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.
Joe Paterno should step down or be fired...for God's sake it could have been his grandchildren. Shame on him for doing just the minimum
Most of us have been employed. We stay employed by following procedure. How many of us would have risked our careers and our family's livelihood to step out and go above what our boss has decreed? I'm sure JoPa didn't even follow up on the matter, assuming that the AD had handled it. Once Sandusky was no longer around the field for JoPa to see, how closely do you suppose he followed his behavior? How is this any different than what we we told our entire lives? If something happens at your place of employment, you notify your manager. All responsibility falls on the manager for a resolution. Who amongst us is going to follow up with your manager to determine if their decision on how to handle the matter was sufficient for their moral conscience?
IJoe needs to retire. This is more than a "blemish" – this is a REALLY bad scenario.
Joe Pa should apologize for not being more proactive but he shouldn't resign. This is turning into a witch hunt. The problem isn't Penn State specifically, the problem is much larger. I bet every major school in the country has a pedophile somewhere in its ranks. We should take this opportunity to fix the big picture rather than burn an innocent man at the stake thinking it will solve everything.
I'm curious how many times the Grad Assistant came face to face with Sandusky after witnessing him sodomize a child.
Since, as a result of this incident, Sandusky was asked to surrender his keys and never return, I'd say the assistant never saw him.
Hey... who killed Ray Frank Gricar? Hmmmmm.... Betcha it has something to do with his knowledge of the molestations....
There is NO reason to quit; none. Like all of us, he immediately reported the incident, the incident was investigated by those who investigate such matters, and the offender was told to leave campus forever. What else was he to do? Do not lie and tell me that any of you would have done it differently, cause you would be lying. For goodness sakes, it took 10 years, 10 years, for the offender to be indicted. If it was that clear cut, wouldn't he have been indicted sooner? There is NO reason to quit.
As an educator, Paterno is a mandated reporter required by law to report suspected child abuse to the police or child welfare agency. Then the police investigate I'd say he broke the law.
That's the point...he DID report it...immediately to those in authority whose job it is to investigate the FACTS and determine if something occurred. He did not witness it, he was told it.
Rosie you idiot...you say he reported it to the people whose job it was to investigate it and look into the facts? NO, HE DIDN'T...because "those people" ARE THE POLICE. He didn't report it to the police, he told someone else and expected them to call the police for him. And when they didn't, what did he do about it?
Nothing...nothing at all. He saw that the police were never notified, AND HE DIDN'T CARE. His legal obligations may have been met, but NOT HIS ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS. You need to get a clue and figure out the difference.
This old football enabling geek needs to go NOW. Not firing your assistant or immediately going after an allegation of child molestation? No. The Penn State administration needs to be investigated by the FBI to the highest levels also. If he reported this incident to a superior and they did nothing, they are culpable too. And they are still trying to cover it up by canceling his news conference because there is so much money and prestige is at stake. I have news for them - they already killed Penn State football for a long time through their inaction and cynical greed. Good riddance.
you are a idiot
Sandusky was not an assistant coach at the time of the incident. He did not work for Paterno. Get the facts straight.
I'd like to know if Penn State coach was retained just long enough to break Gramblin's Eddie Robinson's record?
JoePa reported the problems to his superiors who in turn DID NOTHING. It was not his place to question the decision of those above him, nor was it his to assume that inaction would be the result. How was Paterno to know that nothing had been done. If I reported something like this to people in charge of a university, I would assume that the charges were investigated and dealt with. Does no one care that his superiors – the ones who stepped down – were the inactors, the ones who betrayed their moral authority.
It seems to be overlooked that in 2002, when Paterno discovered the allegations, Sandusky had not been working with Penn State for 3 years. This story is being propelled by the media and the public's desire to find more villains. Because JoePa hasn't admitted responsibility and stepped down, he must be the devil and must resign. Could it be possible that he may actually have done all that was required and not be guilty? Could it be possible that INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY would be upheld in this country.
I'm not denying that Sandusky didn't do what is alleged, but for now, it is just that – alleged. How can JoePa be crusaded for a crime that hasn't been proven yet? Everyone is looking for a villain – for someone to put the blame on. There is only one villain, Jerry Sandusky.
I also cannot believe the amount of crap Joe is getting when Sandusky is the one that DID the deed. On top of that, the grad assistant was 28 years old - not a boy but a MAN - why didn't he step in and/or call the police rather than his Daddy? I truly believe this is a witch hunt for those who want Joe gone and this would make them extremely happy to see him go out with a bad rap. It's all disgusting - what happened and those who can't see past anything but one side. He DID do what he was supposed to. If he had gone to the police it was HERESAY. He had not witnessed anything. It would have NEVER stood up in a court of law. McQueary or the janitor should have reported it. And where were the parents of these victims? This is ALL Joe's fault? Really. Wow. I'm so shocked and disgusted by the opinions and judgements being made without all the facts. I sure hope none of you are ever on a jury for someone I care about.
It doesn't matter if he didn't see it himself; he is legally required to report suspected child abuse to the police and child welfare agencies. Why would the university investigate? Are they law enforcement? This was a horrible crime!!!
This is a load of bs. Paterno did his job, and took the actions necessary for a man in his position. Now those above him (athletic directors, etc) didn't do what they were supposed to. The media is being way to hard on the PS coach, and somehow the focus has turned from Sandusky being the guy at fault to Paterno being the guy at fault. Paterno is 84 dang years old, keep stressing him with this bs and he might have a freaking heart attack or something.
You're joking right? Telling the administration about a ten year old boy being molested in the shower and seeing that nothing is done and not going to the police is "doing the right thing". Damn brother, check your morale compass, because deep down something is askew.
degenerates at penn state should all be charged as pedophiles..
you must be a Pitt grad...un-informed and uneducated.
This is turning into a witch hunt. Why do we demand a coach's head for every crime that occurs around him? At least this one did follow protocol, and yet still he must go?
CNN WHERE IS THIS STORY AND WHY IS THIS QUIET??? LOOK THE CONSPIRACY.........
Thanks for sharing that link! It explains a lot about why Joe never went further with the story, the prosecutor did not proceed, is Joe supposed to coach football and prosecute criminals? What's he supposed to do in his free time, end world hunger?
Do any of us know for a fact that Joe did not follow up? What if he went back and was told that the authorities did not think there was enough evidence to prosecute? What if he was told that the assistant admitted that he lied? What if he was told that the child's parents did not want to go forward because they did not want to further traumatize their child? Everyone is so ready to throw Joe in front of a train but he is not the bad guy here. In the sue happy world we live in, it is not hard to imagine him being sued for slander or defamation if he had gone to the police instead of to administration. It is also not hard to believe that adminstration may have threated his job or his reputation if he didn't let it go. We do not know these things and because everyone now has to hide behind a lawyer we may never know. Outrage is the appropriate emotion for this story but the outrage should be directed at those who deserve it and we do not know if Joe truly deserves it yet.
Elizabeth, in my opinion, and only mine, when told of this on Saturday and waiting until Sunday to report to the AD is all I need to know. There's just no way you do that when a crime this heinous has been reported to you.