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. hustlenflo

    Joe - don't step down. Your record speaks for itself and one sad misstep in your great career should not make us forget all the great things you have accomplished.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • R. Kershaw

      WOW, one sad mistep? WOW,

      November 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJ

      It is so sad that you think wins on a football field erase the damage inflicted on these poor innocent children. Shame on you!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jp

      maybe you should spend some time with Sandusky and then see if you'd be Paterno's cheerleader.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. excitingman

    It should have been a sign things were amiss when Gary Glitter came out as a Nittany Lions fan

    November 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. realtalker

    here's my problem. The eyewitness didn't come to Joe until the following day. This witness instead of calling police called his father. His father told him to come to his house. They then slept on it until the following day when they decided to go tell Joe. Still they didn't call police. Now I'm not excusing Joe Paterno because he then sat on it for another day before he told the administrators. It was certainly a failure on all levels but why all the emphasis on Joe Paterno. I agree he should have called authorities first but he made a judgement call. The guy that witnessed it walked away allowing sandusky to complete his abuse against a child. Anyone with a heart would have stepped in and removed the child from the situation and immediately called authorities. And also, this wasn't the first time this guy did this and was caught. The police were basically told to stop investigating the first time. Why isn't anyone upset at the campus police cheif who managed to stop the investigation? Why is everyone calling for Joe to step down. I'm not saying he didn't screw up but I don't think he did anything intentionally wrong. He just did what he thought he was supposed to do according to school policy. The witness saw a crime in progress and ignored it for an entire day. Joe just heard a witness account of a crime and told superiors. And since it occured on school property that is the protocol and Joe knew that. If it's a crime in progress the school protocol doesn't apply. The administrators are responsible and they are paying the price. Joe should retire because he is old. Not because of this. I believe he did what he thought was right and he'd probably have been fired if he did it any other way.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • RJ

      No withstanding everything you just said, Paterno did not call the police. Anyone in a situation of such responsibility who does not exercise atleast that level of decisiveness does not deserve to keep their position.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jp

      what about doing what he thought he was supposed to do as a human being. I agree the grad student should of done something, but the buck stops with Paterno, all the glory, all the blame. He knew. And you gotta wonder who had the power to get the police to stop investigating the guy.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bojackson

    This is absolutely horrible!!! Joe Paterno MUST go, and now. This happened in the shower in the LOCKER ROOM!!! He had a moral and HUMAN obligation to take ALL actions to get this crazy maggot away from children. There is nothing more horrible than raping a 10 year old boy, IN YOUR D*** LOCKER ROOM!! I will never think about Penn State or Joe Paterno the same way again.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim Beeker

      Mr. Paterno did not witness any activity at all. As a matter of fact, the person who came to him and told of the alleged incident should have been the one to go to the authorities. Is there any record that this other person did anything, other than go to a person of authority? Mr. Paterno did likewise, although he had only HEARD of an alleged incident. Now, if this person who told Mr. Paterno about this alleged incident told others, then, by every blowhard's opinion out here would also be guilty of violating the law. Is this the case? What happens with the graduate assistant? HE is the one who witnessed the event. Did he report it to anyone else? If he did not and he gets off free from any sort of repurcussions, then so should Mr. Paterno. He did, just as he should have done. He heard of an ALLEGED event and passed the information on. This is not NAZI GERMANY, although many out here are trying to make it become so. People turning on others, just like rats eating one another. GOOD LUCK with your experiment called America!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stephen

    Johnstown Tribune Democrat is reporting Penn State is finding a way for Joe to exit.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      FINDING A WAY??? I BET THEY ARE NOT EVEN TRYING.....THEY ARE JUST WISHING FOR A BIGGER STORY TO BREAK AND THEY CAN JUST LET HIM DO WHAT HE WANTS......SICK

      SPANIER, CURLEY, SCHULTZ, PATERNO, STUDENT WHO REPORTED INCIDENT ONLY TO PATERNO AND JANITOR WHO REPORTED IT TO THE UNIVERSITY ONLY SHOULD ALL BE FIRED

      November 9, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. JayK

    Whether Joe violated the law or not really is not what matters. Did he do enough? Did he do the right thing? He did what was minimal as did the other folks who were aware; and because of such a molester was allowed to continue on for years. So not enough was done, all involved from Joe on up should pay some kind of consequence...those molested will be paying for this for the remainder of their lives, having to live with what happened to them. And to think it could have been stopped if Joe would have manned up and called the authorities rather than do what was minimally required. Sad, so sad. Folks need to stop waiting for the next person do to what is right and look out for those who cannot protect themselves.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Greg

    Sad, but Joe blew the most important decision in his life and children suffered. He will now always be remember as the Coach who allowed children to be molested because he did nothing more than the minimum. Sad day, but he needs to be severely punished for not doing more to protect the innocent.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rob

    regarding Paterno, Going to his "superiors," was not enough! A pedophile action is AGAINST THE LAW, it means, you go to the POLICE, parents, etc, and DO THE RIGHT THING!!!!!! Going to an Athletic Director is basically saying, "I'll tell the head of the department, and then it's on him, not me."

    SICK!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. BillDog

    Because of the heinous nature of the crimes involved many scapegoats are needed and required.A football coach gets a report of a child being molested and he reports it to a superior,his boss. The boss should have fired or had Joe fire the assistant back then. Now, because the boss did not fire the assistant, Joe must be fired. Huh? Blame, scapegoats, double standards and political correctness are thightly wound in the fabric of our lives. Fire Joe because he is too old, not because of what some pervert assistant coach did..

    November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      Paterno should be behind bars for not doing more as a human being! Suicide is painless Joe, and these children should have your head on a plater!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JayK

      ...and in doing such the message is sent out it is OK to not to take responsibility and protect children. The Catholic Church took that approach for a long time and countless children became victims. It is time people start protecting the victims and stop protecting those who protect the criminals.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gene

    A simple test for Coach Peterno, if it was reported to him that the boy in the shower was his grandson what would he have done differently. I suspect he would have done more than just report it to his superiors.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Observer

      Agreed ... he would have called the Police.
      Paterno can call any Police chief in Pennsylvania, any time of day and that Police chief will take his call.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Observer

    . . . If Paterno doesn't step-down / resign immediately, he is either ...
    A. an idiot
    B. is senile

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Justin

    I'm sure all the Penn State and college football fans will support Paterno because of his legacy, but if he did know about this and failed to do anything within his control he's toast!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. FreshxWater

    If Pope Ratzinger can cover up pedophiles and keep his job why can't Paterno? Please Corporate Media answer this question for me!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • rob

      That makes it right? Let's say someone comes into his office and states, "Coach, saw something really odd/strange between Sandusky and a young boy in the locker room shower". What should he do? What does ones gut tells you to do? "Oh, I will let the AD know about this" or " Hmmm, adult coach in shower with child....". Should have gotten his head out of his ass and immediately asked the person, who reported this to him, further questions and walked him to the AD office and the very least contact CPS for an investigation. If he wasn't comfortable contacting the police, let CPS do it for you. Believe me, they will quickly get to the bottom of it!!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreshxWater

      rob, this was a sarcastic post! Sorry!!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Greg

    Had this happened to my chcild Joe would not be producing CO2 today!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. JEF

    These men sacrificed these innocent children to keep the money train rolling through UNhappy valley and to protect their pathetic reputation. Disgusting...they should all go to prison.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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