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. verysimple

    anyone that knew about the claims and kept it quiet from child services or the authorities should be fired and charged with covering up or failing to report a crime. if this were your son or litte brother that was a victim none of you saying leave JoePa alone would sit back and be this kind. I have no respect for the school an longer.

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

      I think you are right-on on all points. ESPECIALLY about "if this was your son or brother". We wouldn't have a fraction of the issues in this country that we do if people would just use that logic.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Willy Brown

    Joe Pa is getting smeared by the press.

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

      A right wing conspiracy

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

      JoePa is getting smeared by his own lack of judgement and lack of action. It's only being reported by the press.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MIKE

    You cannot tell me that Joe didn't know Sandusky was a pervert. that is why he phased him out slowly-they were good old boys-just like the pope and the bishops.

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

      And you know

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

      Diana, because this is how the good 'ol boys work when it's one of their own.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diana

      Okay Mike, I take back my first comment b/c I just read the indictment. Gross. Yes, I'd have to agree that Paterno likely did know what was up. Gross.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Vic

    Reports are that Sandusky had an office on campus and was still in the weight room working out as late as last week. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know than nothing else will.

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

    I can't believe how many people will downplay Paterno's part in protecting a pedophile on this blog. They probably applaud Bernie Madoff for making billions no matter how he did it......where did he go to school?

    November 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deathstalker

    As far as I can tell Joe did exactly what he should have done. He didnt know the facts he just knew what was said and it is all he said / she said talk he didnt know if it was fact or not. He probably knew the coach well and respected him thinking he would never do such a thing and it was slander how is he to know. So he did what he should have reported it to his boss and called it good. If he had facts and not he said / she said then maybe he would have acted different. If for instance he had been the one to walk in the locker room and see that going on in the shower he probably would have beat him called the police and been the star witness.

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

      It's not slander to report an incident to the police. The police conduct an investigation and see what the evidence is.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      It is slander if the kid is making it up.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karla

      O what power and greed does to a person, leaves them with no moral values and no dignity and willing to protect the evil doings of others.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladyin pa

      JoPa did the bare minimum..AD was his boss on paper, JoPa runs that school.
      He continued to let that man on campus w/kids,,he knew he was a molester, he could have had him banned from campus. so many boys would not have been hurt.
      Grad Asst. that told Joe , AD is not a coach for the team..go figure,

      November 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Respect

    Regardless of what happened, JoPa should have resigned years ago. From the reports coming out, the guy can barely form a complete sentence. He's a walking, drooling, mumbling fool. Time to move aside and help the team increase productivity. Stop draining Social Security and medical for pete sake and just resign.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Glenn Q

    You guys (and gals) really need to read the affidavit before commenting. Look it up. It's horrible beyond words. Sandusky all but admitted his behavoir.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vic

    The big money trustees will demand that everyone involved with this at the school is out of there.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. teleman jones

    Let me start by syaing that I am not now, nor ever have been a Penn State fan. I root against them at every opportunity because I find their fans to be unbearably annoying. However, I have never understood how fickle the fans opinions are when it comes to Paterno. When they are winning he is "Joe Pa", when they are losing, he is an old fool who needs to go. In my opinion, he has always behaved with dignity and tried to do the right thing. It sounds like he acted reasonably given the information he had. Unless more info comes to light, shouldn't you stand behind him?

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

      When good men do nothing, they get nothing good done. To be good, one must do good.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Curt

    He'll retire and be die within a month, like Andy Rooney.

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

      Andy Rooney coached as many games as JoPa in the last twenty years: exactly zero

      November 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Karla

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

    When good men do nothing, they get nothing good done. To be good, one must do good.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Adam

    Anyone defending Paterno saying he did his job and isn't responsible in my opinion is very misguided. He did the bare minimum by telling the AD, and since this didn't get reported to the proper authorites, the police, it allowed Sandusky to continue abusing young boys for years. Read the Grand Jury's findings and it will make you feel sick when you see what Sandusky did to theses young boys. Paterno has to go as well as the rest of the coaching staff, and most likely the AD, the Head of Business and Finance guy and probably the President of the University as well. Lastly, Sandusky showed up at a Penn State Football practice in 2007 with a young boy by his side well after Paterno was informed of what Sandusky had done and Paterno didn't say or do anything about it. That is inexcusable. The entire coaching staff will be gone and the University will bring in a new head coach and assistant coaches to move on from this horrific situation.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    What about the people who witnessed it? Shouldn't they have called the police? Why was it OK for them to tell their superiors (Paterno) and not the police, but not OK for Paterno? Also what about the parents?

    November 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricky

      The person who witnessed it was a young grad student. A kid is expected to make mistakes like that, not a guy like Paterno.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Everyone else would have called the police immediately because a graduate assistant told them they witnessed a molestation– yeah right! The assistant needs to be held responsible, not Joe– he did not witness anything! If I was Joe, I would not have known what to do since I did not see anything directly. It's amazing how many fake good samaritans we have on this forum.

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

      Samaritan? Joe has been there for 60 years and rules that school. Buildings there and the library are named after him and his house is a shrine and is blocks away from the campus. Are you seriously trying to make him out to be some average sole on this campus that came across this information?

      November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deathstalker

      How was Joe to know it wasn’t an out and our lie by the kid? He had no way of knowing what it was why go to the police he had no facts or evidence and witnessed nothing..

      November 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stewie

      Why would he lie? He works for Paterno? It is a serious issue? I am not saying Paterno is the only guilty person....everyone who knew or what the eyewitness said is at fault and maybe not criminally but somehow held accountable.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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