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.
NAMBLA State U. "Happy Valley" alright.
As a Brit, I know nothing about "Joe Paterno" the Penn State football coach. Nothing about his legacy. Nothing about any of these feats that have been mentioned alongside his name. I only know what seems to have happened – a football coach was told his second in command was molesting little boys and he went and told someone. He never followed up on it, never pushed the issue, he never made a big deal of it. I don't care who he is. The bottom line is that he failed these children and yes, he should go.
Apparently you know nothing about the case too. Jerry didn't work for Joe at the time of the alleged incident.
Fine, he didn't work for him. That makes it okay to just let it go? I don't think so.
Who said he let anything go? He told hs boss about something he had heard about. Read the article sherlock...
I think if I was put in that situation, I would have asked the graduate student who saw the incident to accompany me to the police station to submit a full report. Sorry Joe...you needed to knock down walls and buildings and moved mountains to make sure that children aren't being hurt under your jurisdiction. Enjoy retirement, I'm sure you haven't lost any sleep over this anyway, UNTIL NOW.
I agree completely. If the grad student hesitated to call the police, Paterno should have supported that student to make that call.
Paterno reported to the officials when he heard something. They should not get him to step down. I am a buckeye and I can admit that Tressel was in the wrong, but Paterno actually reported to officials. LET HIM STAY!!!!!!
What a joke. He did not report it to "officials", he reported it to one person, and let it go. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would call University PD. This was a report of CHILD MOLESTATION YOU FOOL!
If you knew ANYTHING at all about how this type of issue is to be handled you would know that his job was NOT to report it to his boss; rather, to report it to SECURITY!!! Do you get it yet? If you see a man get shot in the parking lot of your work do you wait until morning to tell your boss? NO you call the freakin police!!! THIS IS NO DIFFERENT!!!
Matt, I would suggest you do some studying on ETHICS. You don't know anything about ethics if you think Paterno did enough. Why are you blathering about "convicting" anybody? Paterno didn't have to convict and punish the guy, ALL HE HAD TO DO WAS CALL THE POLICE. Why didn't he?
Paterno will keep his job. He followed the rules – he went to administration. If you don't follow protocol at your job, what happens? Go blow your whistle at something else.
Protocol is to CALL THE POLICE you CHILD MOLESTATION APOLOGIST!
Hello, lowly university employee here. Protocol is not to tell your boss when witnessing a crime, it is to call security and 911. That is the ACTUAL protocol, not the one you made up so you can still love JoePa and look yourself in the mirror.
If it was your child would you be satisfied that Joe Pa told his boss? No you would expect him to do what we are all expected to do call the police. If he was an elementary school janitor would telling the principal be enough– no way. So why are we defending a college football coach. Are division 1 football wins more important in our society than protecting our children.
If the elementary school janitor hadn't seen the incident and it was reported to him by another adult, telling the principal would be the action to take. It wasn't Joe Paterno who walked in and saw it.
Hey Andy, I was told by someone that you have been molesting little boys and we will now need to conduct a full investigation. I wouldn't want to make the same "moral" mistake Joe Pa did and I'll be calling the police as well as I have informed my direct manager. I will now shun you until your innocence can be proven. Thank you for your understanding.
See how silly that sounds? Everyone calling for blood over hear say. Joe Paterno didn't see anything he was told by someone that they had seen something. He told his boss and let them follow up. You don't know if he had any knowledge of this other than what a student told him. He may have brought it up to Jerry and he said it wasn't true. From there let managemenent take care of it. All of a sudden everyone here makes it sound like Joe was the kid pimp bringing the kids to the lockerroom for Jerry. Pathetic....
Yes, college football is more important than protecting our children.
The Grad Assistant and Janitor should have called the police immediately, they were the eyewitnesses, not Paterno. He was not told until the next day and only partially told what was witnessed (see Grand Jury report). If someone waited to tell you something like this the next day, would'nt you wonder why it was not reported by them immediatley? I would wonder if the guy was exagerting or had an alterior motive – otherwise, why did he wait a full day to report it to anyone. Wouldn't you have called the police right away?!?
Unsure what Joe Pa was told by the assistant coach. If you are going to angry at anyone, what about the coach that actually witnessed the event. Why didn't he do more. why didn't he go straight to the police. Why go to the head football coach. Because he is Joe Pa???
Yes, that's exactly right. The older I get the more disgusted I become with leaders in society. It is beyond me how anyone thought that covering this up or not reporting it to law enforcement was going to reflect better on the school than doing the right thing. How is it that so few people realize that the truth nearly always comes to light at some point? You reap what you sow, people, & Karma is as big a b!tch as any you will ever encounter. The whole debacle sickens me.
46 years as a head coach & pillar of the community & HIS reputation is on the line!!! He reported it, case closed. He did his job as a coach. His responsibility is to coach football. He is held to a higher standard than other coaches in the NCAA & for that his reputation will take hit.
Start w/ the criminal first, then go to the AD of penn state for not doing HIS job. Paterno is a football coach first & foremost. He reported the incident he was made aware of, then went back to his job. Why is he held to a higher standard than coaches who look the other way when players commit crimes (domestic violence, drugs, etc). Leave Joe to do his job & the prosecutors to do theirs.
Suicide is painless Joe! (These kids won't have it so easy for the rest of their lives, thanks for doing nothing).
He's required because he knew a crime was committed and didn't report it. That's a crime. If you know something happens, and don't report it, you're at fault. It's because of HIM that so many more children were put in harms way. He could have stopped it. He didn't.
Legally he did the minimum. It's not enough. We're talking about boys getting sodomized in the shower. If he knows anything he has to go with the police with the information and go to the family to do whatever he can. He is Penn State. He is the patriarch that wields the power to stop further abuse. He didn't do enough and he needs to be fired.
Pillar of the community? I think not. A student told him his assistant coach was assaulting a 10 year old boy in the shower. Paterno should have called 911, not gone to his boss. There is no pass on this one, Joe.
Sorry, but he enabled a pedophile through inaction. He should have never allowed his team to be coached by a child molester. End of story. If I saw someone assaulting a child, the cops would have a new crime scene to investigate.
You are an idiot. Paterno tacitly sat by and allowed Sandusky to bring children into the Penn State facilities for years after he heard the allegations by one of his current coaches that he evidently trusts. Paterno is guilty of not protecting children from the most heinous acts that can be brought against them. Bye bye JoePa. Good riddance.
Joe reported the second hand allegation to his boss and the local authorities. On Campus at PSU, the University Police have jurisdiction. From what I understand, they were notified. The University Police's responsibility is to investigate alledged crimes. That is why Shultz is being charged, not Joe.
Suicide is painless Joe! (These kids won't have it so easy for the rest of their lives, thanks for doing nothing)..
I suppose your understanding exceeds everyone else's in this situation. No information has come out about how the University Police were notified. If they were, this guy would have been caught long ago.
Jamie – read the Pennsylvania State Attorney's investigative report. Turns out Campus Police and the Centre County DA's office were notified years ago (2005ish) and did little to nothing – they actually closed the case.
Ok – so lets blame Joe Paterno!
What I find to be so amazing is the volume of comments based upon a lack of understanding.
Paterno is a football coach. That means he coaches football. He did the right thing in that when someone told him about an alleged crime, he reported it to the colleges' administration – who are supposed to be trained on these topics. I assume, as Paterno may have, that if the 'second hand story' was considered to be true, action would have been taken.
However, I do find it very unlikely that if this stuff came up so many times in the past, that 'no one knew'. But to hate on Paterno for doing what he thought was the correct thing – making a report against his coach – is just plain stupid.
He had the power and clout to demand a new defensive coordinator. Working alongside anyone with this history is unacceptable.
'I have been told by someone that so-and-so has rap ed a young boy'... but I'm just a student, not a police officer or an investigator or someone who knows how to 'deal with such situations' ; therefore, I should just pass it off to my boss because I'm "just a student"... that line of thinking is pathetic, not anyone who thinks otherwise.
Unbelievable. What if the kid was being stabbed or robbed? Would you report it to your superior and pass the buck or call the police? duh.
Suicide is painless Joe! (These kids won't have it so easy for the rest of their lives, thanks for doing nothing)
Thats sick Greg. Hope no one in your family ever commits suicide. Shame on your
Do not for a minute take the focus off of Sandusky! Whether Paterno stays or goes is irrelevant. But Sandusky must now, finally, be held accountable for the atrocities HE committed.
You don't have to worry about sandusky. He will be dealt some prison justice in a matter of months.
This is a terrible way to end such an illustrious career, but hey, JoePa, you called the wrong play.
I firmly believe Joe Pa has nothing in this. I am sure, at the time, Paterno thought if there is an inkling of truth to the GA story, his administration would have acted on it. After all, Paterno is certainly not a PI or the police. I am sure Paterno has had plenty of things reported to him over his 50 plus years and many of them turned out false too. Sounds like he followed procedure as he had done many times before. The heat firmly belongs to Sandusky (of course), the AD Curley, the VP Shultz, the Pres Spanier, the DA Gricar (who went missing 6 years ago), the police who were notified, and the Grad Assistant and Janitor for not stopping Sandusky immediately when they caught Sandusky in the act and for not pushing harder for justice when this happened.
The one incident was reported to Joe in 2002, 3 years after Sandusky retired in 1999. He immediately told the University as he should have. Shouldn't the person who saw the alledged incidents have called the police? Anything coming from anyone else is hearsay anyway.