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. Jon

    Where was CNN when we made $9,563,016.09 for kids with cancer last year? Come around this February and we'll prove to everyone once again what it means to be a Penn Stater.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex in NJ

    The only think that should end Joe Paterno's tenure as Penn State coach will be when Joe Paterno passes on.

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

      Wow, I wonder where all this indignation was when it was about the perpetrator. You know, Bill Clinton, Barney Frank etc. Does anyone really believe Paterno had any sympathies with a child molester? Reallly...................Occupy Penn State bring them all down. Off with their heads.

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

      Really? Knowing that someone is raping kids and not doing a damn thing about it isn't reason enough? It's unbelievable what some people will attempt to justify.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • macthek9

      You think he should skate by? The guy didn't report this, even after he knew it was going unheard... He should of done something, rathe than let him keep molesting children... Sandusky was even seen by Joe Pa on campus with an 11 year old boy in 2007, knowing full well the allegations...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • macthek9

      Swallow cyanide then!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Leslie

    This whole Penn State scandel is so embarassing to everyone here in central PA. (I live 30 mins. from main campus.) Paterno was our only claim to fame and now it's not even something we can be proud of. These allegations are shameful and disgusting! My hope is that everyone involved is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. My heart goes out to all of the victims and their families.

    A little correction to this article: The stadium is called Beaver Stadium and State College is the name of the town it's located. Happy Valley is sort of the nickname for the area.

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

    I read the entire grand jury paper. Joe Pa needs to go. He covered up for his superiors by saying that one of the witnesses DID NOT tell him graphically what had happened. That is an outright lie as the witness, several times, said that he told Paterno AND Schultz in DETAIL what he had witnessed- and they should go after Joe Pa for perjury. End of story.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Thomas Keller

    Sorry, but there is simply no excuse for Paterno not to have spoken out about this at the time he was informed of whatc was happening. I assume that he was trying to to protect the program by doing the minimum, it just doesn't wash! Joe you gotta go!

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

    Everyone is jumping on Paterno before the investigation is complete. Lets face it – Sandusky fooled us all – bigtime! What a sick-o! Having followed Paterno all these years, I have to think he truely thought that, if there is any truth to the grad students account, the PSU brass would undertake a thorough investigation and get to the bottom of this. If Paterno is guilty of anything, I think it's that Paterno trusted the PSU brass to do thier job. I blame the lack of action fully on the administration – its thier job to police the PSU campus, put procedures in place, investigate these types of matters and contact authorities. Joe does football and fundraisers – period. I am sure he asked followup questions of AD Curley and the VP, but they probably told him that after thier investigation, they found no grounds or substance to report anything (in other words they most probably lied to Paterno – just like they are lieing now). Grahm Spanier needs to be held accountable too. He needs to answer some tough questions about "what he knew" and "why he did not act" or push for a complete investigation – I think Spanier is guilty of knowingly helping to cover this up. I think Joe Pa got snowballed by the administration, understanding that Joe Pa, like all of us, had otherwise understood Sandusky to be a Saint who worked in "kids best interest" , founded the Second Mile on thier behalf, etc. Who would have ever dreamed it was all a front for him to make contact with these kids. It is sickening – Sandusky and the Administration need put in jail. But in my book, I don't have enough facts to convict Joe Pa ......yet. I do know one thing for sure – if I saw what the Grad Student or the Janitor witnessed, I would have interviened right there and Mr. Sandusky would probably have had his skull cracked open after I was done with him – in either case it should have been stopped the second it was witnessed. At least go to the police yourself Mr. Janitor and Mr. Grad Student. The lack of action by Admin and eyewitnesses is horribly distrurbing.

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

      Paterno, needs to be held responsible for his lack of action in this. I am not saying legally but I think it is time to step aside and let someone else take this team over after the season. As a university coach myself, I would not be able to live with myself if I knew that kind of information and just passed along to my boss. Then I see this same man with another young child a few years later. Sorry Joe you needed to do a lot more for those kids.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AL999

    Very, very sad. JoePa was one of the shining lights of college football and Penn State University. However, this atrocity that took place in PSU's football facilities and the poor judgment displayed by Joe in addressing this profound abomination to those kids is reason enough for him to resign. This whole affair is truly tragic and will lead to an unfortunate, provocative end to Joe's career.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tttttttt

    These sad old men grew up in a different time, but that's no excuse. Yes, Joe has to go but let's not drag him thru the streets. Now, Sandusky, that's a different story. Start with castration.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MikeGCNY

    I feel the need to say this. At this point all of the reports are of allegations. Nothing has been declared historical fact. JoePa did what he needed to do, report it to his superiors. For all we know, the allegation that Paterno presented to the superiors was deemed hersay or otherwise false, and that was the answer the administration gave JoePa. Therfore JoePa, under the belief that nothing happend as it was reported to him, continued doing his job. This assistant coach is a slimeball, mucking up everything he touched, assuming the allegations are true. But should this guys actions tarnish a legend who did nothing wrong? Most certainly no.

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

      Furthermore, aren't these Grad Students and Janitor staff just as guilty as JoePa in not ensuring the matter was taken care of?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Doug

    He has to go. He had to have known something was going on. If he didn't he is the dumbest person in America. Football coaches should not be put on pedestals as many of you choose to do.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marci

    How quick to judge others!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mitch

    This is much like whispering, "Fire, pass it on" to the person next to you as you leave a burning building and then ignore the fact that no one is escaping and the fire department hasn't arrived. EVERYONE involved had an obligation to continue, and increase, the alert until proper action was taken. I'm sure Paterno has made thousands of decisions that were based on what was right. This time he failed, and many lives suffered.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shelly

    If Jim Tressel can get "fired" for not reporting free tattoos from his players to the NCAA...

    November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Oski

    Paterno knew Sandusky for 30+ years...he had to know something EVIL was being done in order to let him go from his staff...JoePa needs to be fired and held accountable for NOT acting...

    November 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jer

    People are all over Paterno like hes the one that did the deed. It was reported to him, he then reported it to who he was supposed to report it to. Remember, he wasnt a witness to these acts, it was reported to him by someone else. What else is he supposed to do? What about the person who witnessed this and reported it to Paterno? Why arent we all over this person for not reporting it to the police.

    Everyone is on Joe's case because hes the football coach? get over it

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

      Exactlly! How about this: What if Joe DID report it to police and it turned out to be nothing. Then, Joe would have ruined a man's reputation and career without having any proof to go to police about. And why the heck didn't the grad assistant (or whomever) that witnessed it report it to the police? Seems to me that's the guy that should be pummeled for this.

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

      It's not his job to investigate, it was the police and they were never notified!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
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