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. Jmz

    Jo Pa, is no pa he is a disgrace to the Penn State family, a disgrace to all Pennsylvanians, and of couse a disgrace to to all decent people

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

    Where is Mike McQueary's courage?? Wouldn't 999 out of 1000 people (men) immediately jumped into the middle of the situation and beat the hell out of Sandusky??

    November 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BmoreLady

    Why didn't the graduate assistant report it to the authorities? I mean, he did WITNESS the incident in the shower.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. derty ernie

    Every sports writer I read today are all signing the same tune, Jo didn't do anywhere near enough in this situation. Broke any laws no. Follow up and care about stopping this person, no. Contact people with outrage over what happened to a 10 year old, no.
    Besides, last week it sat in a booth and watched the game and got the win. He hasn't been running the show for a while and was just in it to get the record. Didn't see Robinson phoning it in.
    Joe should have been forced out years ago and its time he goes now. Do the right thing Penn State and order him to resign now, he cannot finish the year, its too shameful for the student body.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. avk737

    read the indictment, he was told his right hand man was molesting a 10 year old boy. HE DID NOTHING, NOTHING!! He should be hauled off that campus and fired in disgrace. I hope the families of these boys sue him for everything he owns and he winds broken.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Camp

      It was his FORMER right-hand man. Does your ex-boss care about everything you do anymore? Paterno knew Sandusky still visited the college, so he told the athletic director that he was told that someone else witnessed a crime. What else is he supposed to do? Put on a Columbo overcoat and start investigating himself?

      I'm not a Joe Paterno fan at all, but I don't know if I'd react any differently. It was just the one time from his perspective. However, the athletic director and president have all the blame here for not doing anything about it.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    It finaly caught up to him, eh?! Sandusky was the heir apparent until 1999 when he abruptly left. That should have prompted questions. And for all the JoePa apologists who are extolling his academics before football, please, I know of three players he coached that couldn't read or write, and further Penn State does not lead the Big Ten in academics among athletes – that honor goes to Northwestern and has every year they've been keeping track of it. This guy has been a bully maggot from day one.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    I am struggling with this one so maybe I have a fact wrong here. As far as I have heard/read Paterno told his AD who then told the police. The police then gathered evidence and gave it to a DA. The DA did nothing. I suppose Paterno could have fired him or made a public service announcement once he realized nothing was going to happen, but that would have of course meant he would have been sued since the DA dropped the case. I suppose opening himself and the university up a lawsuit would have been the right thing to do in retrospect, but at the time and with no trial and really no evidence... This all just seems like a sad statement on one of the many failings in our legal system.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Damian

      Mat tI agree Joe did t he right thing in reporting it to his superiors who contacted police. It's really a case of failed legal system at the expense of children. Very sad. I'm not sure how they could stand this creep Sandusky or why he wasn't fired.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The 99%

    Joe Pa Must Go!
    We don't want retire, we want FIRE

    November 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Given the scope of the scandal, kinda ironic that Joe Pa is a "Brown" University grad, no?!

    November 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Razor's Edge

    JoPa – should have followed up reporting his defensive coach raping a 10 year old boy in the men's locker room instead of coaching with him additional years and never wondering why Jerry Sandusky had not been fired !!!

    November 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AJ

    First, I'll admit, I don't know every particular here, but man, when you see movies showing mob mentality, torches in hand, this board suggests those images aren't far from the truth...

    Why bash 2nd mile? I read somewhere they help 150,000 kids. Even if one of the founders was guilty, and horrendous crimes committed against these 8 boys, it hardly should damn the entire organization, any good souls who've worked hard helping kids, or the many they truly did help. One sick individual should not damn an entire organization.

    As far as Joe goes, in my mind, I think he thought he did the right thing by reporting this. Once the upper management swept it under the rug, he could have done more, but I truly would like to know the specifics of what he was told.

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

      Must call Bull on this thought process. "They help so many kids" Paterno KNEW. He did what was legally the minimum required to do without jeapordizing his teams chances of winning and his own reputation. My guess is that you are one of those that fully throws all priests under the bus because of the actions of a few, but when it comes to the football team you root for, it is a different story. Hypocrite. Joe Paterno is as culpable for this as anyone.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob


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

      Bob, Clinton wasn't getting B.J.'s from 10 year olds!!! Gosh, what mentality. I guess you are not a parent. I hope not.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      WELL DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!! ON THE FLOOR!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Linda

    I am appalled at some of the comments here. First of all, Jopa IS the head honcho. He HAS NO superiors. He gets paid millions and he runs the show. Period. Those of you saying he should be left off of the hook because he "told someone" are ridiculous. Secondly, they will just wait til the end of the season and say he "resigned" anyway so he will still be in the clear. Sad but true. All in the name of football.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • TMac

      Linda first of all he isn't paid millions and he does have a boss. They are the AD and School President. He runs the football show and earned the right to determine when he retires considering all he has done for the University and region. Sandusky suddenly retired in 1999 after the 1998 incident in which the DA decided not to pursue charges against him so Sandusky was no longer an employee of Penn State or on Paterno's coaching staff from that time on. Remember Paterno did not commit these crimes, Sandusky did. Repeat after me Sandusky did. When a graduate assistant came to him and reported that he saw something involving Sandusky and a minor, he reported it immediately to his superiors. Sandusky was a friend of his for over 30 years and maybe he was giving him the benefit of the doubt since, according to reports, he did not know the extent of the what was seen. Especially since the complaint in 1998 was dismissed. If he did know the true extent then maybe he would have done more, I cannot say but if he did know more, HE NEEDED TO DO MORE!

      I do question why the witness did not follow up with administration or police once everything was swept under the rug.

      I am amazed at the number of people on this board so willing to throw the first stone so willing to throw it at the person who did not commit these crimes!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vince

    By allowing this to continue, and not following up with the police, I find Joe to be vile and disgusting. You can take all his football wins and toss them out the window. That means nothing now, this is life and he failed big time. I would love to kick his a.s.s.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DamnYankee

      Put the blame where it belongs: on the assistant coach who was the actual eyewitness who compounded the problem by not telling Paterno what he saw.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Listen dumb Yankee, wimps like you allow this stuff to continue. Step up and do what's right or I'll kick your a.s.s. too.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • BJ

      My brother, who is an avid conspiracy theorist, believes that this story is surfacing now because Penn State wanted Paterno to break Eddie Robinson's winning record first before the story broke. It makes you wonder...

      November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If, the 28-year-old graduate assistant had called the police as required by Penn law. The buck would
      have stopped there. It was his Responsibility to act. At this point it is not Paterno or The entire PSU bussiness.
      It is a criminal action.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Vince – if you were an eyewitness, wouldn't you stop what you saw immediatley? Wouldn't you call the police right away? Would you call daddy (cause your only 28 years old) and then deicide to wait 24 hours and then tell only a coach. Or if a janitor, just run out of the shower and t tell your janitor buddies. Thats what is digusting!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      the world is a sick and cruel place, yet watching you kick some old man around is somehow justified because well its your judgement And I guess that makes it ok. while your at it, why don't you pour some gas over his head and set him on fire too? then after your done beating him judge yourself for the crime you just commited.better yet go ahead and judge yourself now for that sick though and the threat you just comunacated to Joe and the whole world. Michael Jackson fondled little boys and we all knew it, so in a way we are all guilty. and the man that they claim is responsable for his death is guilty. Ironic isn't it? yeah pop corn for everyone!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Eric I now want to kick your a.s.s. too

      November 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dennis

    What a firestorm and the mob is still flying in to throw their own firebrands into the mix. Of course everyone who dropped the ball, more pointedly, who failed the kids, will eventually be lined up and while not publically shot, will be ruined for life and held in no better regard than Sandusky, the serial rapist. Hard to imagine how many other innocents were not identified in the Grand Jury investigation, but the actual reading of the GJ report is just sickening at every level. I expect Spanier will continue to do the wrong thing and will be fired quite soon, as will Paterno, by the Regents in a special meeting which could occur as early as this evening or tomorrow.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
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