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. d from east cost

    SOMEONE PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION – 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 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Well maybe it had something to do with him being Joe's assistant football coach an the college of Penn State. Not a hard one to figure out, especially when most the crimes took place in the facilities on the campus of Penn State.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • d from east coast

      I've just reviewed the jury report again... the University police investigated the 1998 allegation, NOT outside law enforcement – HOWEVER – THE CENTRE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY DECIDED THAT NO CRIMINAL CHARGES WOULD BE FILED. THE DETECTIVE (from the university) WHO INTIALLY INVESTIGATED THE ALLEGATION WAS TOLD BY THE HEAD OF THE UNIVERSITY POLICE TO CLOSE THE CASE DOWN. this is directly from PAGE 19 OF 23 FROM THE THE JURY REPORT.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mark Schurr

    If the allegations are true, than all involved should do jail time including Peterno. Freind or foe, raping young children needs an immediate whistle blower.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. what took so long?

    what took so long? does the state want his pension now?

    November 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Vince

    So many excuses for Joe from Penn State apologists. He's a nice guy and has won so many football games, it's not his responsibility. The fact of the matter is Joe knew the accusations surrounding his assistant coach for years and did nothing to help these children. No excuse, he failed to follow up. Stop protecting these creeps and step up in life when you see injustice and act accordingly. Read the Grand Jury testimony and chronology of events and maybe you'll understand.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • scruffy

      as a penn state alum (class of '99)...i'm with you. i'm disgusted that paterno, spanier, schultz, curley and (i'll assume) all their damn spouses had knowledge of the fact that mcqueary walked in on sandusky with a young boy.

      those defending paterno?? that's everything wrong with the world....95% of the world doesn't do the right thing. most people refuse to step in, do the bare minimum, turn their heads, etc. for christ's sake people - he clearly was a pedophile - and you make sure that the guy that was caught with a little boy is NOT allowed to run a charity for kids or be around them EVER again. that's what you should do.

      it's the right thing to do, the common sense thing to do, and not just doing your damn legal obligation.

      i'm disgusted. all of these individuals chose to turn their heads. if i was married to one of these guys and i learned of this event...i assure you that sandusky's ways would have been brought to the world's attention. and if someone wanted to stop me...then they'd have to kill me. and it'd be worth it on my part. and i would have popped a bullet in some of these guys' kneecaps for brushing it under the damn carpet. their hands are all dirty...they are part of a chain of events that could have been stopped. they are all guilty.

      if they did the right thing...sandusky wouldn't have been coaching camps at penn state behrend this past summer. if they did the right thing...sandusky would never have been allowed to touch another kid again.


      what a sad day, once again, to be a human.

      do what's right, people. forget about "me me me". it's a disheartening world when people care more about their paychecks, their comforts, their reputations, their cushy lives, and basically themselves than the well-being of those being wronged.

      those kids needed an adult in their corner...penn state gave them only one: sandusky.

      disgusting. fire them all, let their cozy lives crumble, and let them sit in on a therapy session of the (at least) 8 kids that sandusky molested. let them hear the pain that this man caused them ... and their choice to do pretty much nothing caused.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tony DEBottis

    I am sure if Joe saw what happened in stead of being told he would have done more. He reported it. Suppose it turned out to be not true, then what? Higher ups were suppose to handle it. Leave the guy alone. He has more morals than half of u who are making comments. Retire him. He appeared in front of grand jury and told his side. enough.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sally harper

    My question is why did those boys keep coming back for more?

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

      You're a sick person.

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

      You're kidding, right? No one can be THIS naive.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lordpet

    Doesn't Paterno have a bigger responsibility than just reporting to a Dean? We're talking about a man running a charity for kids who was boffing said kids in the Penn showers. Paterno has to do more than hide behind "well I followed the organizational chart procedures".

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

    AS far as I can tell the Coach did what he should have done reported it. The guy who actually seen what was going on could have reported it to the police and anyone up the chain could have. I do not see how in any way it was Joes responsibilty to report it to the police. If anyone should have it was the guy who walked in on them in the shower or his dad. The coach pushed it up to his supiriors which is what he should have done. If he had walked in on it in the shower then maybe he would have went strait to the police. Taking he said/ she said at face value is never a good idea for all he knew the kid was telling a big lie for any number of reasons.

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

      You are very naive.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Whome

    Barney Frank is a pervert, Bill Clinton is a degenerate run those stories into the ground.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Leader

    I don't think Joe Pa should be hung out to dry here. He did do the right thing by reporting, but his knowledge of the incident should be thoroughly investigated. If investigated and he withheld information then he should be held just a responsible as the perpetrator of these horrible acts. If his knowledge of the incident ended after reporting then so be it. I know that's hard for people to accept because he is on such a pedestal and they see him as ruler of all, but Joe Pa has always said, he's just a football coach, that's what he loves to do. So all you wanting to crucify the guy without proof, should take a breath and realize it's not his responsibility to be an investigator as well.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. just wondering

    Before crucifying Coach Paterno, do some more research instead of casting media-based judgements, the POLICE knew about alleged inappropriate activity between Sandusky and another supposed victim in 1998. So, why did the police do nothing then?? And why did it take the DA until 2009 to look into the case? And the VP who is currently facing perjury charges tied to this case was the Comissioner for the Campus Police, so YES, in a sense, he DID report it to the police.

    FSU Alum '07

    November 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. EastCoastMike

    If Penn State doesn't fire Paterno then the NCAA should ban him from ever coaching again. He had the chance to prevent more abuse but he chose to protect his buddy instead.....

    November 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Terps76

    Let them all become Priest!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ThaGerm

    OK, going to say this one more time. I work at a university, and I can assure you that the protocol for witnessing a crime is to call Campus Security and/or 911. It IS NOT to tell your boss a day or two later. I love JoePa and I am sick that his reputation will be tarnished this way, but the fact remains that he DID NOT follow proper protocol when witnessing a crime, violent or otherwise and that is a fact.

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

      And that goes for a reported crime as well since he didn't actually see it. He is still required to report a crime to security as soon as he has knowledge of a crime being committed.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Divestrong

      Except that he didn't witness a crime...

      November 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker


      November 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      How was he to know it was not slander. How was he to know it was not a load of crap. He had no way of knowing what it was. All he knew to do was take it to his boss and say hey you need to look into this I dont know what to make of it but if its ture his head needs to roll etc etc etc...

      November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      Deathstalker must be a PSU graduate.....both in response and spelling.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Divestrong

      Deathstalker – how was he to know? HOW ON EARTH COULD HE NOT CARE TO FIND OUT???

      November 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      An employee of mine came to me and said a co-worker had been shot.......but since that was second hand info I choose not to call an ambulance becasue they might have billed me.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      I could care less about PSU or the fact that a misspelled something. I also don’t like in any way shape or form the entire state of Pennsylvania. What I see is people talking about how someone didn’t do what he should have when they know nothing about it.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      When someone gets shot its pretty easy to look at them and be like OMG you are bleeding all over the place. Not the same thing or even close.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThaGerm

      Maybe half of you should read the entire post that states that I understand that he did not personally witness a crime, the other half should read the part about where I actually work at a university and these are the rules. You don't have to even witness a crime, if ANYONE reports an ALLEGED crime you are REQUIRED TO REPORT IT TO SECURITY.

      You ignorant a$$es can argue all you want, but I RECENTLY attended a meeting discussing this very topic at my job at a freakin UNIVERSITY. Do any of you posting on this quote have ANY such experience or are you just spouting off about what you "think" the answer is?

      November 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Longshanks

    The trouble with Scotland is that it's full of Scots

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