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.

Post by:
Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Joe Paterno • Penn State • Sports
soundoff (1,486 Responses)
  1. Steve

    The thing that nobody remembers is the Joe's brother George died not too long after this alleged incident occurred. So it's possible his mind wasn't on the incident.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Thomas

    If there had been this much outcry and legal inquiry when the revelations about the Catholic Church had first appeared, I wonder how much suffering could have been avoided. Guess this shows us what America's true religion is.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Al T

    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, a lot of you wouldn't have either. Thus, again, the reason why such a travesty can occur.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. daveinla

    Joe must go.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • South Jersey Girl

      And who made YOU judge and jury?

      November 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melvynman

      Yes and everybody who knew. Adults protect children at all costs. You don't hide or cover up or support this kind of behavior. There is no excuse for those who knew. Fire all who knew.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Shut up, Jersey Girl. Judge and jury? Those are for LEGAL matters. This is a question of ETHICS, not the law. Figure out the difference and then you won't make a fool of yourself like you just did.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luli

      Why must Joe pay? What was he supposed to do? How was Joe supposed to know that what he was told was true or not? He told someone that could have done something about it, so that person is more to blame. Joe was a coach not a investigator. You can't just fire someone, quit your job and start a revolution because a coworker had been accused of something.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mat

    Wow, talk about a lose lose situation. It is awful how all this has come about and how regular, decent people are being dragged through the mud because of it. I don't blame Mr. Paterno. He was put in an extremely unenviable position where he was given an allegation which he could not know was true or false about a friend and colleague. I think he did what anyone with a conflict of interest would do. He gave what he was told to someone who wasn't as close to the situation to see if there was anything to the incident. I think it was a very responsible and even handed thing to do if what has been released is true.

    I don't understand the witch hunt. If the men accused of perjury looked into the incident found it had credence and then supressed it, then they have their own hell to pay. If the account is false and Paterno suppressed it knowing the incident was confirmed, then he should pay as well. However, given the information out on the subject now I don't understand what the furor is about Paterno. He did the right thing.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • WhatAboutTheGradStudent?

      Completely Agree!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melvynman

      Mat. He doesn't have the cuts to resign. Everybody who knew needs to be fired. Adults stand up for children at all costs. That what adults do.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • m.t.

      absolutely agree

      November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      If someone told me what Paterno said that the Grad Student told him, my first call on the matter would be to law enforcement. Period. Not the Athletic Director nor the University President. In my mind (feeble as it may be), anything less is criminal.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Please Mat. Do you hear that, it is a violin playing for Paterno. The least, and I mean the least, he could have done is to make sure the administration followed through with calling the authorities. And if not, as is the case, then he needed to pick up the phone. And how about asking his so-called friend if it was true. A buddy of mine is accused of something like this, darn skippy I'm asking him. He was more concerned with having this go away, plain and simple.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      The right and LEGAL thing as an educator and mandated reporter is to notify the police and child welfare agency of suspected child abuse. The POLICE do the investigating. He broke the law by not reporting to the police. I hope none of you are in charge of any children.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WhatAboutTheGradStudent?

    I haven't gone through the countless responses to this but what about the Grad Student? He went to no one else after the University swept the allegations away? Why isn't he being criticized for not doing more? If you believe Paterno didn't do enough, then the person who actually witnessed the occurrence certainly didn't do enough.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Because once you tell someone in authority, it should no longer be the victim'sresponsibility to make sure that something happens. This was a very embarrassing and hurtful thing that happened to this student, they brought it forward and nothing was done. Were they then supposed to assume that the police would do something? If even the university refused to take action, what confidence does the student have that the police would be any more help? Don't you dare put this back on the victim, saying they should have taken more responsibility.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stagger72

      Ummm... Jessica, the grad student was not the child victim. He was a witness to a crime.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • WhatAboutTheGradStudent?

      Good god, I'm not talking about the victim here. The Grad Student is not the victim...The Grad Student reported it to Paterno who in turn reported it to someone of authority. If I use your logic, this absolves Paterno of any wrong doing. That proves my point exactly. Those men were the ones who covered it up and hid it, not Paterno. He did what he was supposed to do given the information he had and the fact that he himself did not witness the event.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • WhatAboutTheGradStudent?

      Thank you, Stagger.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jfav

      What victim Jessica? The Grad Student isn't the victim here. The Grad Student is the EYE WITNESS. Personally I agree that JoePa did the right thing by taking the allegations to the channels of due process so that it could be handled by someone who was not emotionally attached to the alledged criminal. As for the Grad Student, it's like I said earlier. When you feel you witnessed a crime, you go to the police not a football coach.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I agree. If you knew, and didn't alert law enforcement, you are on the hook.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jfav

    I find it odd that everyone is screaming murder about Joe Pa, but no one is saying anything about the grad student that claims to have witnessed it. I don't know about you all, but when I see a crime committed, I don't run to find my local football coach, I go to the police.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    Have you been Rohan Ghoshed today? Just think about it!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dexter

    The P in penn state stands for Pedophiles.. All who knew should be charged and locked up and they should get a taste of what they did to those children i prison.. Sandusky its gonna get a train– in jail.... big time...

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sandusky Retired in1999

    Jerry Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999.

    Paterno found out about the allegations in 2002.

    Before you say "Paterno let him get away," remember that Paterno had no authority over Sandusky when the allegations were brought to his attention.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      I love the argument...Sandusky was retired so Paterno had no authority to tell police. Like that pedophile is not my employee so not my problem. And for those who say he could have gotten sued....not if he takes the eyewitness with him to police. You Paterno Groupies just want to ignore the facts.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jfav

      Of course they are arguing that Sandusky wasn't under Paterno's authority at the time. That's the only cogent reason to address the fact that the moronic Grad Student went to Paterno and not the police.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ravens kicked Pitts Butt

    After all this, I'm surprised Ben Roethlisburger didn't go to Penn St. instead. He would have fit right in.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      No, this was male children

      November 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. drjones80

    Wow. Paterno follows the law, passes on the info to the people that actually deal with these accusations (which, it did need to be passed on to them), and people want him to step down? If people held the Catholic Church to the same standard, it would either be defunct by now or at least led by a different pope.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Following the law and doing the RIGHT thing are not the same. Paterno is a pig – all he cares about are Ws.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • drjones80

      Rob, I didn't say he did the right thing. I just think this is an overreaction, considering the public's response to deliberate cover-ups in the past. Maybe he should step down, but I think there is a disconnect between people's expectations of him and people's expectations of pious leaders throughout all of our communities. The coach is held to a higher standard? Seems ridiculous to me.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jfav

      I don't see how people can complain that following that law isn't doing the right thing here. There's a very real reason that we have in policies and laws in place that dictate course of action for these things.

      Seriously, step outside the emotions of the moment. You complain that following protocol isn't doing the right thing? So he should have taken an isolated complaint to the police. What if the police decided there was nothing there? Should he have then gone out and shot Sandusky? People, get real. He did what HE WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. He alerted authorities.

      But while we're out lynching Paterno, I call for a second noose for the Grad Student. God only knows what he thought a football coach could do to someone that was no longer his employee that the police couldn't do.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. derek

    Yea, and the pope had no idea catholic priests were touching the choir boys

    November 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Heck, the Pope is the one that picked the boys.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wild Red Berry


    November 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. malibu123

    For Paterno to do the bare minimum and move on while this pig Sandusky continued to molest kids is beyond obscene. Don't wait for him to step down, fire him.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Well said.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44