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€śThose 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.
It is obvious why Paterno did nothing – he's Catholic, and to them, raping boys is part and parcel of being a good Christian. If you think I'm being ridiculous, just listen to the Pope's responses to the churchs' cover-up. Paterno sure is a class act.
Even though Paterno reported one incident to management, when he saw that THEYweren't going to go to the police, HE should have. Child molestation is a CRIME, and by keeping his mouth shut, he became an accessory to the crime. He is just as gulity.
You do realize he didn't witness the crime. He reported what was told to him. The graduate student would need to go to the police for anything to come of it.
IT DOESN"T MATTER if he didn't witness the abuse. Suspected abuse is required to be reported to the police by law,.
It's very simple: Paterno should have moved heaven and Earth to make sure that the authorities were aware of the graduate student's report. He didn't...he told the administration and went on his merry way. People, People! What if that was your ten year old boy?
Bye bye Joe....see ya McQueary.....later Spanier......
Penn State Alum
Let's hope so.
Maybe Joe should have asked himself . . . WWJD?
Joe paterno is a fkd pedophile- they al must be to let this happen
Joe did what he needed to do. He told the person above him. So most of you think that he should step down because he did his job and told somebody? Pathetic. Joe is a great football coach and doesn't need to step down. Nothing has kept him down in the past 46 years. Let him step down on his own time.
And for the record, I hate Penn State
This is ridiculous. You cant crucify a guy before you know anything at all. This public lynching is uncalled for and the facts will come out during the investigation and trial of Sandusky. All you with precognitive powers and the ability to know things you couldn;t possibly know need to relax a bit and let justice do its thing.
I agree. I'm not defending his lack of proper action by any means, but this article and many comments on here might as well be calling paterno the devil.
If Joe knew years ago, and didn't report it to the police. I have a problem with that!!!!
Did you all read the indictment???? I got nauseus before hald way through it!!! In my opinion a lot, and I do mean a lot of people in charge at Penn State, and that community should be investigated!!!!!! And I have one question, how did this animal take these boys out in public so often and no one question that????? unreal! Joe, you should have fired the animal when they told you about the allegations.
There is a moral justice that the courts will not serve. The integrity of Penn State was in every official's hands, as an obligation, to those children to do the right thing. If they were trying to spare the University a scandal, they obviously failed miserably!
He couldn't have fired Sandusky because he was already retired when JoePa learned of this. He fulfilled his legal obligations...however, he and the student who witnessed this should have gone to the police.
what a poorly written article
What a poorly typed reply! No capitalizing, and no period used. Geez.
Dumb question. The name of the assistant who witnessed the incident is known. Why is JoePa being held responsible, when the witness to the crime did nothing? Ahhh, I see...because the assistant is not an interesting news item.
Paterno must go. He should have went straight to the police. Apparantly he is one more person that doesn't take this scourge of pedophilia seriously enough. His goofy little football team and his own legacy was more important to him, subsequently causing more kids to lose their childhood innocence and be traumatized.
His reputation, once golden, can never regain its luster. What a disappointment......... I'm so sad for the boys and their families.
Don't forget to make the college abandon all wins while this was going on!!
Sorry but Joe must Go! I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do everything I could to help that child. This is what happens when you want to hold on to something so badly, you'd sacrifice anything even a ten year old boy.
Every adult, including Paterno, who knew about this and did not report it should be hung by their balls.
he did report it. Read the f-ing article.
Yeah, he told the administration and went on his merry way without nary a care in the world. Wow, he reported it. Paterno should be hung by his balls is right.
ian, reporting means to the police, who he was required to by law as a mandated reporter (educator). He broke the law.
As usual with Penn State it will come out that this had been covered up and there had been pay offs. "The Culture of Cover-Ups long known at Penn State can only change by a full removal of the entire Leadership." This is not just a football issue at Penn State this is the typical way the Penn State administration (Spanier) handles situations. They try to pay off the victims/families to keep the situations out of the courts/public and coerce those who report the crimes (which are usually psu employees). This type of situation is very sad for all involved the violated, the families, and the donors who give to Penn State without knowing how the money is being used.
When you hear of children being abused... you don't report it to a behemoth bureacracy intent on covering its own ass and maintaining the status quo; you report it to the POLICE. Why didn't the graduate assistant or head coach do that? If a 3rd grade teacher heard about something like this, they wouldn't report it to the head gym teacher. These guys are all negligent and they need to be punished. They will probably be rewarded with acquittals and cushy retirement packages, so people can watch their football games and have their tailgate parties.
@Wdhritotp? You are right on and stated the case very articulately. Thank you.