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 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 — 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.
"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? 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.
"We were.....Penn State!"
Wow, I am disappointed to read this. He did is job. His job was to report it to the athletic director. When something bad happens you tell mom, you generally don't run to the police. Unless it's shown that Paterno was somehow an accomplice, I don't see how he has anything to do with it. If the law was based on people doing what is morally sound then you all would be in prison. This is article is distracting everyone from what really happened and who is really responsible, Sandusky.
Amen Mark, if we threw people in jail for bad morals then over 2/3 of the country would be in jail. As long as JoePa isn't legally responsible, he shouldn't be charged with a crime.
Nobody said he should be charged with a crime, but he allowed this behavior to go on in his program and will feel the consequences of it for certain. He did not do his job as a human being, he allowed innocent children to be abused through his inaction towards the situation. They are ALL to blame and they will all incur the blame when the plug is rightfully pulled on this program.
Suspected child abuse is reported to the police.
If you're a stout Penn State hater, then please don't bother to read any further here. My point (or any defense of Joe Paterno) will be lost in your existing anti-Penn State sentiment. It's the truth, so please save yourself the angst.
If you're someone that has just recently read or heard about this story through the media, then please do the same and stop reading now. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself honestly if you are responding against Joe Paterno because he's old, he's a Republican, or because "people say" that he's a self-appointed king of Central Pennsylvania. If you answer yourself truthfully, you would acknowledge that you don't know any more about this story than the brief snippets and incomplete stories that are being selectively filtered through the already anti-Joe Paterno media. You will simply not read my statements objectively, so please don't bother to respond.
Joe Paterno did nothing wrong. Legally, or morally. It is a grand jury FACT that he did not witness the alleged incident first-hand, so he could not have definitively known what happened. That's why he reported the incident to his superiors, as is expected in any chain of command. Despite anyone who satirically claims that Joe Paterno is "The King" at Penn State, he is still expected to (and did) follow the chain of command. You may disagree based on morality, but "being moral" is no defense against being punished for not following the established chain of command. If you still choose to blame him, then ask yourself honestly if "being moral" would exempt you from discipline in your own work environment.
Everyone who has heard anything about this story is clearly disgusted by Sandusky's alleged deviant actions. But it's not at all uncommon for those closest to a predator to be unaware of their dark side. How long did Elizabeth Smart live in captivity, while also being in plain sight?
In summation, Joe Paterno did exactly as he was expected, and his superiors sat on the information. This is why they have been indicted and he has not. If you continue to call for Joe Paterno's resignation, then ask yourself if you are doing so because of one of the following reasons:
1. Did you already dislike him, or are you in any way against the football program?
2. Are you so appalled at Sandusky's actions, that you are simply extending the blame to others?
3. Are you opposed to Joe Paterno's political views?
4. Are you perhaps factoring in his age?
If you answered even closely to "yes" on any of these, then I would suggest that you are as morally deficient as you believe Joe Paterno to be.
Well put Diz!!!
Kids were molested....you go to the cops when that happens NO EXCEPTIONS. why don't you ask yourself the same questions are you a penn state fan??? could your love for this guy/sport/team cloud your judgment? what if this was some joe shmo from the streets? would you crucify him?
He did nothing legally wrong, but he should have done more...and when you are in a high and well respected position such is expected of you and you pay the consequences accordingly. He should step down....nuff said.
So, basically you're saying (in a very log winded way) that everyone that disagrees with you is wrong.
No wonder the moral fabric of the nation has deteriorated when someone can write a grandious schpeel about how a man who turned a blind eye to child molestation "did nothing wrong"
So you're basically saying Joe Paterno is responsible for football and nothing more. Knowing about a pedophile raping kids isn't part of his job description, so he's not obligated to stop it. How about you put your son in the care of Sandusky and then come back here and defend those who KNOWINGLY ignored the travesty because they value their program more than they value your son? To say that he's done nothing morally wrong is asinine. It's absolutely ludicrous. Also, in the world of college sports, coaches lose their jobs over far less severe accusations. In my mind, turning a blind eye to the molestation of children is justification for termination. In fact, it's the only appropriate course of action. Paterno ruined his own legacy.
He knew of the abuse in 2002...WHEN SANDUSKY WAS NO LONGER A COACH!!!! Therefore, it is NOT football related!
How could that graduate assistant not have physically assaulted him and saved that child right there on the spot? These people sure weren't raised where I was.
You got that right! It would've never happened again had I seen it...
And McQueary is no small chicken either. He is a large dude and could have kicked Sandusky to hell and back if he desired.
if you read the Grand Jury investigation, this has nothing to do with JoePa. there were at least 6 other people who knew he was doing this to kids, way before JoePa even heard about this..
No one ever contacted authorities.. A janitor, and the janitor's boss.. 2 mothers, the Grad student, and the grad student's father who he told, coaches at the school who caught him with kids.. come on, how many people just ignored this? This has nothing to do with JoePa....
you don't make a good case for why he shouldn't step down....rather other people should be held accountable as well.
From what I can tell this is a scandal for the program and last I checked this is Paterno's program... this comes to an end, his day is over plain and simple.
So EVERYBODY who knew (including Joe Paterno) should be held responsible. NO EXCUSES.
well yes and no. How do you hold everyone who knew accountable???? it's hard. But when you are in a such a high and well respected position you should be held to a different standard. It's just the way it is...a CEO is more responsible for what happens to his company that the janitor is...and the president is more responsible for our country than any one of us are....
He shouldn't face any legal charges, but in light of everything....stepping down may be the thing to do....and people have EVERY right to want that because they would expect more from him if those where their kids.
Why would you tell the football coach if you saw child molestation? The eye witness should have gone to the police.
I hope all these victims get justice and those responsible get a chance to be on the other end.
Sounds like Jo Pa may have been getting a little of the action too. Just my opinion.
the media is crucifying him to earn a buck and we're all falling for it. gj.
Well of course he has to resign in disgrace, and he will. But the question is how much time he should spend in prison for what he allowed to happen for SEVEN MORE YEARS to innocent little boys.
The answer is zero. He didn't commit a crime.
On a campus where football is a big deal – like Penn St. – the head coach is as powerful as (if not more) than the school president. Joe Paterno reporting the incident to his "supervisor" is a ridiculous means for him to wipe his hands of the incident. He passed the buck...he knew full well that this was a serious problem and a serious issue and he failed to act. Just saying that he followed the "chain of command" is a weak excuse. Football rules at Penn St. and Paterno has been sovereign. Those children deserved better, Penn St. deserves better, the students, fans, and faculty deserve better. Don't cop out on this one, Joe. Accept that you should have reached for the same higher standard that you expect of your players.
I tend to disagree with @two cents that Paterno could be "more powerful than the school president" and had "washed his hands". I believe he did what he was supposed to do by reporting it, he's not a policeman, he's not a judge, he's not a prosecutor, he's a coach. And in my opinion a man of integrity. I do not now nor have I ever lived in that part of the country, and have nothing to do with Penn State. I did not care for JoePa years ago, but I has proven himself to me to be worthy of holding his place with PS all these years. He should be allowed to stay as long as he feels he is capable of coaching, not pushed out because someone else made bad decisions, well, REALLY bad decisions.
He reported the incident to the University. He wasn't an eye witness to a crime (if he was he should have gone to the police). He isn't a policeman and expected to investigate clues. The coach wasn't on his staff anymore. Paterno wasn't part of the Charity. The Penn State Administration is the problem and of course Sandusky. Paterno is way down on the list of blame.
We wonder WHY children STILL don't TELL when they've been abused?
The president of the university, SPANIER, states that the charges are groundless?
HE should GO along with the rest of them.
Unless some other development against Joe Paterno surfaces, at this stage, JoePa is safer now than Jim Tressel was last Mardi Gras, when it was discovered and revealed that Tress knew about ineligible players from an e-mail. While the allegations are more shocking and more criminal at Penn State than at Ohio State and Paterno could have done more ethically, he did what he had to do legally, which was ask the people above him, including the athletic director, to look into the matter of his assistant coach. Nonetheless, it is a gloomy day in normally Happy Valley.
Why do we give phedophiles anything less than a life sentence or death penalty? These sickos cannot be cured. Can you convince a straigh man to like men or vice versa? No, you can't.....these people are sick for life. I would sugguest we have a mass genocide of phedophiles and save everyone the tax money of housing these freaks in jail.
"... a stadium called Happy Valley..." ?????? ALL of us affiliated with Penn State and this wonderful town of State College are hurting – unbelievably so. But I stopped reading after seeing this ridiculous error in the first paragraph.
I think what most people are missing here is that Joe RUNS the football program. He knows who is on campus, who is allowed to do what, and what is or isn't going. Yes, he reported it, but as the HEAD of the program, it is his RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that it was followed up with. Just like the president of any organization. That person is repsonsible for everything that goes on in his program. He should have followed up on it, and he didn't, and this monster was allowed to continue to perpetrate! He should be fired immediately!!
I agree!! This is a prime example of the GOOD OL"BOYS" network....To just report the incident and NEVER follow-up. Talk about cover -up. He's known as well as the rest of these Freaks!! They ALL need to be removed immediately and
Hire what-ever high paying lawyers to represent them. Once convicted, I'm pretty sure CELL-MATE 69 will be waiting.
He's the head coach not the athletic director. Do you know who Joe Paterno is?
Yes, I know who "JoePa" is. But, anyone who knows Penn State football knows he is "god" there. He runs that place, they all listen to him. He could have use that power to make sure children were safe, instead, he did the bare minimum... And more children suffered. He should truly be ashamed of himself for not ensuring that knowing what he knew about what was going on in HIS facilities, he could have and SHOULD have done more. It's not about what legally he should have done, it is about what morally he should have done. And, I'm not leaving out the grad assistant who is now an assistant coach. He is there all the time now. He had to have seen this monster around campus and didn't question it?? No conversations were had like "hey Joe, remember what I said to you years ago about what i saw? What ever happened with that?" Joe knows everything that goes on in that area of Penn State, so he knew nothing was done. He is totally culpable!