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. My2Sense4U

    Coach Tressel looks the other way when some of his players trade their momentos for tattoos. Coach Paterno is under scrutiny for reporting what he was told. Hell, lets not just fire them, lets burn them at the stake. Ridiculous.

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

    Who is to say that the little boy wasn't asking for it.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ryan

    " they've delighted fans for decades in a stadium called Happy Valley."

    Wrong. The town is nicknamed Happy Valley, not the stadium. The stadium is called Beaver Stadium. Let's get at least the basics facts right, please.

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

      Wrong. The valley (the one with the towns State College, Bellefonte, Pine Grove Mills etc.) is called "Happy Valley" by some. The town is State College.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |

      Well bang me in the butt and call me Sandusky.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |

    Personally, I don't see what he even did wrong here.

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

      Are you kidding? You are bereft of morality. You must be an attorney. Perhaps a Big Law partner?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      As an educator, he is a mandated reporter, meaning he is legally required to notify the police or child welfare agency of suspected child abuse. He broke the law.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

    "He (Paterno) should’ve taken action himself. Failing to do that allowed Sandusky to victimize boys for another seven years,"

    Paterno's 409 victories and Hall of Fame needs to be all VOIDED. Crossed out. Erased. Paterno forfeited all of it. Every little piece of the football kingdom he created, needs to be wiped clean from the record books. That's the fit and just punishment for someone like Paterno.

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

      You sound bitter. PSU must always beat your team....lmao.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jared

      Your an idiot.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adi

      Your a dummy, what he did on the field has nothing to do with what someone else did off.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |

      Talk about a stupid comment. This is just moronic. That's like saying Bobby Bowden should lose everything because a couple of his players cheated on a test.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |

      Sounds like Josh has some daddy issues.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • My2Sense4U

      I'm right there with you Josh. While we are at it lets take him and his family out and have them all shot. IDIOT!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • HK

      Seriously? Try reading the indictment before you call for the man's head. The ENTIRE indictment, not just the first paragraph or the cut-and-paste jobs that the newspapers do.

      People who shoot their mouths off when all they know about the case are the biased half-truths of the public media should all go crawl into a corner and hang their heads in shame. This man has dedicated his life to ensuring that the young men he coaches grow up to be respectful, successful members of society. If he thought that there was something more he could or should have done at the time, he would have. As it was, he did exactly what was expected of him.

      Even if he had reported it, the police wouldn't have even taken his statement. It's called hearsay, people. Police can't take that as evidence. That's why coaches are instructed to report this sort of thing to the university higher-ups. They conduct an official investigation, at which point the police must be brought in. He did what he was supposed to do- it was the university officials whose duty it was to report this to the police, and they are the ones who failed these poor young boys.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmark

      Agreed, Henry

      November 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lewy

    Resign NOW.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Max Reasons

    I think paterno made the ultimate mistake and that was let this pedophile continue to harm kids. That was a decision he made and that he will live with for the rest of his life. He is done.

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

    Joe is an authority figure and as such should be held to higher standards. Isn't he the head coach? Doesn't he choose his coaches? After finding out in 2002 that he knew of the issues, he should have taken his authority and turned the pervs over to the police.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Paterno also kept a tight fisted control over this football "kingdom" at Penn State. No one, and I mean no one, was allowed into his "kingdom" (buildings) without his direct and complete approval.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. manhandler

    Read the indictment...The details are heinous, abhorrent and chilling, at the very least. The sheer number of prople who knew about this and did nothing is nothing short of astonishing. How could this many people know what was gong on and remain silent. They are ALL complicent in these crimes. All the way from the Janitor to the University president.

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

    Poor journalism here. Of course he's not going to quit. The President of Penn State, Mr. Spainer is going to quit.

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

    Why would anyone make vile or heinous false accusations against a wealthy entertainer (like Justin Bieber) or a wealthy black businessman running for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Are they after money, publicity attention or a lawyer who wants the limelight to attract new business?
    Does the costly American legal system reward any false or nuisance claim my making it economically impractical to fight such allegations where it costs an innocent person $500,000 to have their day in court or $25,000 to settle without admission of liability.
    Just rememeber that Michael Jackson is reported to have been sued or been threatended to be sued over 2,000 times. If one were to fight every battle, one would be bankrupted and one would be in court so much of the time that they would not have time to work or earn a living. The American justice system destroys innocents (like Conrad Black), destroys businesses (eg Chicago Sun Times or Cessna and Piper in the 1970's) and discourages investment in business in the USA. Executive talent now avoids the USA in favour of Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere in the Americas and in Asia.

    American Justice is the best thing that every happened to BUSINESS GROWTH AND JOB CREATION ... FOR EVERY NATION THAT COMPETES WITH THE USA! Thank you USA for helping create more jobs and investment in Canada ... even if it is at the expense of your own people!

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

    As a Pennsylvania native and alumnus of Penn State, I am well aware that no man is more revered than Joe Paterno when it comes to sports throughout the state. While I can appreciate the argument that JoePa followed "protocol" by reporting an incident to his superiors concerning a retired former coach who was no longer on the staff or payroll, there is absolutely no defense for not calling the police. Both he and the grad student had a moral obligation to notify the legal authorities immediately after learning of the behavior. It is absolutely horrifying to know that at least 5 people knew about this incident for all of these years and not one of them felt compelled to call the police.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerrod

      Yes to the grad student calling th police. JoePa? would be trhown out of court as hersay evidence and not allowed to be entered. Can only do so much as a second party to the event.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jimbo

    If I was at work and walked into a bathroom and one of my co-workers was touching a 10 year old boy my first reaction would be to call the police not tell my boss. Actually my first reaction would be to grab the nearest heavy object and beat the living tar out of the guy. Ask yourself why would he tell the athletic director and not the police? It seems pretty obvious to me. He should step down regardless of the court verdicts.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DJ

    Wait a minute – WAIT A MINUTE – what about the District Attorney who decided not to prosecute because of the lack of creditable evidence??? What do you expect JoePa or any other school official to do when they have heard about this second hand. Go after the abuser – go after the people who lied – go after the DA who would not prosecute – I agree with the comment that if this did not have JoePa as the face of this story – this would be third page news.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |

      Sounds like it was consensual to me.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jerrod

    For all of you bloggers that are asking for Joe Paterno's resgination think about this:
    Yes he "should" have done more but what? he was (at a minimum) 2nd party to the information. Why not go after the person who observed and did nothing? why not go after the parents, who did nothing.
    Joe Paterno did at the time, from what we read in reports (and we all know how misleading reports can be, since they never porvide the entire story) he did what he was suppposed to do. in my opion should he have gone farther? absolutley, but many times in a "he siad or obsevered vs. anthoer he said or obsevred" juries become devided and no justice is done. Does JOe Paterno control Penn State so much that he can tell the AD and president to not investigate? I don't think so. If you are so ready to cast the first stone then take a hard look at your own life and see if you did not screw up somewhere along the line. Hindsiht is always 20/20 and in this day and age can be very cruel as well.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al T

      Hey, here's a thought, how about when the "first party" comes to your house with this story, you call police and let them take a statement from the "first party." Wow, you people.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
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