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

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

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.'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. michaelfury

    November 8, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. jen powers

    would loosing his job absolve Paterno of his culpability?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Another right-wing fanatic who believes that might makes right no matter who gets hurt in the process!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Quit saying the same stupid thing over and over. You've posted this numerous times on all the Penn State stories.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      Dont even bother with a trial, and hearings, and evidence. In the court of public opinion, Joe has been sentenced.

      I for one, have a hard time jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation, and am willing to listen to the facts of the case, and then make a judgement accordingly, in due time.

      45 years of impeccable service, should at the very least, warrant him that much.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • FedUp

      What? Your sentence doesn't even make sense. Stupid is right!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. madpotter

    I think Joe Paterno deserves some credit for turning this in to the administration. The fact that they did not handle it well should not call for his resignation. The administration is to be held accountable. Fire them, not the guy that reported it. If you were aware of something wrong in your workplace – what would you do?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Al T

      You mean like a full day after he was told? And, 2 days after the incident took place? Yeah, Paterno was all over it. I'm sure that child's welfare was first and foremost on his mind the full day that it took for him to pick up the phone and call somebody. What did he do in that full day? Mmmm, shopping, watched TV, entertained some family and friends, fired up the barbecue, went to church...

      November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • jimmy

      Seriously stop bowing down to the guy. He isn't even a good coach. PSU hasn't had a good team since the 80"s. He protected a child rapist. He needs to get Fired. I personally feel that he should be arrested.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee


      November 8, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      Credit? For that? What kind of an enabler are you in your personal life?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • jimbob

      I would have called the cops and gotten with the graduate student who told me about it to go to the cops with me to give a full statement in order to protect other children instead of the school.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • MFJ

      My first question is, when Paterno reported this to University officials and then, AFAIK, nothing happened, why didn't he go to the real police? This has nothing to do with whether he was on Penn St's staff or involved in the program or university. The issue is no the reputation of the school, the program, or the coach – it is the safety of the child that he was allegedly assaulting. Adults are supposed to be looking out for minors and, in that, Paterno failed. Not as much as those above him, but it was still a failure.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Cyndi

      I would have reported it to the police. The action observed was CRIMINAL. Who cares that it was reported to the damn administration?! Why didn't someone call the POLICE?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric L

      I know what I would do if I saw that happening at my workplace. I'd put a very violent end to it, then call the police.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Deserves some credit? If I lived in a gated community, saw YOUR 10 year old son getting corn-holed next door, then I should have done A: Call the homeowners association B: You at work C: The cops


      November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • tks123

      You are wrong, Paterno did not do enough. In the workplace, their are "whistleblower" rules that prevent companies from coming after those that report violations. Paterno clearly knew after his conversations that nothing was being done about the allegations. At the very least, he should have gone to the police with the grad student, once it was evident that the matter was not being pursued by the administration. Paterno, did little more than pass the buck on the problem, which allowed a predator free reign for several more years.
      He is morally culpable for all the subsequent abuse that happened and he will have to live with that fact. He should resign out of respect for all decent fans of PSU and their alumni, they deserve more. He is a black mark on the white uniforms of Penn State.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      What if it was your ten year old son – He was the loser boss

      November 8, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • penquin3

      If I was aware of something of this nature occuring in my workplace, I would not only report it to my superiors but also to the police. It is my moral responsibility to report it to the correct authorities. Remember, "all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing". The graduate assistant should also have reported what he/she saw to the police as well as to the coach. There are many levels where children were let down by those who should have known better.
      When will people really pay attention to the fact that all kinds of people, so called "good people", abuse children. Anyone who had knowledge of this and did not call police should be fired.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Wakawaka

      pretty much agree with this.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • hank

      Your house is on fire. I will call the fire department tomorrow. And I'll check in another day or week to see if anyone is hurt.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tyler

    Would that be you, joey Isotta-fraschini? I don't get what you're ranting about.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. Portland tony

    Certainly a man with the power and prestige of Joe Paterno could have stopped this insidious behavior long ago. In this case Joe, you weren't just a coach, you should have stepped up to being a man!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Paterno is fully culpable in this outrageous scenario. Not only step down, also go to jail.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • autogerry

      Excuse me but are we talking about children here or are we talking about collage age young men who are capable of speaking for themselves??

      November 8, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee


      November 8, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Pen State

    How many people would be imprisoned if statutory raype was charged in cases involving dirty old men butt raypeing boys under the age of 18. 10's of thousands, no doubt. But noooooo. You prefer to call them "molestors" so they can plead temporary insanity, or say that their meds needed adjusted and so they were confused. You throw the book at straight men who raype 17 year old girls, do you not? I say equal rights for gays, including equal rights to Justice. If an openly gay old man get's caught lusting after and raypeing a 17 yr. old boy, he should be charged with statutory raype. No?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • RG

      Pedophilia is the term you're looking for, not gay. Thanks for playing.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      We aren't talking about 17 year old boys who have a stronger will to say no. We are talking about young boys, ages 7-14, being preyed upon by a MAN in a position of trust or higher authority. What he did was unspeakable period!. Miniscule credit goes to Paterno for reporting it to the administration. Joe Paterno is a god at Penn State, which means if he said the word-Sandusky would have and should have been fired AND law enforcement officials notified immediately. Enough of giving Paterno a free ride on this. His reputation should be tarnished and so should the others involved. And to Lavar Arvington-you say you never felt uncomfortable around Sandusky and he never made any type of advances..well duh of course he didn't you weren't his type or his age...

      November 8, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Typinator

      Dude! Time to up the voltage on your shock treatments. Your rant is unintelligible.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    Why should Paterno step down for something someone else did? I hope he sticks around.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Paterno is full culpable in the outrageous scenario. Not only step down, also go to jail.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Southerner01

      He should be fired because he was told that a 10 year old had been anally ra ped in the locker room and he 1) watered the story down when he reported it as "inappropriate behavior" and 2) didn't call the police.

      Although honestly, I don't understand how either the janitor or the grad assistant could just walk away while the ra pes were taking place.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • LibinCollege

      Maybe you've never had a supervisor's position in your life. But the Leader, the Head, the Captain... what ever name you want to use, ultimately bares the most responsibility.

      I think you should read this again, and if not, a few more times until you understand the allegations.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • zamboni

      Rob – did you even read the article? Paterno knew about it and didn't do enough to report it and stop it from continuing. If he had reported it back in 2002 then he would have been doing the right thing and would have been a he is nearly as guilty as his assistant. How disappointing. Yes he should lose his job.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      It's not that he should step down for what someone else did. He should step down for he *did not* do, which was to report this to the police, especially when it was obvious that his superiors at Penn State were going to brush it under the rug. Total moral and ethical failure on his part.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      Because idiot, he basically did NOTHING. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out! He allowed it to continue as long as it wasn't on Penn State's campus. Give me a break. I agree that he needs to be prosecuted too. Along with Spanier. Both need to go!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • justworng1

      Hey Rob, If That Were Your Son or Grandson Being Fondled In The Shower & Coach JoePa Knew About It & Didn't Dismiss The Guy, Don't You Think You May Feel A Bit Differently... You Need To Walk In Anothers Shoes When Doing The Right & Morale Thing, Open Your Mind.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. boehnersux

    Paterno should have done more, he could have stopped it cold with just a call to his attorney. Paterno's stature gave him clout few others ever achieve and he failed to do the right thing.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Paterno is done – like a Thanksgiving turkey.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. us1776

    What is disturbing is that Joe Paterno did not tell law enforcement about this abuse.

    And his excuses come up short as far as I'm concerned.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Paterno is fully culpable in this ooutrageous scenario. Not only step down, also go to jail.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      What about the grad student who actually saw it first hand? Don't you hold them responsible too? They supposedly saw the incident first hand, they could have gone to the police as an eyewitness. Is that grad student having their face all over the news and having his job threatened?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe Pa

    Leave me alone ya whipper snappers. Why I outta... OOOohhhh, MATLOCK!

    But seriously, I knew about it all along and you continued to worship me! Ha ha! Penn State has always been a fraud! They only wish they could be as awesome as THE Ohio State University.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • PSU Fan

      Typical ohio state jealous loser. Go choke on a buckeye.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cbus resident

      I agree PSU Fan. I live in Columbus – all the fans are that way.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AJ

    The accused was 3 years into retirement and had nothing to do with the football program. When Joe was told, he did the right thing and pursued matters with higher admin.

    Why are we holding the football coach accountable when this man wasn't even on anyone's staff?

    The attorney general of PA has come forward and said Paterno proceeded properly.

    While I find this all detestable, I blame the two fired persons who failed to take it to their superiors.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • adamr73

      Sure....his assistant tells him that his former assistant coach was just raping a 10 year old. Joe gives "his superiors" a call the next day and washes his hands clean of it. No accountability needed? That is absolutely pathetic on his part.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • ML

      These comments are unreadable. Get your facts straight about what Paterno was told, then type.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • FedUp

      How can people not think about how they would feel if this happened to their child? Do you think it's ok to just wash your hands of child assault because he told his superiors? That's as ignorant as he was for not following up with it.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Corruption in university academics and athletics is rampant.

    I had a lot of respect for Paterno. Until now. An assault of a child was reported to him and he did almost nothing. He was complicit in the cover up. He should be fired immediately. Would he do the same if it had been his grandchild? Leave in shame Joe.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bogus

    Dump the pig.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. MarylandBill

    It always amazes me that so many of us are willing to judge so readily. Could Paterno have done more maybe? But lets remember, he was not a witness to the crime, and it was not his job to investigate the allegation. He passed the allegation on to his superiors whose job it was to do the investigation. Further, if Paterno had pushed too hard for an investigation and the allegations had proved to be false, we might have been castigating him now for leading witch hunt.

    His job was and at least currently still is, to run a football program. Not to investigate criminal allegations against a retired employee.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • adamr73

      Just pass it along and wash your hands of it? Tell his superiors and move on?

      You're right...assistant tells you that this guy was raping a 10 year old...just pass it up the chain and get to work on your game plan for Saturday.

      Pathetic is that is the OK response to this.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      I'd also like to point out that so far all we have is grand jury testimony. While these statements are considered legal fact, just like any sort of forensic evidence, they also don't contain all of the facts. They are obtained through a prosecutor's examination of witnesses, without any cross-examination, without any legal counsel for the witnesses. The prosecutor is not obliged to solicit facts that may strengthen the defense's case, or even solicit facts that allow the witnesses to save face.

      The point I'm trying to make is that Paterno and McQueary may very well have followed up with law enforcement or the administration, or McQueary may have had a reason for not intervening on the spot, but the prosecutor had no obligation to uncover those facts. The prosecutor wasn't necessarily trying to malign the witnesses. It's just that those facts would be irrelevant to building the case against Sandusky, and building a case for probable cause which would allow the arrest warrants to be served. That's the sole purpose of the grand jury presentment here.

      I fully expect that once this goes to trial, the questions about who followed up with who will be answered under oath. I'm not defending Joepa or McQ, I'm just saying that there aren't enough facts available yet to affirm guilt or innocence.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • MarylandBill

      Ok, what exactly should he have done? It is easy to say he should have done more, it is harder to say exactly what he should have done. Should he have confronted Sandusky, and thus alerted him to the investigation that Paterno's superiors should have been doing? Should he have called the police directly? Maybe, but then again, his assistant should have as well. Should he have started his own independent investigation? Despite what happens on TV, cops rarely appreciate that.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted

      SERIOUSLY...pass it off...what if this happened to you? what if it was your child? Get real...these are children who were being taken advantage of. Ya this guy was running a football program, but he was notified of his assistant in the shower w/a child...COME ON!!! That's like passing a dead person on a bike path and expecting someone else to call 911. Why do people think it's ok to do these like this with children???? My fiance was molested as a child by a person in position of trust. Nobody came to his rescue and you know what he has severe guilt and psychological issues because of these incidents. He finally broke down in his thirties to tell his mom and me what had happened. I'm disgusted that you actually think Paterno should have just went through the normal protocol in an extreme situation like this. Did I say I'm disgusted or should I remind you I'm disgusted. Our world is sick and the more we defend people in positions of trust the more these sick pedophiles are going to continue to hurt children.

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