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€œThose 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.
Time to go Joe. You knew it and you blew it.
Thats a bunch of Bull$%^&*/...Why should Joe step down? Did he know of it or condone the acitons of his assistant coach? Quit calling for resignations from leaders that had nothing to do with scandals!
Did he know of it, you ask? YES, HE DID, stupid. That's the whole point. Someone told him they saw it with their own eyes, and his only response was to PROTECT HIMSELF by telling his superiors. When his superiors did nothing about it, did he do and end run and report it to the police himself? Did he show any concern that an alleged child abuser was getting away with it and being protected by the University? Nope. What mattered to him was making sure he couldn't be held legally responsible. The kids were on their own.
What he did may have been legal...but it violates every rule about ethical behavior in an organization. There are no innocent bystanders in an organization. He had a chance to be a whistleblower – and the only innocent person in a situation like this is the whistleblower – and he blew it. The man's gotta go. Now.
YES. Of course he condoned it!! If you know about it and see that nothing is being done; you're condoning it.
Everyone from the coach to the administration should be fired! This is not a situation that should be left to the university this is a crime that involved a child and the police should have been informed. If it was your child or mine you would expect nothing less.
exactly...put yourself in the shoes of those parents whose children were molested...people would stop defending paterno or dissecting this like it's some complicated case of welll...he did report it so.... MAKE EACH OF THEM AN EXAMPLE so next time these perverts and protectors of perverts will think twice...if not for morals...for fear of the consequences...
I've always admired JoePa...but he's gotta go. IMMEDIATELY. The University should give him a choice: resign now, or be fired. To simply "not renew his contract at the end of the season" and let him remain until the season is over would be downplaying how serious these allegations are. JOE PATERNO WAS TOLD THAT SOMEONE WORKING FOR HIM WAS HURTING DEFENSELESS CHILDREN and his only response was to do that bare minimum to avoid LEGAL responsibility. He covered his own tuchas, and NOTHING MORE. When he saw that the administration did nothing about it, did he take the steps they weren't taking and notify the police? Nope...he did nothing.
The man's gotta go. NOW.
You are an idiot. You have no iidea what Paterno knew. You should have lived during the middle ages so you could have joined the witch hunts. Actually you already have
We've become a Nation of knee-jerk reactors and character lynchers. Gee here's a concept: let's wait until the investigation is finished and once all the information is obtained, THEN make a rational – and correct – decision.
Give it up, guys. You're trying to defend a man you've admired because you can't bring yourself to admit he did a terrible thing. I don't know what he knew? Ridiculous! He knew enough to notify his superiors, didn't he? And what did he do after that? Nothing...nothing at all. The kids were on their own. All he cared about was protecting himself from legal responsibility, which he did. To suspect that a child is being hurt and not notify the authorities is completely unethical. He may have done the LEGALLY CORRECT thing, but not the ETHICALLY CORRECT thing. There's a world of difference, and you guys either know nothing of ethics or (more likely) you're simply in total denial because you love the guy.
i hate that people are defending anyone involved here...these kids are going to be messed up at a emotional or far more serious (threat to society) level...he has scarred or ruined them for life....paterno needs to be punished so that others will react properly if ever given the same test. this whole story of this pervy old dude and his men's club...sweep it under the rug mentality is just sickening..
Per Joe Paterno (and read this very carefully)::
"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.
Did ya get that Sandusky was no longer part of the football program? Did you see that the assistant wouldn't tell Paterno what he saw? Paterno followed his employer's policy and procedure manual and immediately reported it to his superiors for followup.
How do you even know Paterno and Sandusky even talked to each other? Did you read University Administrators gave Sandusky and his charity open access to the campus facilities? Did you read the University Administrators gave Sandusky an office on campus?
Don't crucify someone until you get all the facts. There are MANY questions that still need answered before calling for someone's head.
Joe Pa didn't follow up, when A. nothing was officially reported, and B. when he witnessed sandusky with an 11 year old boy (on campus in 2007) what is the deal!! You have to report this stuff. Otherwise, you will pay for the crime!
Sandusky needs to just be castrated...
I'm no Penn State fan by any means but this it total BS! The man did not witness this aleged incident. He was told by a graduate assistant of the incident. Rememebr the blade of justice is double edged and anyone who knows anything about employee law etc knows that there are strict policies about how these things are to be handeled. What if this GA was blowing smoke up JoPas a** looking to get someone else in trouble and JoPa goes off the reservation. Now he could be in trouble legally as well as the program and the school! Knock this witch hunt off and focus on the perv who did the deed!
Does the Catholic Church ring any bells? If someone 'hears' about anything like this they are to report it!!!!! Failure to do so is just to participate in playing in the good old boys game.
Well, gee Tom, I would think and, I hope most people would think, that you err on the side of protecting a child. Now, I'm starting to think that I'm in the minority on this one. The janitor didn't do it. McQuery didn't do it. Paterno didn't do it. Curley didn't do it. Schultz didn't do it. Spainer didn't do it. Obviously, you wouldn't have either. Thus, again, the reason why such a travesty can occur.
And not a word in your comment about moral responsibility. Sad.
What if the grad assistant was making it up? Well...shouldn't that be for the police to determine? How can the police do that if nobody tells them?
When you suspect that a child is being hurt, THERE IS ONLY ETHICAL CHOICE, and that's to notify the authorities immediately. There are no other ethical options. He may have done enough to satisfy the law, but what's LEGAL and what's ETHICAL are not the same. He showed a total lack of ethics in this situation, and for that he should be fired.
The sad fact is this Old White Men "not all" have been molesting children since the days of Alexander the Great i guarantee you members of Congress have some dirty laundry in their closet regarding young boys its sickening they shoud all be killed , catholic presits , football assitant coaches, politicans , all of em
penn state does not just stand for football it's about one of the best public educations in the world. This does not represent our school just some dirt bag who was in connection with our school. We still are the 15th ranked best school, #1 school to be recruited by (wall street), and have the most pride. Your motto is temple who? Exactly no one knows you on a global scale
NY Times just reported Paterno is gone!
The way to prevent evil from happening is to deal with right away–no matter what the consequenses may be. These people prefered to keep it to themselves and they did not call "a spade a spade." Had they reported it to the police, this would have never happened Because evil has a way of sticking around until it is dealt with and now it is too late. The boys are scarred for life and Paterno will never find peace because he did go after this evil behavior. All of those who refuse to deal with evil and call it what it is (grave sin) should be fired and their pensions taken away and placed in a special fund for the boys.
He reported it. He let the system take its course. He's not a jury judge. He did the right thing. Move on.
So, if somebody who works for you was molesting kids, you'd just report it and never follow up? You wouldn't fire him? You would just continue to work with the guy FOR 10 MORE YEARS knowing what he was doing to children?
But when his superiors did not do the right thing, he should have followed up to see to it the right thing was done, he made a decision to do nothing more and it should cost him his job, as well as those above him. Remember this is the same guy who has alway preached about integrity.
I agree. He did what he was supposed to do. I don't think going to the authorities on his own without ANY sort of proof is the right thing to do. The university and it's legal department should take the report and investigate it and bring it to the authorities. Massive failure on their part, not his.
You, sir, are an idiot.
An alleged crime reportedly occurred in his locker room, and he failed to report it to police. What if the grad. assistant told Joe he witnessed a murder? Same protocol? Or is that extreme enough to call the cops? It's not as if the grad. assistant witnessed a couple of players shooting up in the showers or bonging beers in the locker room. This was child r@pe. I think it's more than severe enough to immediately warrant a phone call to the cops. It's unquestionable.
Would JoePa, Curley or Schultz left their kids or grandkids alone with Sandusky?
Lets all remember, Paterno didn have the benifit of having a Grand Jury Investigation to go by like these sportscasters did. Jo Pa only had one Grad Student coming to him pertially reporting what he saw. These sport writers are just flat out misleading – they write to sensationlaize everything – to sell stories – to get hits on thier site, etc. What ever happened to objective journalism? These Sports Writers act as though they are certain Jo PA knew all of the stuff in the report, and that it was factual. One Writer describing that Joe PA should know what was happening at every moment, in every building, 24/7 with every person.
Read the indictment what Paterno was told should have give him cause to fire the accused. Its hard to defend this once you read it.
Ted's answer exemplifies the bandwagoning that's overtaken this issue. If you would have actually read about this situation at all, you would have easily discovered that Sandusky retired in 1999, and the incident in question happened in 2002. To even come on here and type that irresponsible statement is half-witted.
Doesn't surprise me that this happened in the Steelers backyard. Pretty typical for that area I guess.
It's low-brow half-wits like you that make this world as troublesome as it is. You have nothing intelligent to add, so congratulations for being a below-average human being.
I hope Paterno is forced out! I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, where PSU football is another religion and it's about time the college had a wakeup call, that there are priorities outside of football. And for the PSU graduates and students defending the school, you're as sick as the rest of them.