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.
Joe Paterno is a MASON. The masonics are good at hiding criminal activity. I'll bet Curley and Sandusky are also Masons. If so, its understandable why this was hushed up....never turn in a brother.
People are so blinded with rage on this they have gone stupid. Here, I'll recap for the slow ones who didn't actaully read the story. Joe saw nothing he heard about it from a student. Hear say does not consitute calling police. If you think otherwise I've hear you are corn-holling little boys in your basement and I'll be sending the cops to your house with a news van to put your face on TV too. He's a football coach not a detective. He doesn't have the authority to charge or question anyone publicly about hear say. He told his boss about what he heard and let them handle it.
And Jim Tressel did/saw nothing, only heard about alleged violations through a 3rd party. Now, I'm not comparing Tressel's case with Paterno's. Because if I did, I would have to proclaim Paterno's to be much, much worse. Wait, what? Yeah, you read that right. Deal with it.
So close bdgfn... You almost had a valid point. Tressel heard about this and didn't tell anyone Paterno heard about this and told his boss. Big difference. Nice try with the comparison though.
Let's recap for Realistic: suspected child abuse is to be reported to the police by Paterno, an educator and mandated reporter, by LAW. Why would you think the university would investigate? That's the job of the police. This was a crime.
Coach Paterno is from the "old school" where things like this were not talked about. He did what he thought was his moral /ethical obligation by telling his boss.
He also probably didnt really believe it because it was about his assistant coach and then friend. And I bet he never asked about it again assuming something was said to Sandusky. Its clearly an uncomfortable topic for some.
He has been an awesome coach for Penn State for 40 years, why throw him under a bus because of someone elses actions?
He is probably just as disgusted as everyone else, but didnt (at the time) know what to do with the information involving someone he knew. As for the Grad Student, hell yes he was probably scared, but not scared enough to tell the Coach and the Coach knew enough to tell someone else.
Give the man a break, he didnt molest the boys, he just shut his mouth like most of America does when something makes them uncomfortable. Let the blame lie on the person that did the molesting, Sandusky.
Put the blame on the person doing the malesting??? Please-if people would stop turning a blind eye and a deaf ear and open their damn mouths, we wouldn't have these things being pushed under the rug!! And to assert that Joe P didn't know what to do??? He's been a coach for 50 years! He knew EXACTLY what he should've done, but he chose his and his friend's secrecy over that young boy who will NEVER BE TH SAME!!!
Coach Paterno did what he was supposed to do and that is informed his superiors. He owed allegiance to his underling who served him well. Mr. Sandusky got what amount to as a "slap in the wrist." At that moment he should have used his influence to have his superiors do more or else he would call for an investigations himself. The University alumni, faculty, and the student body should call for the resignation of the university president Spanier.
White people and their pedophiles. It's an epidemic in the white race
Mr Jackson is that you?
Rosenberg's SI article is borderline criminal... I hope none of you are getting facts from him. Re-read his story... the entire premise is based on a conversation that he "made up." He is asking the reader to disregard what Paterno actually said took place and to instead believe that the conversation he fabricates for the story. The line that best describes Rosenberg's piece: "As I said, I don't know exactly what happened. But it's reasonable to imagine that..." Wow.
We should not allow bad men to sully the good reputations of good men.
And so yet another University/Head Coach is found to be lacking. After this, nothing that comes out about any college/university athletic program will surprise me.
Anyone who knew this was happening and didn't report it to the police is guilty of allowing Sandusky to continue to abuse children. From what I understand, the University's only action was to tell Sandusky he could no longer bring children onto campus. Disgusting.
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 â€“ to who â€“ the football coach of all people â€“ 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 â€“ but yet he probably reported them all. Is he supposed to be the Campus Policeman, the PI, take on the Administrations role â€“ where does it stop. PSU Admin are at fault here. Paterno is a football coach and fundraiser â€“ period.
Why are you making excuses for JoPa? There is no excuse in the world that will ever justify his bizarre, less than honorable behavior involving that one specific incident.
Wrong Jeff. Paterno had a moral obligation to do more. Much more than he did. He failed. Every second longer he stays, the more disgraceful his failure is, and the more discredit is brought on the school.
Apparently he learned nothing from Woody Hayes.....
Jeff is absolutely right.
Positions of leadership demand more than passing the buck. He didn't want his legacy stained.
You're joking right? Who would make up something about a kid being molested in the showers! He should have looked into it. PERIOD! Obviously, he felt it warranted Sandusky's retirement so he knew something was wrong there.
I totally agree with you. Why should JoePa be blamed for the actions of others? He is not law enforcement. He is not the head of the university. He is a football coach. He acted as he saw fit, it was not his fault that the higher-ups took no action.
I'm still proud to be a Penn State alum. The acts of these individuals doesn't reflect badly on me, anyother student past present or future, or JoePa. WE ARE PENN STATE!
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The only this proven is that your a moron.
Star don't call someone a moron when you can't finish your sentence. But I do agree, he is a moron.
Starman, when calling people morons you may want to get your grammar correct... the word is "you're"
The irony is rich here.
All the hyenas and vultures gathering around to pick at the bones of a man who has done more good in the world than all of them put together.
One unfortunate error of judgment cancels out half a century of greatness.
Ummm.....when it has to do with child molesters? Yes.
I for one am happy to see the outrage on this board, sometimes I wonder if people still have morals....the comments here reassure me that morality and individual responsibility is still alive. People of power seem to have the lowest morals, and simple people like us are astonished at how the privileged abuse their power.
Kudos Rick, Couldn't have said it better.
I also understand the outrage being posted on this board...but it shouldn't be directed at Paterno.
JoePa Did what he was legally obligated to do! get off his back. He cant control what another human does or has done. He reported it to his boss, and his boss was suppose to report it to the authorities. They fired the guy and tried to cover it up..But JoePa did the right thing. So leave him alone! Jeesh....
Yes...he did have some control. If my friend, co-worker, neighbor, husband, child, nephew, cousin, or any stranger was caught molesting a child- and I was told about it- I would make sure that I put a stop to it immediately- no matter what! I would go to the police- I would beat the crap out of my "friend" for sure...I would make sure that they were never allowed around children again- or at leat TRY...simply TRY to make sure...that's all he had to do.
He is not obligated to tell "someone", he is obligated to tell the authorities. The authorities are not his boss. I am not making a comment about him or his morals. Coaches, Teachers, Doctors, etc. are mandatory reporters and that does not mean to your boss.
Thank you Joe for everything that you did for Penn State. No one wanted it to end like this, but it is ending.
The next issue is to address is how we have let football to become so important. Sports should be an entertaining adjunct to the educational experience, not the over arching focus. Coaches are just school employees, nothing more. Things have gone so wrong.