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 did what was required...it's his superiors that should be put in the spotlight!!!
Now tell the kids that!
Would you feel the same way if it had been your son who was abused? Don't you think you would appreciate that anyone who was aware of the abuse call the proper authorities?
How do you figure? Did he not at least have a moral obligation to contact the police or even find out which child was involved and suss out the facts of the situation? These are serious allegations. Were this your child, would you still believe he did enough? And really I can't believe that he actually thought reporting the alleged criminal conduct against the child to his "superiors" was sufficient to address the wrongdoing. The man may be old, but he's not a fool. He didn't report because the perp was his friend, colleague, and mentee. His lack of judgment stems from a desire to save himself and sandusky, not what was best for the child or ultimately the university and the football program.
MD Chick, How could Paterno be expected to accuse someone of abuse when he wasn't there and didn't see it. The person who saw the abuse should have stopped it and called police. That's the guy to blame.
I have the solution for this guy and the thousands of child molesters like him. Leave the father alone in a room with him..with a baseball bat. Hard to molest children in a wheelchair with arms that have been so badly broken you can't lift them at all. If some sick perv touched one of my kids..that would be the last thing they ever did. I live in Canada so I would get off pretty easily. We just had a child molester killed in prison..GOOD!
Hey fellow Canuck, which molester was it that was killed in prison? Did not hear about that and when did this happen?
Here in Alberta..some Hells Angel killed him..good riddance! Thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed and no one cares..why would I care about some sick a**hole molester.
They should all be killed as far as I'm concerned or at least have their d^cks cut off. Glad to hear the a HA did the job for the rest of us. ðŸ™‚
Sandusky better hope for solitary confinement. The one thing prisoners hate the most is a ped. They won't be lenient on him.
Stop looking at how Paterno used his Chain of Command as a way to take the blame off his shoulders! The Chain of Command is for getting a day off work or getting fired. It isn't a way out when something is morally wrong! For instance, at war is it ok to kill an unarmed individual? What if your Chain of Command told you to do it? It still isn't morally right to kill them. Now put yourself in that kids shoes, better yet, put your kids in that position and imagine no one doing anything about it. It is sickening and they all should be fired and go to jail!
He's a figure head not a coach anyway. He sits up in the press box half of the time.
Paterno has said in a statement that he "did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention."
How does he figure that? He did NOT do what he was supposed to do. Nothing was done after he told superiors in the athletic department so why did he not take it further and go to the police? These people think they are men but they are not. A real man would do the right thing, not ignore such a serious issue. These boys had to grow up with that and all who knew should be punished. Sickening and hope Sandusky gets a new one ripped while in the big house.
I could not agree with you more. Well said!
Go to police and tell them what? He wasn't there and didn't witness anything, why is it all of the sudden his responsibility? He wasn't Sandusky's boss. The student who witnessed it is the one who should have gone to police.
Hey I got an idea!
How about a scenario whereby the eyewitnesses call the police right away? Hey that just might have worked!
Wait ..... How about a scenario whereby the eyewitnesses stop the abuse the instant they see it occuring and immediatley call the police! That would seem even better!
How about a scenario whereby the eyewitnesses would stop the abuse the instant they see it occuring , detain the suspect, and then call the police! That would seem to be the best!
Nah – let's just forget all of the above. If we see Sandusky molesting a child let's decide to run away and let Sandusky continue, lets go hide, then lets call dad (because I am only 28 years old) and my dad will know what to do. Yes ..... we will then decide to waiting 24 hours while we think about the best course of action, and then ....... EUREKA ...... we will decide to go tell a football coach!
What's wrong here? Oh – we forgot to decide that this will all be the football coach's fault – YEP – lets blame him.
It appears everyone was afraid of the university higher ups...yes, the assistant, his Dad, the janitor and all others who witnessed or knew of anything and did nothing are all wrong. Afraid to get kicked out? It happens...afraid to lose their jobs because they had families to feed...bills to pay...proably...but that doesn't make any of it right. These were small children...already troubled looking for help...
How about a scenario where a graduate student glimpsed something from far away, and was unsure about what he saw? But after thinking about it decided to report it out of caution? And didn't use direct, explicit language because he wasn't 100% sure about it?
very intelligent response; bet you went to Penn St.
People stop looking at how Paterno used his Chain of Command as a way to take the blame off his shoulders! The Chain of Command is for getting a day off work or getting fired. It isn't a way out when something is morally wrong! For instance, at war is it ok to kill an unarmed individual? What if your Chain of Command told you to do it? It still isn't morally right to kill them. Now put yourself in that kids shoes, better yet, put your kids in that position and imagine no one doing anything about it. It is sickening and they all should be fired and go to jail!
Paterno's not even in the chain. The guy didn't work for him and wasn't on his coaching staff. Somebody told him a former employee of his was doing something illegal in the college's athletic building the day before. How does that involve Paterno even morally? He told the guy to tell the guy in charge of athletics. Paterno just coaches football, he doesn't run the athletic department.
Why is everyone so quick to judge Joe? These are still allegations at this time. What would they police had done if he had reported what he was told? They would have sought out the grad. assistant and questioned him. It appears that Joe followed protocol and he should be left out of it until there is evidence that he did break the law. He who is without sin can cast the first stone and it appears that a lot of people are casting stones.
If this was Joe's kid do you think he will follow the same protocol?
Why is it Paterno's fault? This is a school issue. He can't control what's going on in the school's facilities. He reported it to the proper person in the school as he should.
He is one part of a system that went terribly wrong...he made contradicting statements...saying he didn't know the details...and then it came out that he did know the details. If he lied about this...what else did he lie about while refusing to make sure that his "friend" never touched another child again...he sure didn't do what most people would have done...call the police...beat the crap out of his friend...instead...Sandusky is told he can no longer bring children to the facilities...hmmm...poor, poor Sandusky...he has to find other places to molest children...but at least he can continue...with the help of all his peeps at PSU!
Debbie, how could he know the details? He wasn't there and didn't see it. He did what anybody else told about something like that should do: don't tell me, tell the police and tell his employer (the university). Paterno just coached football, he didn't run the place.
Just a little FYI for all the people on here saying he fulfilled his legal obligation to tell his superior...in most states, all people are legally mandated to report even SUSPECTED child abuse or neglect, so even if you are not sure, if it is even suspected, you are required by law to report it yourself to law enforcement or child welfare agencies. Not report it to your boss, not to your Dad, you yourself are required to report it. Failing to do so is punishable by law. Individuals who are considered "professionals" such as doctors, teachers, lawyers, police officers, or those being paid or licensed by the state, are even more obligated under the law and can be punished by termination or loss of license. Even if this wasn't the case, I still think Paterno failed these children and the University, so stop saying he fulfilled his duty, because he didn't, and you should be ashamed to consider yourself in his company for not doing everything in his power to protect innocent children.
No 'you' are not mandated. Teachers and doctors are mandated. This guy is a college football coach.
Mike Leach, I think Penn State needs you! ðŸ™‚
Where was everyone else? Why didn't the grad assistant stop the assault or go to the police, why didn't anyone else who has an iota of what was going on go do ANYTHING or go to the authorities?
Joe is the witch in this witchhunt and it has more to do with destroying his successful career and knocking him out of contention than it has to do with Sandusky or the kids involved.
Deborah – Everyone, and I mean everyone that is involved with this mess is going down, not just Paterno. Paterno just happens to be the face of an organization that failed miserably at every level to stop a monster from preying on innocent children on their watch. And Paterno has responsibility here, no question. He needs to go down now, and the rest will follow.
If I have read the coverage correctly, the GA's name is Mike McQueary - who was offered and accepted a coaching position at Penn State the next season.
everyone failed this child miserably. The grad assistant, the coaches, the university officials and yes Paterno. they all need to resign and some of them need to go to jail. Paterno made an error of catastrophic proportions here: many children's lives were ruined after that because he did not call the police. amazing!
You are a blatant idiot if you think it is about soiling Paterno's reputation or about something as simple as a football game. He is the coach!!! You know, the "Father" figure to the players and a leader to his staff. What leader would turn a blind eye to this tragedy? In my opinion, he should not coach another game and be fired immediately. He has shown that he is a hypocrite! Plain and simple. You make him out to be a god because of a stupid fu%king football game?? He could have stopped this yet was more concerned about the image of the team! He may have not pulled the trigger, but just as well he did!
Deborah, if one of th ekids were your son (grandson/nephew/etc) would you have wanted Joepa to do something more than tell the AD?
signed, lifelong penn state fan, grad, supporter.
Throw the old fahrt out !!!