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. stonycurtis

    it could be like Neverland Ranch over there. i wonder what else is going to come out? I mean what do they say about having absolute power? he had the run of the place and nobody ever questioned him. also why all the secrecy with the way the things were run over there all these years? I am throwing in my red flag on this one. someone should confiscate JoePa's soap_on_ a_rope. I read hours before the press conference that JP was just going to discuss the upcoming game with Nebraska, and now the event is cancelled, that could of gotten real ugly, good move on the university's part on pulling the plug on that train wreck.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Michael Fevang

    Before I do any type of judging I need to know exactly what Joe was told by the grad student. Many people seem to believe it's identical to what came out of the grand jury report. To me, that's a huge leap. More facts are needed before all culpability can be assigned. We are, as a society, becoming increasingly too quick to judge our fellow man.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tex

      Well said...I think people and websites and news organization just love the drama aspect more than what the actual facts potentially are.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • DebbieDowner

      According to Kelly, the graduate assistant went to Paterno's home "to explain what he had seen."

      But Paterno said in his statement that McQueary had not been specific with him.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    Based on the information to date, I still think what Tressel did was worse. Faced with an allegation that would rock his program he told no one. Paterno faced with an allegation did exactly what he should have done. I will wait for the other shoe to drop because it will be interesting to see what conversatoins took place in the weeks and months after he reported the incident. At some point you would think he would ask, what ever bacame of that story about my coach preying on young boys.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hugh

      oh yea...because kids getting molested is sooo much better.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TRVolk

    As always in cases like this and other "crimes as entertainment/news", I need a whole lot more information to pass judgment than what the news media can provide.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Frank A NYC

    If you have the stomach for it, read the Grand Jury Presentment. You'll want to take a shower afterwards. I don't see how anyone can defend JoPa after reading that. He did what was legally required of him, he did not do what he SHOULD HAVE!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Put it in perspective. If it had been one of JoePa's grandkids (or one of your own), what would he have done? I understand, it's alleged.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jews in Media

    Why is the jewish writer using Christanity in the article?

    November 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Catch22ofNJ

      You need a life friend!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RB

    So Joe Paterno heard that his assistant coach was molesting a young boy on university property, but never did anything more than tell a university official? Never called the police, social services, or even confronted Sandusky? Shame on him. Adults are supposed to protect children, not protect their football kingdom. He and the university official's failure to report this led to countless other young lives being ruined by this disgusting monster. Paterno, and everyone else who perpetrated this cover-up, should be fired, if not subject to criminal prosecution.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    So does Bobby Bowden still have a chance to get the most victories? For a cheating scandal he had nothing to do with he lost a year of wins. By that standard shouldn’t Paterno with a known child molester lose all his wins from 2002 on?

    November 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cheryl

    Wow!! If this has gone on so long... Are there reports from when he worked as a coach in the NFL??

    November 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The 99%

    More people are coming forward. It's up to 9 now.

    This whole deal is SICK. This is beyond firing, Joe and those that cooperated in this coverup belong in JAIL.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HR

    Last week, i had a discussion with my manager and he stated that his child was a by the book kind of person. I responded that despite what most people think the proverbial Rule Book came about because of centuries of blood, sweat and tears and does serve a purpose. Laws were broken and the buck stops with Paterno. Paterno puts himself out there as a person who runs a "clean program" in every sense of the phrase. However I can't help but think that at this point in his life he seems more concerned with his legacy than dealing with "one" complaint.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Penn State Alum

      ok so hes wrong about not telling but you guys make it sound like hes the one who actually did it, maybe you have your wording wrong. I agree with John, you people are blowing this up in joe paternos perspectice. He DIDN;T do it and fulfilled his job. If anyone of you saw this going on at your job, your first reaction would be to call the police? Um no, you would tell your boss first.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NB


    November 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CJ

    Joe PA should step down. I do not think he intentionally meant to see any children harmed but his lack of action and follow-through helped perpetuate this problem for over a decade.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    the stadium isn't called happy valley

    November 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
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