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. Larry R.

    I disagree with all the calls for resignation. Paterno did what he was legally supposed to do - and let's not forget people are innocent until proven guilty. Paterno was not the police or judge and should not be expected to act like one.

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

      I guess we all know what Larry R. would do if he was told someone was molesting a boy in his office bathroom.....just wait a few days and then tell his boss.

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

      Tell you what Larry R, when you kid is taking it in the butt from a coach, we'll just sit around a couple days and not say anything. Because after all, it's the right thing to do.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Read the indictment. As j223 summarized:
      McQuery to JoePa: I saw Sandusky corn-holing 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.

      O M F G

      November 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      No he shouldn't be expected to act like police or a judge he should be expected to act like the father he is and a HUMAN BEING moron!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JMH

    One correction for – the two higher ups in the university are not up on charges for NOT reporting the abuse. They are being charged with purjury for lying about it to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. Please keep your facts straight!

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

      So...lying is the lesser of two evils

      November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    Someone saw the coach abusing a little boy. The coach is lucky I didn't see him. I would have whipped his ass and thencalled the police and told them WHY!!!!!

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

    This sounds exactly like an episode of Glee.

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

    they should do mail surveys of past players/athletes to the big ten and other university and college football, basketball, soccer, etc. teams and see how widespread this issue is. i remember hearing players complain about abuse years ago...maybe classes at school. about coaches. so...wherever they are now...they should be surveyed. some won't be able to talk about it for years, but maybe if they know they aren't alone (even though their case might seem unique)...they will report. it would be healthier if they tell.

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

      i guess high schools and junior high schools also. this stuff doesn't usually wait for college.

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

      i still like the idea of a worldwide reporting system. online. where are the programmers. i would solemnly swear to report every case that was reported to me.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John Hughes


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

    State school – I wonder if the victims can sue the state for damages?

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

      Penn State is not a state school, but a state-related school. That means the school gets limited funding from the state (around 10%), yet the state has no control over the university. Sorry I can't share any legal insight into this.

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

    Paterno did what he was suppose to and report the incident to his superior. The university should have taken it to the next step and did some investigating, because the story was reported to Paterno by a graduate student not very hard evidence. Now if he would have see it with his own eyes than he should have reported to the cops. Why didnt the graduate student report it to the authorities? I dont think he is at fault for jack. However, it is time he retires Penn st has not been very relevant interms of college football the last few years. time for a change in happy valley

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

      Let me ask you one question. If the man had come to Joe Paterno and told Joe that he witnessed the rapist taking advantage of Joe's own grandson in the shower, would Joe's response have simply been to let the AD know in the next few days what was reported to him. keep in mind Joe heard this information directly from the person who is said to have witnessed it. You know the answer to my point, but you just don't want to get it I guess.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jnpa

      I totally agree! It has come to a point in all these discussions and media columns that Joe Paterno is as guilty as Sandusky. People are getting it all wrong. Some even think that Paterno was the one who saw them, and others feel that Paterno is the athletic director. I think things are getting completely out of hand.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • PennaDan

      What a reprehensible clown you are, Derek, for writing this.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmark

      Well, the difference, IndyJim, is that in your scenario, Joe Paterno would be able to ask his grandson if the incident happened. And even if the grandson replied No, he would be able to tell if this kid were scared or honestly have no idea what he's talking about. In other words, he could easily ascertain the TRUTH. and go from there.

      Here, (and at the time) it was all just heresay.

      Hindsight is 20-20.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Smith

      If the person that was reportedly molested was a family friend or his own son, I'll guarantee he would have made sure the person in question was investigated. Come on, just reporting something and then just say, oh I did my job, is pure bull.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ABa

    JoePa estified several monthsago and this has ben going on for at least few months (if not yeare). Therefore just brushing of his responsibility as "I told my superiors" is not good enough. Everyone knows, Joepa has no real boss (Athletic Director is his on paper only boss). His real boss is the one living upstairs. Perhaps JoePa should donate all his money to the charities and stay in the jungle to erflect on what he has done (or not done).

    November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dose him

    You people getting up in arms at JoePa need to get a grip on reality. Those kids should have spoken up sooner.

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

      Are you seriously going to go with blaming THE UNDERAGE CHILD VICTIMS in this case? Seriously?

      I'd ask you to re-evaluate your priorities, but I fear there's little hope for someone who puts college football over abused children.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      So now it is the victims who are to blame?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bluefan740

      What an ignorant statement! The kids are the VICTIMS, NOT Jo Pa.

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

      I agree!

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

      @Dose Him:

      I thought about reporting your comments as abusive. I've decided it's better to call attention to what kind of morally bankrupt clown you are.


      November 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      They spoke up years ago. This has been going on for a very long time.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JeffinReno

    So he hears about 1 incident, then reports it, then doesn't hear anything for 7 years. Maybe, just maybe he thought it was a false allegation. If I heard about something like this 1 time, and then never again, I would think that it probably wasn't true. Also how long was this assistant coach there before the allegation, the longer it was the more believable and understanding Joe's reaction becomes. If I was approached by a new co-worker saying that someone I worked with for 15 years had done something innapropreate I would pass it on. If I then did not hear anything about it, I would think it taken care of, or that it wasn't true.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • jnpa

      @jeffinReno....I completely agree. But hey, the witch hunt is on for Paterno. Just read the blogs and media columns and you will see that it doesn't matter what he did, he has become, through the media, as guilty as Sandusky. I read some blogs where people want him in jail, some think he is the one who abused the boys, and some think Joe Paterno is the athletic director, and one said he is the Penn State CEO and should step down. Some on here are spewing this across the blogs and have no idea what they are talking about. They just want to hang someone!!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Your statement is correct if the reported incident were minor such as a co-worker stole a laptop or something but this incident involved a heinous crime that even if the chance of it being true were 1% should be investigated further.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. IndyJim

    He should not be allowed the honor of finishing out the season. The President of PSU needs to act before Saturdays game.

    There is a quote from Reagan on a wall here at work that talks about having to make tough decisions, basically to sum it up it says that when the time comes for us to make a very tough decision, the decision has already been made by us over the weeks, months, and years of other decisions we have made that maybe were not so big.

    How Joe could live with himself after that decision to not do the right thing is something I don't understand?

    November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SuperD

    Penn State made the mistake of not forcing an 80 year old man to retire. It's going to be interesting to see how Paterno takes on a power greater than he, the University telling him to get lost.

    It's all a sad story, but Paterno tolerated this, he's got to go. It would be the best thing that ever happened to him too. I mean this guy is going to drop dead on the sideline some day if somebody does not tell him to go.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MIchael Wolozyn

    So who really does decide verdicts tin our land of freedom and justice – facts or the media? Seems to me that the verdict is already in on Mr. Paterno.

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

      Read the Grand Jury report my friend. These were a group of people who fully investigated the charges. I think it speaks for itself. Even Joe Pa's own comments speak for themselves, so I think your point is nil.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      @indyjim – While the grand jury 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 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sarcasmo

    I love how so many people are fact witnesses without any personal knowledge whatsoever of the facts. lol America.

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

      That is the purpose of the Grand Jury Sarcasmo, read their report.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
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