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. IRsmart

    Why is no one calling for the actual witness' heads? The graduate student witness did not report the incident to the police, he didn't even report it to Paterno immediately. Wouldn't you think he should be held responsible for his inaction- he actually saw the incident and knew the severity as a first hand witness.
    You all are hypocritical.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Karen

    This is ridiculous! They'll make a scapegoat out of Paterno and then what? He did what he was supposed to do, and he's still going to take the fall for someone else's actions. Picture the call: "Hello, officer, I'm reporting something I did not see, where no victim has come forward, but something was seen by someone who isn't sure what he saw, which after investigation, I was told was not credible." Think about this people. You are going after the wrong man because it is easy. People are outraged, and they want someone to pay the price even if that anger is entirely misplaced. Do you know more people are talking about Paterno than about the person who committed the crime?

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jumping to conclusion

    It amaze me that news media has turned into judge and jury before a person is even found guilty or all the facts and evidence are out. What's worse than that is swaying public opinion to their verdict.

    How many child abuse cases in the past had turned out to be false? Remember the day care scare in the '80s
    If Jerry Sandusk turned out to be not guilty should Paterno step down in the situation?
    Do we even know what was exactly reported to Paterno?
    As some have pointed out interesting that the assistant is not in trouble when he actually witnessed it while Paterno is base on a hearsay

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BMcGee

      Read the grand jury report and get informed

      November 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PSU Alum

    This is so much bigger than Coach Paterno. PSU leadership are a secret society dedicated to protecting the name of Penn State at ANY cost. I experienced this my freshman year amidst multiple race-related death threats received by football players, their families, and other student leaders. President Spanier REFUSED to address any of it, particularly the biggest incident, a murder confession written into one of the death threats because it occurred on the eve of the Blue/White game! Spanier looked terrified students in our faces and told us he didn't want to disrupt the game. Sadly, the name and the game rule at PSU and everything leadership does or doesn't do is For the Glory not people!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. fay ruujin

    if true, joepa and the others are such evil monsters, much worse than the beast who did the crime against the children. not stopping the beast is far worse because the beast can not stop himself.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. D

    I STILL don't get it. Why all the flak for JoePa? He did what he was supposed to do. He reported it immediately. People are having a wacked-out reaction to this. The accused in this country are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. What else do you want from JoePa? He reported it and followed all the rules. Turn your hatred toward the man who did the deed, not JoeP ... and I'm a Michigan fan!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • 2003

      Im right with ya D!!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The 99%

    JOE MUST GO

    HANG HIM HIGH

    November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. X

    I don't care how loved or a respected a coach is, to turn your head or say I told someone about it so it isn't "MY" problem anymore. Is sad and patehic! Send them all to jail!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      better yet, put them to sleep.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ultimate responsibility

      Agreed. Do the courageous thing, call your friend of 30 years and tell him to turn himself in immediately until the story can be verified or he can be exonerated. Disgusting display of cowardice on many people's parts.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Urdnot Wrex

      They're all fools. You should eat them!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • DM

      Since when does an ALLLEGATION mean that someone who didn't commit the crime but reported it is guiltly? I don't bear any love for Penn State or it's coach, but to demonize the head coach when the accused has not yet been proven guilty is simply lynch-mob mentality. Wait until the facts are proven, THEN see if they merit punishment.

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

      And why didn't the grad student who actually witness the assault go directly to the police and report the incident? No one else was an actual witness.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. EastCoastMike

    Paterno cancelled the press conference because more of the truth came out.....and he can't play dumb anymore.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • clay

      idiot, the university cancelled the press conference. A simple trip to ESPN.com would verify that.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Blame Canada:)

    Coward!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Don

    McQueary is just as much to blame...he was the graduate assistant who witnessed the event...He was a great athlete and is no small guy. He would have been more than capable of stopping Sandusky outright but instead he ran away in fear. Also, as the actual witness he is just as responsible if not more responsible than Joepa is for not going to the authorities. Not that I am trying to stick up for what Joe didn't do I'm just saying...

    November 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blue & White

      Totally agree. Just posted the same thing a minute ago.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      I agree. but don't forget he was just a student at the time. I hate to imagine the conflicted state he was in. Remember, Sandusky was his boss.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad-ash

      no bill. Sandusky didn't even work at PSU at the time ...he was retired so he was not "the boss"

      November 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blue & White

      Also McQueary wasn't a student at that time. He was on the coaching staff.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      @BW McQueary was a graduate assistant. I understand that to be he's a student, yeah on the staff, but as a grad student.
      @Bradash – you're right he was retired but still professor emeritus.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LouAZ

    . . . moral outrage . . . didn't do enough . . . should have acted . . .
    Ha, ha, ha ! Sounds like an echo from the Vatican.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • bill

      Exactly. And look at how it shook things up there. Same needs to happen at Penn St. Joe Paterno should quit.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DM

      Wow! Some people certainly like to throw stones. As I said before, these are just allegations right now..Nothing is proven. Stop acting like a lynch mob. Or does innocent until proven guilty not apply to celebrities? Really guys, wait until the facts come out before yelling for people's heads to be lopped off.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Read the grand jury report

      November 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim Beeker

    Hi Matt, I think you're right, here. There is absolutely NO mention of the graduate assistant doing anything else other than going to the next higher position of authority. By all rights, if he witnessed something, then it should have been him who went to the police. The law indicates that this should have been the proper course for the actual witness to take. But, what have we heard about any sort of charges being brought against the assistant? I haven't heard of a single thing, although this doesn't mean that something hasn't been brought.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Wolverinesfan

    Exactly, I may not be a Penn state fan, and would love to see JoePa gone, but come on, he did what he was supposed to do, the DA even said he did what he was supposed to do. Especially since both he and the assistant coach who saw something both said that the assistant didn't tell JoePa what he saw, just that he saw something he thought was inappropriate. Personally, if anyone failed below the people who investigated it from the athletic department it was the assistant who went and told JoePa half the story and didn't call the cops.

    JoePa, who was not involved in the program for the kids, was not their "coach", and didn't witness anything to be able to report witnessing it to the cops did all he could. He reported to the people involved in allowing this group to use the facilities (the athletic department who owns them) that he heard of possible inappropriate behavior, and was told they would look into it and do what was needed.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jerrycc

    He should have kicked that coaches azz then called the cops.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • bill

      Totally agree.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
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