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. Donna Witty

    I am disgusted by the thought that an adult who had set up a charity for at risk boys would abuse them. Having said that I think Paterno did what he should have by reporting it to his supervisors. I use to teach in the 90s and the rule was if you suspected abuse of any kind or if a child told you as a teacher you had to report it to the Principal, Councilor and school nurse. From there THEY would investigate and report it if necessary to DHR or CPS(depends on the state) I am no Penn State fan but from what I have read Paterno followed the chain in reporting since he didn't witness the abuse. If he witnessed abuse then he would have been responsible of reporting to higher authorities. Hearsay is not under that same rule. I find it sad that the administrators did not investigate the allegations more throughly because I'm sure Paterno trusted them to do the right thing.

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

      Joe Paterno has been God at PSU for decades. That was his kingdom. The person who witnessed Jerry raping a 10 year old boy from behind in the shower personally came to Joe with the information. Even if in your mind that did not justify Joe picking up the phone and calling police right then and there, the fact that he did not follow up to make sure the case was reported to the authorities seals his fate as an enabler of a child molester. There is no getting around that Donna.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. troy

    Another strong man brought down by pus sy.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RogerKorby

    He reported the incident. What more was he to do? Arrest the guy? Since when does the wrongdoing of a pervert and the cover-up done by his superiors apply to him? This has nothing to do with JoePa's lack of control. He never covered up anything. Those who did these egregious things will pay the price, but to throw Joe in there and equivocate him with the others? That is wrong.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • sw

      fire him? Call the police?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      Firing someone for an allegation that hadn't been proven would have invited all sorts of lawsuits. Legally he couldn't have done that.

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

      He was supposed to call the police.

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

      Why is there no mention in this or many of the other articles I've read concerning this of Mike McQueary? He was the one who walked in on Sandusky IN THE ACT OF RAPING A CHILD and didn't stop it. He was "distraught" and went home and told his mom and dad. How can a grown man witness such a violent, barbaric act upon a defenseless 10 year old boy and not race in to stop it–punch Sandusky in the face, grab the child away from him, shout for help, call 911 immediately–all of those things should have been reflexive. What kind of man is he, turning his back on a helpless child being brutalized before his eyes? He left that poor kid with that sick, perverted, abusive old creep and went home because he was so "distraught". What a big, strong, macho jock–afraid to rescue a little boy. I am absolutely appalled at ALL parties involved here but can't fathom why McQueary's name seems to be absent from so many of these news stories. Disgusting, all of them.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      How about tell someone who would do something? Telling a friend and co-colleague with no follow-up is like calling your mother in another state to say your neighbors hose is on fire.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chief

      He could have....
      1. Told the grad assistant to go to the police if he fealt their was wrongdoing.
      2. Confront Sandusky
      3. Contact the foundation
      4. Insist the incident be investigated

      November 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    Wow, I think there are a lot of OSU fans posting here. What ever can be done to take to light of off Tressel and the OSU cheaters. The story is one man (Sandusky) did something very wrong while several OSU players and a coach did things wrong.

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

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

      November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Another bitter OSU

      November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ben

    He should only resign if it affects the ability of the football team to draw in alumni and alumni donations (which is really why a college pumps so much money into football programs in the first place). Resigning out of principle is stupid and a waste of time, and he shouldn't do it. If he wasn't responsible for the victimization of the kids then he isn't responsible. Saying that he should have known is retarded. His job is to run a football program, not monitor the lifestyles of his subordinates beyond football. Unless he is culpable, he shouldn't be made to receive punishment, and therefore, should not resign.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Edge327

    Someone should have been watching Sanduskey prior to 2002. He was accused of child molestation in 1998, but the prosecutor deided not to press charges.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sw

    If i was Joe Pa and i was told my asistant coach was abusing someone, there would have been 3 phone calls in this order
    1) to the police
    2) to my Athletics director
    3) to the assistant coach to fire him

    That is all.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeffinReno

      So all it takes is an accusation to get someone fired then? Whats your bosses number I need to tell him you abused me.

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

      Incorrect, Joe pa responsibility is to run a football program which he has done so well for 46 years

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

      what if you were told by someone who had a long standing issue with Sandusky, and was always trying to get him in trouble? You can't fire someone without cause (rumor is not cause)... And unless you put your witness on a stand for testimony, or even before police, it means nothing but heresay.

      What if what this witness said was total rumor? Then you call the police, you fire him, it's all over the news that this guy was fired for molesting a boy, and then it all turns out to be a vicious rumor started by a disgruntled colleague. Now his reputation is ruined (no matter how exonerated he is), your reputation is tainted for being so accusatory, your working relationship is trash, and the college football program must endure the headache as well. All because you listened to a guy who had a history of hating Sandusky and just wanted to get him in trouble.

      You have to go through the proper protocol and channels to have this investigated thoroughly, and it can't be Joe Paterno because he is too close and he is not Sandusky's employer (although he is the head coach). Penn State must launch a proper and PRIVATE investigation before any action is taken and as far as Joe Paterno is concerned, he notified Penn State and ASSUMED (incorrectly) that they would do ALL that was necessary to look into such a serious accusation.

      If Joe Paterno witnessed it himself, then yes, we can criticize him for not seeing this through until the guy was jailed. And yes, you can make those three phone calls. But since it was one guy coming to him telling him, it's a whole different story.

      Hindsight is 20-20. At the time, it may not have been so clear.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sw


      Call the police
      Call the AD
      Call the assitance coach to tell him that I had called the police and the AD and he is on admin leave until it is investigated.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If the charges are false then supposedly he would have been cleared, I would have only done the first 2 and last last one (firing) would only be done if the accusations are true. I would suspend the coach until things were cleared-up. Joe morally failed to do his job, that much is clear.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. beth

    what is even sicker is that I think this coming out now, is all part of Corbett's big scheme to become the savior of PA..
    Penn State is a thorn in his side...he wants to be all powerful, and getting rid of Paterno and some senior adminstrators at PSU only helps him be a bigger bully...think about it...this had been laid to rest since 2003..and now it's Corbett's first year as Gov and all of a sudden it's a big scandal. typical pathetic Republicans... it's all about them, whatever they have to do to be the biggest and bestest.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. What can YOU do for your country?

    How much is an ethics class at PSU?

    November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marci

    JNH- read more carefully.. It was the Patriot Newspaper that discussed charges against the others.. NOT CNN. They just produced the Patriot Newspaper Story

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Stephen

    I think Mr. Paterno should go as well as everyone at Penn State who knew about this. On a side note I think other cover ups and shady dealings have been occurring at Penn State on both the athletic and academic sides for a long time now. The school needs to be investigated further.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BDB

    Put JoePa in his wheel chair and give him a push right outta happy valley!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ed Sr

    Joe Paterno failed the kids and the university? Hogwash.........when is a kid no longer a kid and how did Paterno know that this was going on? I believe Joe Paterno! The sportswriters have failed Joe Paterno and they have failed the public and they have failed college football..........ALL the news that's fit to print! Now you can see exactly WHAT this country is coming to......ALWAYS pass the buck....NEVER shoulder the blame!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • PennaDan

      You, sir, are a reprehensible clown of the highest order of magnitude. May you someday feel the sting of an unwanted intrusion in your bowel.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      which is EXACTLY what you are doing...pass the buck, never shoulder the are an idiot

      November 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    SERIOUSLY? This is front-page, top headline on when there's actual NEWS to be reported on? Here's a few topics that might be worth reporting that aren't even ON the front page: Greece, OWS, the Supreme Court starting oral arguments on GPS privacy, any number of violent crimes committed last night, Congressional Approval ratings dropping to their lowest point in all of history, advancements in the GOP primary race... ANYTHING that's ACTUAL NEWS.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If you don't consider child abuse not news then I am glad you are not in charge. If you don't like this news, simply DON'T read it.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alaska

    Paterno might have 409 victories but overall he is a LAHOOOOOOOOOSER.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
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