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. Dave

    So sad. All these morally righteous people calling for Joe Paterno’s resignation – no let’s call it what it is – lynching for actions 18 years in the past. Isn’t hindsight wonderful who are we to understand and make such judgment for actions that many years ago? Where we there when he was told about the incident, where we there to give our opinion that he should immediately call the police based upon limited information about someone that he knew and knew as an upstanding person. Or perhaps he should take himself out of the equation offering no bias’s by following the established rules and reporting the incident to leadership. I just took a course at my employer where it’s stressed that whenever there is questions bring it to your leadership let the defined process work. Joe Paterno did the right thing he made no judgment either way instead he gave the system that was in place to address these types of issues the opportunity to do their job. There was a truly, and sadly, tremendous breakdown in the process and Penn State as an organization needs to be held highly accountable – this is a monstrous failure at every step but laying the blame and calling for Joe Paterno’s resignation is scapegoating he is a name and a brand which makes him a great and easy target.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn Q

      You don't seriously believe your own drivel do you? LOL. Coach knew, did nothing.... Game over. GAME....OVER.

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

      Well said.

      You should always do the bare minimum when your good friend is raping boys.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • gdoulaso

      Dave, if you found out that Joe Paterno knew about your 10 year old being molested and did not really follow through with would consider him a coward and call for his head. A man of honor would not allow the molestation of a child to get burried.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry

      JoePa's assistance coach in JoePa's locker room was molesting a child and JoePa knew about it.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      Exactly my point.. I do not know all the details and I hardly expect anyone else on these boards does as well. There are things that are going to come out here facts etc. Lets see where it goes why ask for someone to leave when he had nothing to do with it and reported what he was suppose to report. His bosses probably told him to do nothing they would take care of it. His job may have even been on the line at the time.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • hank

      Dave, legally I think Paterno acted appropriately, but morally, logically, humanely? Really? Do you have kids? What if your kid was being tortured and someone saw it and said, "I told my boss" and did nothing else.....and the abuse continued. For all we know the same kid was molested multiple times, when Paterno (or others) could have started screaming and yelling.... Yes Paterno has been a great coach, but he blew it here. Major moral and human failure.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wow

      Moron number 2 weighs in...

      November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • ultimate responsibility

      Look...noone I know is saying JoePa is responsible for the early molestations (2002) (unless he had prior knowledge over the previous 2 decades).

      But when you are IN CHARGE of an organization...the face...this man's coach and then boss for 20+ should not be satisfied when a HEINOUS CHARGE is leveled at him. You don't just send it up the chain of command and go out for a nice dinner at Olive Garden that night, hoping for the best. You expose it to the light of day, hoping it's false, but aware that failure to expose it could be devastating to others.

      Yes Sandusky is the main culprit...NOONE is defending him. But how you guys defend the cowardice of JoePa and others involved is mind-blowing. Where have the courageous, stand-up men gone? Disgraceful.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • dkdek

      Thanks Dave. These comments are littered with comments by people who no NOTHING about how much Paterno was told (apparently very little), nor do they understand the process. All they want to do is condemn without knowing the facts. Truth is, people can get fired from their position if they go against the established Risk Management Policy. Not only that, they can completely mess up the police investigation if they do followup by themselves (by tipping of the offender that someone knows). Another case of commenters speaking without having a clue.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn Q

      See: Irony dkdek......

      November 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      is not just him.....the others have stepped down but so should he and anyone else who knew and never reported to authorities

      November 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      Right on, Dave. I don't care a hoot about Penn State, college football or Joe Paterno, but it is so sad that there are so many clowns on here calling for Paterno's's the thing to do today, I guess. It reminds me of all the people standing with stones in their hands, ready to stone the adulterer, when Jesus said, "Let the one without sin cast the first stone." They all dropped their stones and walked away.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      Really?? And what if it was all a lie. Maybe the kid made it up because he was mad at said coach. Just saying that and making it public about someone could ruin someones life even if it was not true.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ultimate responsibility

      Art, if you want to go biblical, the bible also says, "Therefore, to him who knows to good and does not do it, to him it is sin."

      Obviously Paterno is not the MAIN culprit here. But he IS one of a group of people who failed MISERABLY to do the right, honorable, courageous thing. Had they, perhaps that boy would not have been subjected to further abuse, or others like him. How you continue to defend his enormous level of inaction is mind-boggling.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      First, it was 9 years ago, not 18 as stated below. Second, the law was clear. If you know of allegations of child abuse, you are required (please note the word is required) to report that abuse. It was not up to Paterno to decide what to do. The law is that way because too often people find it too hard to believe their friend could do that. He can argue that he technically did the minimum required by the law by reporting it to his superior. But really guys, was anyone at Penn his superior?

      It is our job as adults to help protect children. Certain people have an even greater responsiblity in this area. Teachers, mentors, priests, ministers, and coaches are in positions of great trust. We have a built in level of power over the people who come into our care. We are assumed to be looking out for the best interests of those placed in our care. There is NO greeater abuse of power than the abuse of this trust. And while Joe Paterno may not have been these children's coach, he was in a position to help them. I have to believe that a report from him about possible abuse would have carried enough weight to force an investigation that would not be shut down by internal Univeristy pressure, as the 1998 investigation seems to have been. While we have no way of knowing what would have come of such an investigation, if the allegations are proven, we will always wonder if there would have been at least a chance of stopping the abuse sooner. And if the investigation had shown no grounds for charges, the issue would not be the nightmare for Penn that it is now.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alfredo Fla.

    Well... I think this was a horrible thing that happened but I don't see Alumni, students, and faculty asking him to step down... it appears the overwhelming calls are just from editorial writers. I'm just saying... cnn is a bit over dramatic and once again jumping the gun.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      YOUR WRONG....I read over 3 articles today from one student and 2 former students saying how he should be out...and if your a parent, think about what your child would of gone through and for someone not to do whatever was in there power to help, you would be asking for a resignation.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chenzo

    JoePa sold his soul and now the devil has come to collect. At least he won't have to buy any more hair dye after he's fired.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. crabtown

    step down. he should be fired.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. d from east cost

    it's to my understanding that the 1998 allegation was brought to the attention of law enforcement and to Sandusky's charity, the second mile. Detectives from law enforcement were on the case, and oversaw a telephone conversation between the mother (who reported to police that her son was molested) and Sandusky. In the conversation, Sandusky admitted to the mother that he had in fact taken a shower with her son and that he would never do it again and that he knew it was wrong. However, the case was eventrually closed – it was dropped... why? Why was this case dropped in 1998????? Can someone please answer this question – please...

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

      Who is going to fire him? The whole administration from the President on down stinks to high heaven. This should scar Penn State for years to come. Absolutely disgusting. Great leader of men JoePa!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      I don't think it was authority "Police or Sheriff" I believe it was the campus security or whatever they want to call them.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deathstalker

    What a load of crap everyone assumes this and that. What if he told them and wanted to go farther up but they said they would take care of it and to do nothing. Maybe he was worried about his job and who knows what else. It is way to soon to judge anyone on this yet. What if Jerry Sandusky said he would kill Joe or someone in his family if he said anything to the police none of you know what might be going on behind those doors. More information will come out soon enough so stop getting overly excited about this. None of it has been confirmed and no convictions yet. Lets wait and see what comes about before we try to judge anyone.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. momma

    Paterno and his wife have a Catholic student center named for them being built on the campus. This guy is an embarrassment to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, atheists and everyone else who think pedophilia is wrong. I hope he slithers awqy and takes college Pres. Graham Spanier with him. As much as Paterno epitomized Penn State football, I cannot for one minute believe he was clueless as to the activities of Sandusky–same for Spanier. they wanted to protect their own image, as well as the "squeaky clean" image of Penn State. Soon, maybe some of these clowns can go from Penn State to the "State Pen"!!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave Mathers

    Has anybody considered that these charges are not correct? Innocent until proven guilty? Paterno was probably following the University's 'protocol' with his actions in reporting to his superiors and he should not be fired and/or forced to retire. His record is impeccable and that should be respected.

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

      ARE YOU FOR REAL?! did you read the indictment report? he reported what the student saw but after he saw nothing was going to be done he had a moral obligation to contact authorities.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff

    Joe has had to deal with better monday morning quaterbacks than the likes of you brain donors on a witch hunt his entire professional career.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      Speaking of brain donors, are you looking for one? .........A brain that is!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Discusted

    The real question is did the police and the district attorney do what they were obliged to do. Did they seek to prosecute this person when first notified. I bet not. It's sad this thing wasn't taken care of immediatly. I assume that Joe Paterno would have assumed that he was investigated and cleared.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    Did the pope step down when those around him were raping boys? No? Well, then I think Paterno shouldn't resign. He did not cover it up and sweep it under the rug, like the catholic church did with all their pedophiles.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bmac

    Am I the only one who has read the indictment in this case? Has anyone read the section that talks about when Joe informed the AD and gave his testimony? I'm pretty sure it said 2002. I'm also pretty sure that Sandusky was no longer employed as the assistant at that time and had not been since '99. Pretty nasty business that Joe is going to get his name smeared for this when it appears to me that he's the only one who did the right thing. We are only assuming that he had prior knowledge of the earlier incidents while Sandusky was a coach. Joe tips off the university that the guy is dirty when he gets wind of it in 2002. He's no longer under his command at the time. As a result of the testimony, other victims come forward. We are going to hang Joe on his supposed knowledge that there were others? Why do you think he's not listed in the indictment?

    Read the timeline...
    1999 - Sandusky retires from Penn State
    March 2, 2002 - a graduate assistant allegedly tells Coach Joe Paterno
    March 3, 2002 - Paterno reports the incident
    ....November 8, 2011 - Joe takes the fall and Happy Valley is no longer a happy place. SAD!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Vic

    Everyone at the University who knew and did nothing needs to step down. There's no room for arguments.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matt

    Everything I heard says that Paterno told the AD, the police were involved and gathered evidence and took it to the DA. Have not seen anything suggeest he did nothing. The DA dropped it. So that would mean JoePa had second hand knowledge of a possible act of misconduct that the police had investigated but not pursued. In retrospect I wish he had said something publically and dealt with the likely lawsuit against him and the university, but at the time...

    November 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      You can't read very well. He did NOt take it to anyone except the AD.....even with an eyewitness account. He would never be sued with an eyewitness as his evidence. You must have your PSU football helmet on backwards or are just blind.

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

      Why didn't he just call the cops that night?

      November 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vic

      People it's over for Paterno and all the higher ups at Penn State. Excuse the pun but they fumbled this situation about as bad as any case I have ever heard of. Get your head out of the clouds people. Paterno will not be riding off into the sunset a hero as this incident violently shakes up this University. If you think it's bad now wait until the massive law suits and the other victims you know are out there.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melvynman

      Where did you hear that? He did has little has he could. He is a now a disgrace and disgraced Penn State.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emmy Skaddittle

      but if you new one of your employees did this would you continue to put him in a situation where he has access to children

      November 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I never said he took it to the police. I said they were involve and conducted an investigation. The DA got the evidence and did nothing. If he had gone to the AD and then there was no investigation then I would be saying he shuold have gone to them directly, but since they were alerady involved why would he go to them? I actually coudn't care less one way or the other, but was just curious if I had missed a fact since most people are clearly blaming him despite the apparent lack of data. I agree in advance most people are morons though.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Whome

    Lets persecute a good man for the sins of others just because you are a hater.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      OK, let's forget about his moral responsibilities to protect young children as long as you are popular and give lots of money to good causes. You could say the same about was only 8 kids. He has helped hundreds.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uniblob

      A good man would not ignore the welfare of a small child. So you are mistaken; he IS NOT a good man.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
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