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. Rick

    How many c o c k suckers does it take to ruin a 50 year career? One! and a lot liberals willing to keep it quite for the sake of one more win.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad-ash

      Liberal or Conservative has nothing to do with this. Besides JoePa is a long-time Republican...and not someone you would call liberal.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      You're an idiot

      November 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Clarification: RICK, you're an idiot

      November 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Christine

    People out for Joe's head act as though he is the president of Penn State and that he is responsible for these heinous crimes. I'm not saying he couldn't have done things differently, but I don't believe he should be the fall guy. He's there to coach football. He followed the chain of command and reported the crime.
    If anyone failed these kids (beyond the obvious POS Sandusky), I believe it is the two people that witnessed the crimes first-hand. How grown men could walk away from that nightmare, is beyond me. Cowards.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • m&m

      I don't know if could have fired the asistant coach or not. It seems that there was a lot more he could have done.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Following the chain of command was not enough! He is an educator and a mandated reporter. He should have gone to the authorities immediately. He didn't...and in some states (not sure about PA) that is against the law. When you are a mandated reporter, there are no excuses.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ms_moneypenny

    Regardless of the fact that Paterno believes he "did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention", he has a responsibility to report this to the proper authorities. Meaning not only as a coach to the organization, but a human being to the police. He should be held accountable just as we all would.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. m&m

    The adminsrators that were notified and the police that swept it under the rug need to be invistigated and charged. Kids lives were ruined by letting this monster loose for so many years.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • DM

      Lynch mob is out in force. God help you if you ever get accused of something...doesn't matter if you're guilty or with your head!!! Now IF charges are true, AND it's found that Joe P didn't follow admin regs or state law, then yes, of course, demand his resignation. BUT, YOU DON"T KNOW!!! Not yet. You can't convict without a trial. This isn't Iran, afterall. Innocent until PROVEN guilty in a COURT OF LAW...not the court of public opinion.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Paul

    It would have to be proven legally and morally that Paterno-given the information he then knew-had the obligation to notify the proper authorities if the University did not notify the proper authorities. Paterno did not see what happened and was only told by a graduate assistant. Suppose the assistant was wrong or lying. Then, had Paterno notified authorities directly, an innocent person's reputation would have been destroyed. It's a two way sword, and I believe Paterno took the right action. In spite of being a profound leader at Penn State, he is a human being, and his rights should be protected. Mr. Paterno-do not resign!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. clarke

    Well Joe told his boss. which is correct. His boss dropped the ball and when that happened, Joe should of then taken action. I wonder if it had been there own child what would they have done. They should both step down or be let go. Shame on them.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Wrong. He should have called the police regarding a crime which had been committed. What would you do if the child was being stabbed or shot? tell your boss?

      November 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. msreal

    I am sick to my stomach of reading stories of innocent children being prey to Adults!!!!!!! We in this country have allowed children to be victimized long enough!!!!!!! Here we are again pretending to care!!!!!! If we cared then we would set up the necessary laws and consequences as well as prevention programs to help in this horrific crime!!!!!!! My heart bleeds for the children, not all of these football gods!!!!!!!!! When America are we gonna get serious about preventing young innocent lives from being traumatized by perverts?????????????

    November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Really

    So JoePa needs to be aware/responsible for all actions that occur at a football building at all times of the day, whether he is there or not, being performed by a guy that no longer works for him because he is the father of Football there?!?!?! Give me a break people!!! The guy who did all of this is the sick one. Go after him. JoePa reported it immediately to his boss. The guy didn't work for him at the time even though he retained access to the school! The administration said it investigated when the Second Mile people inquired and were told that there was no finding or wrongdoing! Maybe JoePa heard the same thing!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad-ash

      When you have knowledge that a crime was committed, when are you morally released from telling police about it? Because you tell somebody else, its no longer your problem?

      November 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Flipturn

    I always thought we were innocent until proven guilty.....????

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. stef

    He did the very minimum by reporting to his superiors...the minimum, something he would NEVER accept from one of his players, thus allowing this freak to continue to abuse kids. Shame on him. And I say this as a Penn State alumni.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • CB

      To hell with paterno and the rest of them....
      absolutely disgusting display of spineless cowardess and total lack of concern for anyone NOT a member of the football program or a member of his family. I bet if that was one of his kids getting getting the sandusky treatment – he would have done more than he did....Plain and simple.....the kid meant nothing to him...the football program meant everything – total lack of moral just another sign of the MANY things that are wrong in the Good OLE USA

      November 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jeanne

    it is just disgustiong that these grown MEN actually knew what happened or was happening and did NOTHING...I hope every one of those boys comes forward puts ALL THESE MEN away for a long time..then SUE the crap out of the university for doing absolutely nothing to help them, and FOR THE COVER UP for years...EVERYONE INCLUDING THE PRESIDENT WHO KNEW..SHOULD BE FIRED TODAY..AND THROWN IN JAIL TO BE SODOMIZED THEMSELVES

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Craig

    If there was a chain of command, Sandusky-Paterno-Curly, or grad student-Paterno-Curly, why do we find it easy to simply omit part of the chain of command (Paterno) and declare that it is not his fault. There is too much blame to go around to exonerate anyone involved. Shame on Paterno, shame on Penn State.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. LK

    Time to go Joe...everyone involved, no matter what their position at PSU, should be fired immediately and then face prosecution for covering up such a horrific husband said for the first time in his life he is ashamed to be a PSU alum.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Terry

    Dave in response to Rohan, you are a sick, racist, apologist for a bunch of dirty old men who should be hung for
    their crimes and/or looking the other way.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sherri


    November 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
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