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. Lee Van Cleef

    you know what is really sad? the fact that the story of Paterno's call to resign is growing bigger than the story about his assistant coach diddling children.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • marty

      no what is really sad is the lives of a number of children were ruined because nobody including Paterno call the police. outrageous!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. leesan

    Another version of the old "I was following orders" nonsense. Yes, he did what was legally required, but where is the moral position? Sports writers have been writing about the morally clean program at Penn St. Well, there seems to be a hitch in that program now. maybe there really wasn't a moral high ground there after all. Maybe it was just a bunch of long-time cronies and others who banded together to hide the dirty linen until there was something they couldn't sit on. Good riddance to Paterno. He's like a dictator of the school and he needs to go. He certainly knew all about what was going on, it's his kingdom all this occurred in.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jay

    I think its a crying shame the way all involved have covered this up for so long! WHO IS SPEAKING OUT FOR THE CHILDREN THAT WERE MOLESTED BY THIS MANIAC (and possibly others)!!!!!!!!!!! Personally speaking – heads should roll from the top to the bottom – and then should this unfortunate thing happen again on that campus or involve anyone affiliated with the school – I'll bet the outcome will be different. Look people, KIDS ARE KIDS – let them remain innocent for as long as possible. They have enough to worry about in today's society without having to worry about being taken advantage of by an adult whose care they were entrusted to.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Well said Jay. The fires of Hell will be burning much brighter in the near future.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dolores

    Joe Paterno doesn't deserve to be in the hall of fame, he should be charged for not reporting this horrific crime to the proper authorities. Shame on you Joe, what if this had been your grandchild?

    November 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jennyy

    the word on campus is that psu will be changing its school song to "nothing could be finer than to be inside a minor in the mororororning".

    November 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dolores

      Your sick, this is nothing to be poking fun of idiot.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. citizenUSA

    I hope Paterno has this on his conscience for the rest of his life. I hope he has to think about the possibility of this happening to his grandchildren every second. Tear down the monument and let the name of Paterno be stricken from every book and tablet. Stricken from every pylon and obelisk of Football. Let the name of Paterno be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of man, for all time. Sandusky and the two "officials" just need to burn in Hell if there is such a place. Dramatic? Yes. Wrong? No.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. SherriHawaii

    I find it hard to believe that ONLY 9 boy have been allegedly molested in the last FIFTEEN years by this man. I am giving him the benefit of doubt. Even if it is "only" 9 all the so called men who shielded him should be charged! I even forgave Mike Vick for what he did to those poor dogs because he has shown remorse and turned himself around. but for a person to have knowledge of molestation and not come forward for 15 years is unforgivable.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Craig

    No one is out to destroy Joe's career. They won't take wins or championships away from him. But, he didn't do enough to help, when he could have. Lives were destroyed. Is he to blame? Of course not. But, maybe he could have ended the abuse earlier by talking to his friend Sandusky. Who knows? If he cared about the University, he would express greater remorse, admit he could have done more (doesn't matter the reason), and resign. As should Spanier. I think you will see this happen.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • marty

      by talking to him?????? how about by calling the police!!!! these are horrific crimes against children!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ROCO

    If Joe P had nothing to do with his assistants actions or knew nothing of them then he should be allowed to stay. A big F U to anyone who thinks he should go just because Penn State isn't a power house and that think his leaving in disgrace is the way to send an icon out. F U all if you're on that page.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      ROCO – he knew – and he didn't follow up. He f'ing blew it, and now he's going to pay. Forget about football. This is about children being preyed upon and many, many parties not doing the right thing about it. Paterno included – and he's going DOWN.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      I was looking at your message to see your concern for the kids involved. Unfortunately, I could not find it. Must be due to the fact that your only concern was for Paterno. Now, take a second and ask yourself, " how pathetic is that?"

      November 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Texas

    What's the uproar about some old men who have glorious lives to remember? What about 8 children who have the rest of their lives trying to forget? The cover-ups they have perpetrated are probably bigger than we imagine.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. andrew

    The finger-wagging and knife-in-the-back stabbing directed at Coach Paterno stinks all the way to Florida. Yeap, he'll resign I'll bet, but if I were him, I'd take the GUILTY ones down with me. In other words, let's get ALL the liers involved in this sordid mess up on the witness stand – under oath – and make them SAY IT AGAIN. Let's see who's REALLY lying!

    Joe Paterno is a great man and superb college football coach period. He's no child molester and when he got told about such, he reported it to the dummies in charge. The dummies who didn't follow through should go to jail with the pervert who started this mess.

    The screaming finger-pointers in the mob that's calling for Paterno's head as if HE did this, are over the top and should be SLAPPED to the bottom – FIRST. Do-gooders hell bent on piling on Coach, make me puke. And morals? Gimme a frickin break! We've ALL got morals, not just the ones who claim nobody else does. Some of us – LIKE ME – think PILING on a man such as Joe Paterno is as immoral as it gets.

    People need to excercise tons of caution here. Coach Paterno should not be burned at the stake; it'll kill him. It'd be like murder to do so, and whoever is calling for him to be burned should be the ones we burn instead.

    I'm rooting for Coach Paterno! I'm an Alabama fan but I'm pulling for Coach Paterno and I'm yelling against his crucifier mob. Go JOE and to hell with the perverts and rabid do-gooders who are after your hide! Don't quit, stand up and fight for yourself. You've earned the right to swing back. Don't let the political christians run you out of College station on a rail.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jay

    Why do these people wait years to come forward to say they were molested? If this was taken care twenty years ago, fine and dandy.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • marty

      because these "people" were children!!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jennyy

      obviously it was consensual

      November 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DebbieDowner

      @jennyy....wow...I sure hope you don't ever have children. Do you think a 7 yr old would consent to sodomy? 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 yr olds???? What age do you feel a child is old enough to consent to raype?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    Mr. Paterno... do the right thing this time... resign by this weekend...

    November 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Don't you Pathetic People have anything better to do with your lives then ruin a good man's reputation who you don't even know?

    Honestly, you should all stick your comments you know where. I'm sorry but JoePa did what he was supposed to do. He didn't abuse the boys and he was not an eyewitness. He did what was right. The stupid "eyewitness" should have called the police instead of just telling JoePa. The "eyewitness" had that responsibility but he failed. Only an eyewitness can provide evidence in a case so leave JoePa out of it. JoePa is a sweet and dedicated man who has giving illions of dollars to helping Penn State athletics but more importantly academically. He has had a great career and I don't think he should be tarnished because of another man's evil deeds. Honestly, don't you people have better things to do with your life then bash innocent people you haven't even met? Here's an idea grow the "F" up and stop acting like high school kids

    November 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • josh

      I agree

      November 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poolchick

      He did not follow up once he knew nothing was done. Any person with a conscience would be calling the police to report it so it would stop. He did NOT so he failed to do what he was supposed to do. How many young boys would have been saved from abuse if he would have taken that extra step? Gauranteed, you would be singing a different tune if it was your child, or you yourself, that was abused by that sicko. Seems like you need to grow up and think about the children.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Enabler. Is Penn State football THAT important to you? You're the pathetic one. Maybe if it was your son taking it up the tailpipe in that shower you'd be thinking differently. F JoePa and F you too.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • TommiGI

      The eyewitness was a clock puncher trying not to get fired for "outing" a high level football lifer at Penn. The second Joe caught wind of this he should have sounded the alarm to everyone all the way to the Chancellor and the police. You're ticked off because he is being scrutinized for only doing the minimum? These are children and some are from disfunctional homes. I can tell you you are wrong. When it comes to kids and abuse by people in authority there is nothing sacred about anyone. This went on a long time and he knew it. Let him retire but if he doesn't fire his a$$ and revoke his pension.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoPa

      Turning a blind eye to a heinous crime against kids= condoning it. JoPa should have followed through with this and seen it to the end instead of trying to protect his "storied career or reputation". Puddin' Headed Joe hasn't had a clear thought on his own in years. he's like leprosy. Just cause you live with it your entire life it doesn't make you any prettier 50 years later

      November 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Just because the original eye witness did NOT report to the police it does not mean Joe Paterno should be absolved of all responsibility. He was well aware that a member of his staff committed a heinous crime. As head coach it is his responsibility to make sure the crime is reported to authorities.

      And enough about "JoePa" business. Nobody cares what he did for a college football program. We are not talking sports. We are talking about a horrible CRIME that he helped cover up.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • tj

      He should have called the police................he did not do what you and I would have done. It was he who was wrong and will pay with reputation.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • zz

      Although once he reported it to his "superiors" Joe Pa may not have had any more legal responsibility, but I would like to see Joe Pa field questions from the victims' families. I would like to know why Joe Pa allowed the abuser back on campus with boys after what Joe Pa had heard about. Something is not right. I am not saying Joe Pa is guilty, but Joe Pa definitely has some explaining to do. It happened on campus and Joe Pa was and is the coach. Furthermore, I would like to hear what Joe Pa would propose to do so that this would have less chance of happening in the future.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      What if those boys were your kids? Would you say the same?
      Sandusky should stick it in your(you know where) when you were 10 years old then you wouldn't make a comment like that.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • morgan

      I totally agree with you. were it not for joepa college athletics would not be what they are today. joe pa is a man of honor and integrity. we must remember that twitter, facebook, blogs, and sounding boards like this one are NOT fact. we dont know the full details of the case. there are many questions to be answered. in the mean time stop throwing mud on Joe!!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • txtriathlete1967

      Legally, he did what was required; morally he turned a blind eye and allowed a child rapist to continue his crimes and even still allowed him access to the campus and facilities. Leaders accept responsibility even for the actions of the lieutenants under their watch; he failed miserably in his duties...

      November 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • LINDY

      You're the pathetic one. Football is more important than a child??!!! He was the "boss" and he is ultimately the one responsible for what his people do/say/see. At the very least he should of followed up to get to the bottom of the allegations. Sooo he just said "I didn't see anything so it's not my problem". If I ever even hear a whisper that a childs being abused in some way I'll report it, let the authorities determine it's validity that's what people who care do.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • qwerty

      Your precious JoePa was in a position of authority; a position he chose to protect more than innocent children. With great power comes great responsibility. JoePa had a responsibility as the face of PSU and as the reputed "squeaky clean" coach to report this to the authorities. JoePa did not have his priorities straight. JoePa should not resign; he should be TERMINATED without benefits.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Camp

      I have to agree as well. The police aren't going to do anything with hearsay evidence. If you read the indictment, one of the moms noticed something was going on and called the police. After an investigation, no charges were filed.

      Also, the incident occurred in 2002, three years after Sandusky retired. You can't fire someone who's not working for you anymore.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeremiah

    If you had ANY knowledge of this most heinous crime against humanity, and you failed to act in the best interest of these defenseless children, you should hang yourself immediately. Rot in Hell all of you!

    November 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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