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. DebbieDowner

    VIctim #9...and all the others! Thank you for putting an end to this nightmare and moving forward to make sure that these animals do not allow any other children to be victimized. You are brave, and God bless you all. You did not deserve this. You are doing the right thing. You deserve respect. You deserve justice. Thank you for your strength...I am sure you have spent years trying to forget and put this behind you...your strength now will make sure that justice is served...and hopefully lead to new laws and open dialogue that will save many more children from this type of abuse and cover-up activities of those surrounding these sickos.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. josh

    Its sad that a man that has done so much for the university and the state of Pennsylvania is being hung out to dry. Sure he could have done more but he did what he thought was right by going above him because he didnt witness it he didnt hear this from the person that did witness it and if you call the cops about something like this whether or not the person is quilty it ruins their carrer so he told someone that should have looked into it

    November 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      Hey. If you want to be King, you are responsible for your subjects. Cannot have your cake and eat it too. He knew and did absolutely nothing in comparison to his position within the University. His concern was not the children but the face of Penn State Football. For that I hope he gets fired! Period. He could have stopped this but decided otherwise. Igborance is no excuse for the law!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smukers

      What Joe Paterno did, was to allow the crimes to continue. Joe reported to his boss only, who will face a lengthy jail term. Just think, for once in your little life. Joe reported a heinous crime to another criminal. Josh, you do not know your "A" from a hole in the ground.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |

    how come the grad student isnt being charge since he witness it and didnt do anything to stop or help the young boy because to my knowledge if you are with someone when they commit a crime and do not thing to stop or report it you get charge with the crime to0

    November 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • saynomore

      I would like to say Im shocked by most of the comments, including Pierre's and Josh's...but I'm not...Paterno is not some mere employee...he's not some moron who would have been fired or reprimanded if he insisted that this matter be reported, he's the person in charge of that school's athletic program who is worshipped by all the powers that be at Penn State...he had the ability to report this issue to the police or insist that the university do so and ask that an investigaion be conducted quietly and without media attention...but he didn't...he heard a boy was FONDLED...FONDLES, you morons...and he just reported it up the chain...and now claims he didn't know the details....I'm not sure what other details were needed....he's not being charged with any crime...nor should he or the lowly graduate assistant who happened upon the pedophile and reported him to Paterno...but he should be held responsible...morally and ethiically responsible for failing to take action...against a pedophile. And if you're okay with his actions, then I really have to question your own moralsa nd ethics...because protecting a child from a pedophile should be your first priority...always.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ProperVillain

    "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."

    Yeah, good to see universities sinking money into this archaic form of entertainment that only benefits a select few at the colleges. This quote says it all. What a phenomenal waste of resources. I say reign in all the sports programs to a reasonable level and distribute university money more evenly between departments. It's ridiculous that we place so much emphasis on sports and sports stars that we allow a culture like the one described above to thrive at a major university. To all of the sports couch potatoes and university athletes: you have about as much chance as becoming a sports star as the average joe does as becoming a rock star. Let's abandon this senseless pursuit of fame and give people the education and resources they are paying for, not just a big stadium that will be used by the brainless jocks.
    It's high school all over again across the colleges of America I guess...

    November 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jerry

    What is wrong with you people? Who cares if the child molester is prominent or not. Moral issues have no meaning in this case. Everyone involved is accountable with just the knowledge of it happening. I could care less about Penn State football and shame on all the folks who are overlooking the damage that was caused to these children. For those of you that say its at anyway not Joe Paternos fault then imagine if this was your child.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. krispy kremes

    I think this story is a bunch of bull. Its fishy; I think this case against Paterno and the case against Tressel were derived by a rumor or developed by someone or a group of people to force big name coaches step down. It is a strange coinsidence. I think more of these bogus stories will pop up down the road.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • saynomore

      krispy kreme - lay off the donuts...your mind is obviously not you read or just skim articles and make up conspiracy theories while shacked up with a box of your beloved sugar treats?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Deborah

    I find it facinating no one mentions that person that committed the crimes. Sandusky. Not Paterno. Only proves my point that most of you could give a crap about the kids and the crimminal, but rather pulling a legendary coach off a well earned pillar.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • DreZ

      ..and you condone the fact that Paterno knew what Sandusky did in 2002, and didn't do the "right" thing and call the police. I assume you're OK with all of this then, and have no problems with Paterno knowing about him raping a 10 year old boy in the shower, and doing nothing to see that it never happens again? Seems to me YOU'RE the one NOT looking out for the children here. Idiot..

      November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      What if those boys were your kids? Would you make this comment?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smukers

      Deborah, you are another one of the resident nitwits. Joe Paterno reported the crime to another of his fellow criminals. I bet you also believe the pedophile priests, bishops and cardinals of the cath chuch should be exonerated as their crimes were "minor". Yes, Deborah, you are a nitwit.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. shadubee

    Joe Pa followed protocal based on reports (not necessarily facts) from a grad. student. He reported the allegations to his superiors. Paterno is not the law, contrary to people's misguided views, but he is smart enough to avoid a modern-day Crucible.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • saynomore

      ummm, no, he's not...since he created this failing to step up and report a man was fondling a child...if he had, he's be a hero and we'd be praising him...instead of questioning how you receive a report of a man fondling a child and no action is taken...NONE...other than reporting it up the pike and then turning a deaf ear and a blind eye...

      November 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. marion Barry

    I'd like to know what the football players thought was going on when Sandusky was ALWAYS in the company of little boys. They went to games, they slept in his hotel room, they went to the country club. Read the grand jury report, it's remarkable. If it wasn't obvious to those around Sandusky they were all blind. Even his wife. What did she think was going on in the basement with the "sleepovers"? You can't do this for a decade or more and NO ONE can figure out what was going on. His kids club was a way to hook up with a steady stream of new recruits. But seriously, his players must have had some notion of what was going on. Lavishing gifts on young boys, screaming at them like a dissed lover and bringing them on over night trips when the wife wasn't there? Way way way to many red flags. Other people clearly knew and all turned a blind eye to this sick man's behavior.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marta Weeks

    Scary what is happening to kids pushed into the glory of sports.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |

    Shame on Penn State if they force out Joe Paterno. He he will be the fall guy at 84 years old, when the head of the athletic department WAS TOLD BY PATERNO AND DID NOTHING. BUNCH OF BS!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. thomas bride

    when this incident was reported to joe pa by an eye witness / grad ast coach the 2 should of ran to the nearest phone and called 911. a leo would have then investigated the alleged incident and if was unfounded then sandusky would have been cleared. if founded, then affect an arrest, save future victims, save penn state reputation and joe pa and the witness would be heroes. you would have nothing to gain by not reporting and lots to loose by not reporting. seriously you people that think joe pa does not have some accountabiity are fools. posted by leo in another state.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TommyShuffler

    I, for one, DO-NOT believe Joe Paterno is involved in this scandal. The man has too much pride.
    Let the authorities do their investigation and see where and if Joe Paterno is implicated.
    Should he know more than he's telling, than I agree with his departure, but Let the man have his say
    to see where this thing goes. If Joe Paterno went to his higher authorities when this happened as he stated,
    then I say the University is hiding more than Joe.
    Jerry Sandusky could put placed on a lie detector and forced to tell all he know and those involved, should he be guilty,
    then he gets what the law hands down, good or bad. Since this scandal goes back to 1994 when Sandusky was
    still coaching, someone knew something then but was afraid to talk, why is it always 10 to 20 years after a crime is
    committed, the public hears about it. Why didn't we hear about this when it first happened so it could have been put
    to trail and rest at the time of the crime. Joe Paterno is and probably will be the best ever to coach the game, regardless
    of the school's name and reputation.
    Tommy of Waynesboro, PA

    November 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TommiGI

    Read the Penn State Alma Mater. Then come back and "explain" to me how anyone with knowledge of these felonies should be given a "pass." Soil the image of the school and you are vile and that includes EVERYONE that walks the halls at Penn State.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Whome

    Unless you were in the shower or sat in with the Grand Jury you know what I know which is nothing. Unless you have turned in your family or friends whenever they did anything illegal such as drug use than you are complicate in their crimes so unless you are as pure as the freshly driven snow, sit down and shut up.shut up

    November 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Read the indictment stupid.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • tj

      You are the minority on this issue.........................Jailhose Joe is his new nick name.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texan

      You are going to compare drug use to child molestation.
      Where the F -did you leave your brain?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • kbrown

      You can actually read the grand jury report... about the grad assistant and also a janitor... both reported it to their supervisors, it went no where. A mother called campus police, it went no where...maybe you should read more and type less?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
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