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.

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

    Say it ain't so, Joe. If so, should end the football program at Penn State.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ktmtv

    I am utterly astounded at how many people are defending Joe P. If he told 'his superiors' about the incident and no one did anything about it-it was absolutely his responsibility to contact the authorities immediately. End of story. We are talking about ruining young children's lives here, people-stop trying to defend the Penn State God-he SHOULD HAVE done something about it-not wait until someone else did. Its called 'responsibility'.

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

      Well said.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JEF

    These men sacrificed innocent children to keep the money train rolling through UNhappy valley and to protect their pathetic reputation. Disgusting...they should all go to prison.

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

      Well, it certainly is starting to look that way. I read the beginnnings of the indictment as posted on line and couldn't read very far into it before becoming nauseated. However, suppose we all stop with the hateful comments, and, you know, wait for the facts? If it was you, you would want the same courtesy. Let's wait for this to play out, and when and if there are convictions, we can go from that point. I understand from what has been reported that there are multiple victims and years of alleged abuse. But again, let us wait for the investigation to be completed.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin

      i second that

      November 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gerry Carter

    Was this guy molesting children or college students? If children, what were they doing on campus? Did the acts occurred on campus? I just haven't been following this story that closely so I'm just wondering what actually happened.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • penquin3

      Assitant coach Sandusky ran a charity organization for boys who were considered "at risk". He would "treat" them by taking them to games, going out places, take them behind the scenes of games, things like this. That is how he was able to get the children alone and abuse them. These were young boys, pre – teen and teens.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      what is the matter Gerry – can't read???

      November 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • bsuguy

      Lordy...just read the article.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Then READ about it. The entire transcript of the grand jury is available online. Plus many, many articles.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Schwendler

      If you are concerned and interested, there are multiple on-line story sources to read. It also is on the major news networks. The grand jury indictment is posted on-line as well. I tried to read it, but it was nauseating in its details.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bryan - Atlanta, GA

    Wait ... Penn State ... we are talking about a University. How old are these (kids)?

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

      Reportedly he looked about 10 years old.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Beam Me Up PLZ!

    Reading all of the outrage out there is somewhat reassuring to this mom of a victim, but will it ever really change for the better?? Sports is life in the US-so, if history is any indication, this will blow over and it will be back to the "good ol' boy" practices and the blind eyes and deaf ears will continue to be turned...until it's YOUR child and then what would you wish to be done??? Coaches have become like kings and gods and they will NEVER turn on their own-no matter what...they are an eternal "club"...And parents of athletes are to blame as well for putting these people on the pedistals that they enjoy looking down from....The shame here should be owned by every single person who ever kept their mouth shut when witnessing a coach treating a child disrespectfully and worse's happening every day and it WILL continue....These adults are the ones with the power and those in their charge are merely their pawns...PATHETIC and DISGUSTING!!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    According to the NYT, he is out.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Greg

    Paterno will always be remember as the accessory to child molestation. He knew this was happening and did nothing to more than the minimum and children suffered. Had this happened to my child Joe would no longer be producing CO2.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JayK

    If he is considered a "mandated reporter" as a coach he should be reporting it to law enforcement or a child abuse hot line, reporting to superiors should only be secondary. There is a reason mandated reporters are required to report directly, to keep things such as this...cover ups.... from occurring.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joebaggadonuts

    "How was Paterno to know that nothing had been done." Are you kidding me? Of course he knew nothing was done. If something had been done it would have been in the news like it is now..not to mention that he was an insider. If you know someone hurt a child, and knew nothing was done about it by your superiors, then you have a moral (HUMAN) obligation to blow the whistle yourself. Shame on you Paterno!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Yes – if you "know" for sure.

      All Paterno had was a grad assistant coming to his house a day after the GA supposedly eye witnesssed Sandusky performing an act with a child. The same act the eye witness chose not to stop when he witnessed it. The same act the eye witness chose not to call the police about, but rather, the 28 year old GA called his father and then waited 24 hours to report it – to who – the football coach of all people – WHAT? Who's to blame for not acting properly? How many times over Paterno's 50 plus year career do you think he has recieved bogus reports about coaches, players, reporters, students, parents, administration, etc, etc, etc – but yet he probably reported them all. Is he supposed to be the Campus Policeman, the PI, take on the Administrations role – where does it stop. PSU Admin are at fault here. Paterno is a football coach and fundraiser – period.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jabbow

    You're joking right? I'm sure he was able to run practice or coach the next game or recruit the next player but somehow he could report a crime as heinous as child molestation to the police. I wonder if he even lost any sleep over it all?

    November 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    "Can you hear me, Mad Dog?"

    November 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sandy

    Hindsight is 20/20. Joe Paterno did alot of great things for the University, this is a terrible way for him to have to end his career. Keep in mind this is an EMBARASSMENT to all alumni and current students. Also, before you go making ignorant comments..think long and hard about WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • penquin3

      What would/did I do?? The morally right thing – call the cops and stay on top of the situation so that no more children were hurt.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • poppy1st

      What would I do – I would report abuse! We must protect those who can't protect themselves. 8-12 years are not in the place to protect themselves from predators. Protected predators. Tragic that the protection was put upon the wrong parties.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes Scott

      Paterno knew, for a fact, that nothing had been done after he supposedly reported the allegations to the AD, Curley. If anything HAD been done, then Sandusky would have been fired, charged with felony crimes and tried in a court of law. Paterno has no legal or moral defense. He had a legal and moral obligation to directly report what he heard to the police or a district attorney, yet he did neither while allowing Sandusky to remain on his coaching staff. The very least he could have done would have been to remove Sandusky from his coaching staff. Paterno proved that he is really a man of no character and no class by withholding evidence or information about a child molesting pervert on his staff.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoePa = Fraud

      Don't need to think long and hard about what I'd do ... I'd call the police and report the crime ASAP. That's your legal, moral and ethical obligation. You can ALWAYS find another linebacker coach; but you can NEVER get your reputation back.

      Now it's too late. The country is already re-branding PSU as "PEDAFILE State University." Too bad; used to be something really special. If only ....

      November 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Think long and hard about what I would do? Seriously?

      If I suspected that little children were being abused? What would I do? If I reported it to my superiors and they did nothing about it? What would I do? I WOULD CALL THE POLICE! What part of that is too complicated for an ethical degenerate like you to understand? CALL THE POLICE AND LET THEM CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION. It's so simple. So easy. AND PATERNO DIDN'T DO IT. And I'm sick and tired of you pitiful little morons defending his inaction. CALL THE BLEEPING POLICE if you think a child is being abused. There is no excuse for failing to do that.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      And Sandy, spare us the "he without sin" fertilizer. That proverb refers to PUNISHMENT. Nobody here is suggesting Paterno should have taken it upon himself to punish the alleged abuser. ALL HE HAD TO DO WAS MAKE SURE THE POLICE FOUND OUT. It's not about punishing someone, it's about protecting little children from abuse.

      You really sicken me. It's people like you that allow the truly evil to get away with their crimes. Y'know why? BECAUSE YOU'RE A COWARD.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Observer

    Obviously, given the cancelled press conference today, they (PSU and Paterno) must be in the final stages of negotiating his exit.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. funnyboy

    hey, lynch mobs, leave him alone...

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