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 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 — 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.
"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? 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.
God forbid that everyone doesn't act exactly as you'd wish.
If you want to think the worst of JoePa, by all means judge away.
He will always be one of my heroes.
So you're a kid toucher too huh?
The NAMBLA detector is off the charts!
So your heroes allow the raping of little boys. Another one right here. Sick!
You idiots make a lot of assumptions.
It's just one of the problems with people accepting your opinions at face value.
And, for that reason, sir, you are an unabler and the reason things like this continue to happen and not reported...all I can say is: What would you think if it was your son or grandson who was molested?
I would expect the Athletic Director to call the police after his subordinate (JP) informed him about what he was told by the the grad assistant.
And if Joe Paterno broke the law I would expect charges to be filed against him.
What I do know is that too many people are drawing too many conclusions based on very sketchy information.
Hey Ricky Lake, read the Grand Jury testimony. Nothing sketchy about that. Wise up.
Should I assume, Vince, that you think Joe witnessed the act? Or broke the law himself? Or did "nothing"? Or is going to have charges preferred against him?
In other words....wise up to what?
It might be better if you grew up a little.
Wow! It truly amazes me how many people feel they have the right to judge Joe Pa. The Grand Jury didn't find he did anything wrong; however, many people posting here do. The pervert was no longer employed under
Paterno when he was informed of "inappropriate conduct" a day after it happened. he then reported it immediately and assumed it was put in the proper hands. Joe Pa and his family have done more for children than anyone I know – and that I do know first hand. He is a man with true honor and integrity and all of you name-callers appear to simply be one thing....jealous. Though he may not have the winningest team every season, he is a truly remarkable coach. fight on Joe PA!
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing Joe Paterno did NOTHING to stop evil and therefore more boys were hurt...Joe Pa has that on his hands, no matter what you say
Wrong, Portia.....Paterno did do something. He informed his superiors about what he had heard. He did not witness the act himself.
Here is the situation, Sandusky retired from the PSU coaching staff in 1999, Paterno was told about a shower incident in 2002. thats 3 years after Sandusky was under Paternos supervision.
Put yourself in Joe's shoes. Lets say you were supervisor over Mr Smith. Mr Smith retires from his position and from time to time you see Mr Smith walking the halls at work even though he is no longer an employee nor under your supervision. One day Mr Jones walks into your office and says he saw Mr Smith with a 10 year old boy in the bathroom the day before last and that something inapropriate was going on. Would you have called the police? Would you have told your supervisor? and most imprtantly would you expect to be held responsible for Mr Smiths actions 10 years later?
This is what the media is doing to Joe Paterno. Now I am not calling for JoePA to step down, but I believe he will because he is an honorable man and that is what an honarable man would do..
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing
Nothing honorable about this man...he disgraced himself and he will not step down voluntarily because he is too self-centered and self-absorbed...what a waste...and, all for a game...wow...how can this nation face itself
If Joe Paterno wants to do what's best for Penn State and start the healing process he mush step down and resign before this weekend. There's no explanation except for covering up to protect the program that Paterno did enough with what he was told. You don't run to the AD and don't give it another thought. You go to the proper authorities and report everything you know. This is not a lets keep it in house and take care of it situation. Some of you blind defenders talk about Joe Paterno's superiors when in reality on that campus Paterno doesn't have any. He's that University and everyone knows it. Don't insult people's intelligence by suggesting he's some normal employee that told his bosses what's going on. The guy has been there for 60 years and rules the damn place.
Thank you..soooo true!
The graduate assistant should have called 911 and made sure this sicko didn't get out of the building before they got there. I would have rendered him unconcious before I called 911 but that's just me.
He's just another in the line of people you will never understand. What 28 year old man sees something like that and doesn't do anything? I would've beaten the hell of Sandusky if I walked in on him doing that to a ten year old boy.
After reading the indictment, there is no doubt school officials (and definitely Paterno) knew of Sandusky's sick proclivity for young boys well before his retirement in 1999. And based on the sheer number of school employees (VP, Director, Head Coach, Janitors, Coach Assistant, etc.) who turned their heads or concealed these acts from authorities, I assure you there is much more to come. This was a systematic cover-up with the sole objective of protecting the school's reputation and sponsor dollars. After reading the indictment, there is simply no other conclusion a reasonable mind could draw. What a shame!
Look into Schultz's role as VP. You will find that his job placed him in charge of the University Park Police... connect the dots.
I find it comical that the media who is not involved whatsoever with the case is weighing in with their opinion of who is responsible and who is not. Blame is being thrown around and the investigation just started. It's another sign of the soullessness of what America has become.
As a teacher in a school system, we have an obligation to report any types of complaints such as this to our principal. Then it is out of our hands. I think the coach did what his school set up guidelines to do. There is a specific way in which these complaints are handled and if he followed protocol, then he isn't legally responsible. As for the people above him, why they didn't further report it is in question.
Yeah, nicely put, Bunny..."legally"...he was morally responsible and let it go...for 10 years Sandusky could go on and continue his evil while Joe Pa basked in Penn State glory...he is only slightly less corrupt than Sandusky...
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing
Wow that is scary. What if you reported to the principal and nothing happened. Would you really keep your mouth shut and not wonder how many kids are going to be abused. I have a 7 year old son and this is making me paranoid. My heart breaks when I think of those kids
JoePa is considered a saint because he has not only built a storied program, he has donated money to improve the academics at Penn State. But the list in history is long of those who do things out of guilt. Andrew Carneige helped fund the construction of hundreds of libraries, even his partner Henry Clay Frick supported the arts. But both were central figures in the Homestead Riot that lead to the National Guard killing several of their own workers and set the labor movement back years. The story behind Nobel creating the peace prize after inventing dynamite is legendary. Rockefeller lived a long life and did some charitable things but never once left off the gas in ruining many smaller to mid size oil operations to build his empire. Maybe a case can be made that Paterno is no different than a long list of other figures who only do good to mask the guilt they feel for the tragedies they let occur.
Everyone knows damn well that Paterno and the entire school's administration needs to go. That's exactly what's going to happen as well.
Everyone, and every sports writer is asking Joe to resign, based on what he did, or did not do. HOWEVER, why in the hell are you not asking yourselves why the grad assistant who actually witnessed the "incident" in the showers report it to the police? If that person would have done the morally correct thing, no one would be asking for Joe's resignation now would they? AND please everyone stop playing the "moral" card. If we had morals in America, we would not be in the shape we are in.
Your point is absurd. Paterno was told by the grad assistant what he knew and did Paterno tell the police? Did he suggest that he and the grad student should go to the police? Paterno is in the same boat as that student as his judgement was terrible.
This is disgusting and disgraceful! Shame on you Joe Pa. Quit now, and maybe before you die you might...maybe...have a chance to redeem yourself for your silence. Probably not.
haters....all Bowden fans
Leave JoePA alone
Doing nothing is what got him into this mess. He's a great coach. But his morals and ethics can't survive this.
Not true, fool. I went to FSU and I felt that Bowden stayed well past his time. I was satisfied when he was forced out. He should have left on his own years earlier. JoePa, on the other hand, put his career before the wellbeing of a child and should be fired for it.
IGNORANCE! if you think this is about the sport........you are sad!
I’m not a PSU fan but does anyone remember Duke Lacrosse? Calling for JoePa to step down is ridiculous since no one has any facts yet.
I think JoePa just burried his head in the sand, hoping it would go away. It didn't, and he didn't do the right thing. It almost feels like everyone knew about it, yet burried their heads in the same sand as JoePa. Sorry, but they all need to go. If PSU has any integrity, they will act fast. Giggidy.
Agreed. Nicely stated.