man. He's selfish and this is what happens when you make cowardice moves. Karma's a B*ITCH!

      November 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
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