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 abuseÂ 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 doesnâ€™t absolve Paterno from a moral obligation. He shouldâ€™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.
â€śThose 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 â€” once Paterno's top football sergeant, and so a priest of football at Penn State â€” 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.
"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? Weâ€™re not talking about a recruiting violation here. Weâ€™re talking about an unspeakable violation, to innocent children," Gregory writes. "We donâ€™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 Paternoâ€™s lack of judgment when told, itâ€™s time for him to take his 409 victories and Hall of Fame bust and leave. Quickly," the Ledger said.
This story makes me sick. I hope the Penn St fans boycott the remainder of the season. Tailgate at home... How convenient they waited until after JoPa sets the win record. If this came out a couple of years ago, he never would have made it and a few boys wouldn't have been subjected to this predator. Disgusting!!!
Joe must go! He knew the details and passed the buck. Wonder if he told his wife?
that's what happens when the highest paid nobel prize researcher makes 120,000 yr and your football coach makes 3-5 million yr.
Sorry about your luck Joe, but it's gone and so are you.
just reading the pdf sickens me.
I agree. I did not think Paterno should be forced to resign until I read the PDF of the Grand Jury findings.
This is just-as-sick as any of the Catholic Church scandals. Yeah, THAT bad.
The stink of this will hang on Penn State for at least 50 years, and JoPa's name is forever ruined.
What good-quality HS prospect is going to want to be recruited by Pedo State now?
No one. Their athletics program is toast.
Stop convering up this scandal joe, as Donal Trump says: Your Fired!
Innocent until proven guilty! So many people here are so quick to judge, they want to hang someone right now specially Joe Paterno. Guilty by association? Joe reported the incident to someone in authority what was reported to him by an assistance. What else could he have done if the people in authority chosed to ignored it or cover it up? Its becoming a feeding frenzy hyped up by some journalist who should be reporting the news instead of giving their opinion. Rumors, started by HATERS, Spread by FOOLS, accepted by IDIOTS!
Google and read the indictment.....Will make you sick if you have any heart. What if one of these boys was your own child.
He could have called the police like any other person would have done. That's what else he could have done.
Is it a rumor that after reporting this inncident, and knowing this about his coordinator...he allowed Sandusky to be on the field and football facility with a boy in 2007? I think not. Paterno turned a blind eye. You keep defending your boy...it's going to get a lot uglier and a lot more sickening.
simple...he could've reported it to the police or child services himself...just like the grad assistant should have done.
Not in this case. Look at victim number 2 on the PDF. It has been proven that Paterno knew about it, and chose to do the absolute minimum. Paterno was the most powerful person at Penn State University, and He chose to basically do nothing. He has an obligation to take care of these kids. It took place on his campus, and he didn't do nearly enough to help out these kids. I was a huge Paterno fan, and admired Penn States program for years. That is all gone.
"What else could he have done if the people in authority chosed to ignored it or cover it up?"
Hmm, yeah. If only they had police or other authority figures in State College that he could've talked to...
It's amazing how important people think a stupid sport like football is. Get this co-pervert OUT.
All of those men had a moral responsibility to those boys. Has anyone stopped to think of the victims? Just because it was reported doesn't mean you did your job. What if Sandusky was raping Paterno's nephew, I doubt he would have stopped at reporting it. In my opinon, anyone who had knowledge of the alleged incidents should all be punished equally. The people who were suppose to protect and teach those boys, violated them physically & emotionally. Those boys will carry that around with them for the rest of their lives.
In 100% agreement.
Paterno probably thought it was no big deal because back in Roman times when he was a kid that kind of stuff was normal.
So much for JoePa's legacy.
Joepa would have acted differently if it was his grandson. He needs to step down, now.
Did I mention that JoePa is your typical right wing family values Republican. I bet this hypocrite goes to church on Sunday. Shut this Penn State Football Program down now.
Sorry Joe, one little phone call could have saved you all this trouble but that was too much for you to do. You will go down in history as not a winning coach but a boy rapists supporter.
McQuery to JoePa: I saw Sandusky raping a 10 year old in the shower.
JoePa to McQuery: I'll take care of it. Don't tell anyone else.
JoePa to Curley and Schultz: Someone saw Sandusky with another kid.
Curley and Schultz to Sandusky: Don't bring kids around here anymore.
Everyone- 9 years later: We did our job. We can't believe that he fooled us this long.
Hey kids! Come to Happy Valley where our coaches LOVE you long time!
Let's me put all this in perspective. Joepa is done. Finished, Through. If he doesn't retire in the next two days, the University President will fire him. If he isn't fired, the Board of Regents will replace the University President. Penn State is in full scale damage control. Lots of folks going down on this.
Yeah and this time they're not 10 years old.