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.
As a PSU grad, this entire story makes me sick. But what people should start realizing that Sandusky is the one that was doing the touching and lets not lose track of that . Did JoePa witness this, NO, did he do the right thing by going to his superiors, YES. Should he have kept pressing them for answers or solutions or asking if they reported it...YES. The media has been after Joe for YEARS to retire and this is just yet another way for them to get under his skin. I do think that something should of been doen hear a long time ago. The other place that no one is looking is what about Graham Spanier...you mean to tell me he didn't know of what was being investigated...HE IS THE PRESIDENT (or should I say the POPE)!
No, YOU ARE WRONG! Going to his "superiors," was not enough! A pedophile action is AGAINST THE LAW, it means, you go to the POLICE, parents, etc, and DO THE RIGHT THING!!!!!! Going to an Athletic Director is basically saying, "I'll tell the head of the department, and then it's on him, not me."
Rob...you have POLICE, parents, etc. Doesn't the AD fall under etc? You can't have your cake and eat it too. JoePa did tell someone (DID THE RIGHT THING BY TELLING SOMEONE), do I feel it was the right person...NO. Should the Grad Student have gone to the Police...YES! There are alot of people that you can point the finger at and yes this is SICK!
Belive me...pedophiles make me sick!!!!!!!!
If something like that happen next door and you hear of something of the sort, would you call the police? Joe didn't!! And he had knowledge of this for years. Penn State should have ran him off, with Joe leading the charge. Penn Sate has lost a lot of respect for this one. SAD!!
JoePA should be gone! What a disgrace. When you suspect abuse, you make certain it goes to the next level to protect the children!!
Just when it is time for 'professional crisis management' the 'kingdom' of Penn State administration 'stone walls'. That is a losing proposition in business, personal life, and sports.
It's all about the $ – No one did the right thing cause it would bring down the house – sponsors -endowments – the school name – no one cares about the 'kids' and worst of all they were underprivileged kids. A pedophile's paradise. Shame on the whole lot of them.
Amen to that.
Hey Joe, what if it was your grandson getting tagged?? my guess is you would have run the guy over, then called the AD..
If you read the Grand Jury report, there were two other opportunities where something could have been done to prevent this. One victim in 1998 where the police were involved and nothing happened to Sandusky other than preventing him from seeing the victim and then in 2000 where a janitor and one other person saw inappropriate conduct occurring in the showers and they didn't report it.
I heard the DA in that case "disappeared" and has never been found- presumed dead.
It's sad that someone uses his position within a major D-1 football team, starts a youth non profit and suspected to have commited the sick crimes he's accused of. The prosecution needs to go after that grad student now on the coaching staff who witnessed one of the acts by Sandusky.
You better believe if I walked up on Sandusky doing that, I'd be in jail due to the actions I took upon him just... prior to calling the police!
Penn State decision makers who had knowledge, including the President and Joe, should resign asap. For them to have knowledge that something like this may be taking place and not going to the police immediately is unexcusable!!! I don't care how great anyone's legacy is, protect the kids, PERIOD!
Can't wait until the assistant and his father share all the details that were discussed with Joe Paterno at his house the day after Sandusky was caught sodomizing a 10 year old boy in the shower...all the details will come out. Even though Paterno says "he didn't know the details"...yes, I am sure they drove over to his house for a 60 second conversation...and said "Joe, Sandusky was with a small child in the shower late at night"..."I am very upset"...I am sure that was all that was said as per Paterno's recent statement. It will all come out.
Paterno and anybody else who was told what happened are quilty of what happened to the rest of the boys. Because they chose to turn their heads and not investigate they are just as guilty as the sick thing that did. The bad thing about this is that the boys will now think it is ok for them to do this and the cycle will continue. Heaven knows how meny boys went through this.
I volunteer with the Boy Scouts and have for 20 years (includes the time of these happenings) for 20 years I have had to take youth protection training every 2 years. For 20 years we have been taught never less than 2 adults and 2 youth. No individual contact. For 20 years we have been taught that iff you think that a youth is being abused, you report it immediately to both the Scout Executive in your Council and to your states child protection services. The order you do that depends on state law, but the calls should be one right after another. Don't make judgement yourself, let someone who is trained sort out the details. I can't believe this was only reported to University figures and not the Penn Child Services as well. Shame on all those it was reported to for not making the next call.
It would probably be a good time for Paterno to die.
People are seriously retarded. He reported it to his superiors which is what he was suppsed to do. That is it end of story.
This was someone on his staff – I think he should followed up on it and made sure those he reported to acted on the information. Mr. Paterno is obviously an excellent football coach and recruiter but a rather awful leader of his staff.
No you are wrong. It is the LAW to report it to the police. It was a law passed a long time a go to protect children. reporting it to the AD is not enough....dont you think that this matter requires police involvement. Only reporting it to his "superiors" has let this child predatror ( sandusky) continue to assuault and damage children
Paterno needs to go because he is involved in covering up this mess. This is the tip of the ice berg and JoePA could have avoided it but covered it up instead
Clearly you don't know the slightest thing about ETHICS. Get a clue, little boy.
Please don't use the 'r' word. It can be offensive to some.
Ian, you have obviously never worked in an athletic department at a college. I do, and let me tell you, the responsibility of a coach at Paterno's level does NOT end with simply reporting an incident. He would have known, beyond a doubt, how such an incident was, or was not, resolved. That was a deadly serious infraction. Nobody in that program handled it appropriately, and they should all lose their jobs. Period.
No! Reporting it up the chain is not all he is supposed to do. He heard from an eye witness that someone in his facility committed a serious crime...he had an obligation, as we all do, to report it to the police. Anything less than that is inexcusable!
Everyone who heard about it should have reported it.
legally and morally you couldn't be more wrong
My son and I were both molested in grade school. I by the music teacher and he, by the playground instructor. We conclude many boys growing up are molested. Who reports this? Generally no one especially the victim who then is shamed. I think the coach did the right ting to pass the information up the chain. What was he to do, call the police? go to the press? Really. Get over it. Guys these days who are molested make a lot of money off it. So do the lawyers. I bet this will be the ultimate outcome of these molestations, Money.
I believe you're lying. You were never molested. If you were, then you clearly haven't gotten over it. Something obviously broke your brain if you think Paterno did enough. Seek therapy. Immediately.
YES, someone should have called the police.
Having worked with people who overcome the effects of REAL abuse, I can tell you that not one of them would respond as you have. I have yet to meet an abuse victim who would ever say, "Get over it!". It is sad that so few people today have any ethics at all...as you so amply demonstrate.
Yes. He should have called the police after reporting to his chain and followed up with the administrators to to make sure action was taken. In that small town, if he didnt hear that police hadn't questioned him, he should have known that Curley and Schultz swept it under the rug. Once you have that knowledge, it is your moral responsibility to report it and raise Hell until you are heard.
Reports confirm the Graduate Assistant was shaken. You said you were molested (I was too by a neighbor when I was 5)- and can understand that explaining molestation isnt easy. Seeing a child molested first hand- you wouldnt leave details out. It's too horrific. Too raw. Even if the TA downplayed it- the second he inferred that child was touched, it should have been reported to the police and THEN the administrators. The administrators have no jurisdiction to decide whether a case is prosecuted. I wouldnt report a fire to my homeowner's association; I'd call 911. The Graduate student and Paterno should have BOTH done that. 5 people should have raised Hell: Graduate Student, Curley, Schultz, Paterno and Spanier, the President.
If you didn't report that your SON was molested, you, sir, are disgusting, And if you dont see that you were responsible to report that on his behalf- you will never get it. Ever.
Get some help. You need it.
The notion of bestowing "sainthood" on a football coach is insane. Football and all sports in general, are way overvalued at the college level. It is the academics where the focus should lie. Paterno should retire now and the school should refocus on what is important. Maybe a housecleaning is in order.
Thumbs down JoePa. THUMBS DOWN.