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 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 — 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.
"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? 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.
I hate to see Paterno leave after a great career from something like this. I think it's easy to say he should have done more but I realize he was faced trusting the word of one graduate student he probably didn't know well to make an accusation taht would completely destroy the life of his friend and colleague. He didn't know of any other incident (that we're aware of). Yes, abuse is a terrible crime and I wish we could stop every instance of it. However it is also a terrible thing to be falsely accused of and an accusation of it-true or not-never goes away. I've heard of men who lose everything over an accusation-only to find out their accusers had made the accusation up. These accusations seem reliable (and I think the perv should definitely be harshly punished) but Paterno was only aware of one incident reported to him second-hand. So while I think Paterno did the wrong thing by not reporting I can understand his hesitation and I think the public should be understanding about that.
This is such a load of garbage. Paterno did what he was supposed to do according to university policy: Tell his superiors. It is up to the school, not the football coach, to investigate the claims and notify the authorities, not the football coach. If Paterno had gone to the police and reported it right away and the allegations had proven to be false, he would have been fired for making false statements that made the school look bad. He was put in a no win situation by a sick individual and an administration that wanted to sweep it under the rug.
screw school policy – what about the protection of children.
Fired for making false statements???? lol
Don't have a law degree do you?
Legally he might be fine though civil law suits may follow from victims – but as a citizen he was wrong. You call the police and things like this not blindly follow an office memo on procedure as if this was a payment to a player or some such minor thing.
You are flat out wrong . He was morally, ethically, and legally obligated to report a possible crime where a minor was involved.
I could not have said it better.
The coach was not man enough to ask his assistant if the story was true? The coach was not leader enough to try and protect his program and his team?
Paterno should have called the police himself. Instead, he passed the buck. Nuff said.
you are so wrong. Joe should have gone to the police to protect kids from this sicko
It does not matter what "school policy" is. Joe Paterno or any other decent human being on this planet has an obligation to children everywhere to contact authorities about any person they have knowledge of potentially molesting children.
He should have and could have called the police. Yes, he did what he was required too, but was it enough?: No. He is now hiding behind the fact that he did exactly what he was suppose to do when a man of his character ( we thought he had a good character) should have done the right thing. All of those men turned a blind eye when they ONLY did what was required of them. How sad. Unfortunately, there is no crime against being a lousy human being.
You have got to be kidding me. Be a man and do the right thing whether it may cost you your job or not. I'm afraid when I read people like you–afraid. Chicken SSSS. If someone came running to you that in the other room someone had a gun and was going to shoot someone, would you stay put and not call the police in fear for your little job? God help you.
I assume that Paterno was Sandusky's line manager. As such, Paterno failed to do his job in managing his subordinate. Period. Having been told about the alleged abuse, he had a duty to sort it out. Simply reporting the matter upwards is not good enough. What, if anything, did he say to Sandusky? The safety of vulnerable children is fundamental, it should never be brushed off.
I completely agree with you. We have no idea what happened behind closed doors, for all we know JoePa followed up and was told that the authorities did not have enough evidence to go forward, or maybe he was told that the assistant admitted that he was lying, not saying that either of those happened but it's possible. If he was only concerned with covering it up and protecting Penn State's reputation, he would have used his influence to keep the assistant quiet and it would have ended there. Joe Paterno is not the criminal here, he is not the bad guy, this outrage should be directed at the perv and those within the administration that covered for him.
Faculty and staff who are affiliated with schools (Elementary, High School, College) are MANDATED REPORTERS. This means they have a legal obligation to report to county and law enforcement officials any suspected type of abuse to have the matter investigated. Period.
Why didn't he go to the police or do more? The guy is a football coach. His job is to coach football, and at that level, it's one of the most demanding jobs out there, coaches regularly put in 18 hour days 7 days a week. The university employs people whose job is to deal with this kind of thing, and that is who he reported it to. Everything he supposedly "knew" was heresay. I'm sorry, but its not realistic to expect a head coach at a major university to just stop doing his job, put everything on hold, and head up an investigation based on a rumor that he heard from someone else.
Also, why didn't any of the witnesses to these acts go directly to the police? Why didn't the assistant that told Paterno go to the police? If Paterno had directly witnessed it, and didn't report it to the police, you might have a point, but in this case, he was simply relaying on what he heard to the people whose job it is to deal with it. As far as Paterno goes, it was just a rumor, and he passed it on to the right people. If he went to the police and said he "heard" this guy did something, the first question the police would ask is, "Did you see it?....No? Well, we'll look into it", and then probably not do anything. The fact is, when it comes to heresay information, the university should ideally be stricter than law enforcement, and be more willing to get to the bottom of it based only on heresay information than the police. The police will not act without concrete evidence.
burn the place down. I am sick to death of reading about abuse and murder of children, babies. whether or not you participated in this or just observed – you are accountable.
This is nonsense. While Paterno's actions might be less than completely admirable, they were not immoral. If Paterno had seen such an act as it was occurring, then yes, he should act unilaterally. But these were second- or third-hand allegations he was hearing, with no basis for immediately taking them as true, or knowing them to be true. When an allegation like this arises, Joe's proper and completely moral protocol was to refer the allegation to the AD for implementation of an internal investigation. Joe did precisely that. Joe owed as much of a moral obligation to treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty as he did to protect the alleged victim. Now, knowing the existence of the allegation, Joe did have an obligation to implement a policy that would have prevented any reoccurrence of the alleged conduct, Failing to take that step is less than admirable, and distasteful, but not morally reprehensible. I don't believe that Joe should be required to resign over this. But Joe, here's my slap at you: Go Rutgers!
They were first hand - read the ndictment
So I hear that one of the salesmen in my shoe store fondled a little boy in the store restroom. What should I do? Report him to the Association of Shoe Salesmen?
No. A man will act to protect children. Period.
Apparently there were no men in the coach's office.
FIRE Reporter Roxanne Jones, how stupid can you be !
The Grad assistant should have put Sandusky in a Coma
Instead he the Grad Assitant got a promotion !!
Goodbye Joe, you gotta go, me oh my oh......
I hope JoePa has a Saturday game plan to defense this when he has to answer to his Maker.
The comments from the press are outrageous. Frank Serpico, a NYC police rookie tried to report corruption within the police department to his superiors. He was set up by the "blue wall of silence" and shot in the head in a failed assassination attempt by his colleagues.See the movie and then tell who should have done what! Whistle blowing is a dangerous game and the rules are pretty clear. Paterno followed the rules and obeyed the law. How dare anyone make moral judgments on what should have been done 10 years ago. Maybe the CIA should have determined if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before American boys were sent to die. Maybe the World situation is actually more important than the Penn State Football program. We as a national love scandal. Scandal is an American disease. We should all refocus on the important issues of our time and allow Linda Kelly to do her job without commentary from Sportswriters.
RIDUCULOUS - Paterno is in charge there
As a die hard PS fan, I'm crushed. I chatise other schools when they make the headlines and no different here. I will not watch another PS game this season. I just can't, to many crazy thoughts running thru my mind. What a crushing blow and so sad. Ticked off. Why is that people who make it to the top don't know how to behave? Sad Sad Sad
What ever happened to avoiding subjectivity in journalism? You're using RELIGIOUS analogies to bash PSU? Really? Unfortunately, there are sick, disgusting people everywhere. They sit next to us on buses and work in the same offices as us. The media is using ONE horrible person as a long-awaited excuse to drag a reputable, WORLD-REKNOWNED university through the mud. Celebrity gossip is one thing, but CNN, you're obviously plunging to a new low with this one. ETHICAL JOURNALISM! GOOGLE IT!
People KNEW abut Sandusky Mike Q witnessed him raping a child - why are you defending them
these so called victims were nobodies poor and probably black who cares RIGHT
"don't punt...don't tell".... see ya in the shower........oooohhhh...... you didn't...! ! !!
Not surprised whose next Notre dame
You guys dont make this much noise when it comes to Priests and the Clergy... Gimme a break. You allow the Pope to do whatever he wants including covering up abuses. So get a life.
have we not learned from previous scandals to wait until all the facts come out before calling for heads? Anyone remember the Duke Lacross scandal?
you are correct.. let the legal system run its course
Read the grand jury report and see if you think that