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. jimmy

    The funny thing is that the guy is an awful football coach. PSU hasn't been relevant in over 20 years. Why does he have this hold over everyone in PA? He's a crappy coach.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • leesan

      You're absolutely right.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. M

      @jimmy: In the last 20 years, I recall 1 undefeated season, 2 Rose Bowl berths (1 won), 1 Orange Bowl win, an 11-4 bowl record, and 3 Big Ten championships. So I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      Yes, and you write posts on CNN news stories....I'll take his career over yours any day.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whome

      Are you saying he is as bogus as your mothers implants?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wakawaka

      Apparently he is the coach with the most wins of all-time or something. Oh and he is 150 years old and still has the ability to stand through a whole game.

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

      Currently 12th in the BCS is irrelevant? Won the Orange Bowl 5 years ago and ended the year ranked 3rd. (when Texas and USC paid.. err, I mean played for the national championship...)

      November 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      You've obviously missed the fact that Joe Paterno has made PSU into the UNIVERSITY it is today... You're only looking at football – the things he's done for ACADEMICS trump even what he has done in football.

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

      Not relevant in over 20 years??? You are either a fool, or don’t get out much.
      2005 & 2008 Big Ten Conference Co-Champions.
      Highest graduation rate in the Big 10
      Played Florida in the Outback Bowl last year.
      Most winning coach ever in major collegiate football.

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

      Exactly on the money. If I coached for 46 years I think I could amass that many wins as well. His "program" is a joke and has been for a very long time. What is there to idolize? Its not like he pulled off these wins in such a short time like Coach K at Duke or even Bob Knight at IU. We are talkng 1/2 OF A CENTURY.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jc

      What the hell are you talking about . Do you even watch football?

      November 10, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. jroll1

    The uniforms are hideous! look like practice unis'. And no Joepa, you didn't do enough! You should have gone straight to Sandusky and confronted him!!!! Time to go.....NOW!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jamie

    JoPa doesn't report up to anyone at State College. If he did the President of PSU would have had him step down awhile ago. Penn State is owned by Paterno. Paterno reported the incident and when nothing was done he forgot about it. And Curly didn't go to the President of the school to let him know what happened? They all knew and wanted it to go away as silently as possible. I bet Mcqueary was promised to be the football coach after Paterno stepped down for keeping his mouth shut. They all need to hand in their resignations. I'm glad that one of their top recruits for next year tweeted that he isn't joining Penn State.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John Rossi

      He should have resigned yesterday along with the president.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • John Rossi

      They are all culpable and have the guilt of everything post '02 on their collective- hands and souls.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Liz

    This is disgusting beyond words. Joe P. surely had the power to fire the stinkin' rat who was abusing the boys. The first concern for any teacher/coach/athletic director, call them what you want, should be the welfare of the students. How could any of these men have known this was happening and do nothing? They all make me sick. Retirement? No, fire all of them. FIRE them. And to the boys/victims – – why didn't any of them tell their parents or police?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Evian

      fire? how about take a baseball bat to him..

      November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Joepa couldn't fire Sandusky, he was already retired.

      I can't believe you just blamed the victims for not telling authorities. Jaw dropping.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • John Rossi

      Liz- we had a case here that involved 106 known victims- none came forward until their twenties- there was even video evidence- the guy to this day denies it- he got 70 years- this case went back to '94 as well- the kids came from poor households- little guidance- just like the kids Sandusky targeted- other than what Vick did I think this is the sickest form of crime- we are a weak species at times-

      November 8, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      You have obviously not informed yourself. This guy had long since retired and was not part of the PSU football program. Joe Paterno had no authority over him at the time any of this happened. He passed on what he knew to his superiors. THE END.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wvufan

    Joe reported what he knew. He did what he was supposed to do. It was in the Athletic Director's hands and he failed to react. No, Joe, do not go. Do not go out on a bad note with the history you have with Penn State. You go on your own terms.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John Rossi

      wvufan- crazy!!! He knew a predator existed and let it are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Should already be gone-

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Are you SERIOUS? So when the AD failed to act, it's perfectly okay that Paterno didn't take further action? All he had to do was tell his "superiors" and that absolves him of any further responsibility? Dude...LITTLE CHILDREN WERE BEING ABUSED, and all Paterno did was the bare minimum to avoid legal responsibility. He should have done more, and you must realize that. If he were just some anonymous schmo and not a legendary coach who you admired, you wouldn't be making this argument. Are you trying to convince us that he didn't do anything wrong, or are you trying to convince YOURSELF? I doubt you'll succeed at either.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • tks123

      A West Virginia University Fan, enough said.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Evian

    whomever failed to take action against this predator should be punished.. big time.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kyle G.

    He did what he was supposed to do by defined requirements. You're going to start throwing on "should haves" and "moral obligations"....really? I'd be willing to wager that everyone here, at one point in their life, failed at a "should have" or "moral obligation" and that they themselves often do what is required, and not an inch more. But now you're going to call for someone else's job because he didn't do what you think he should have done. Nice...stay classy, America.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. JoePa is innocent

    Paterno did nothing wrong. He notified the AD when a serious ALLEGATION against his FRIEND surfaced. Most coaches wouldn't even do that much. The AD chose not to dismiss Sandusky, which meant to Paterno that the ACCUSATION against Sandusky was not credible after a school-led investigation. JoePa did his job. Comparing this to what the Catholic church did is insulting to my intelligence and is a hyperbole if I've ever seen one ... for the record, I have nothing to do with Penn State or coach Paterno. People just can't believe that this could happen under Paterno's watch and he wasn't privy to it. Believe it. He's an old man with all he can do to run a football program.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      how can you say that without feeling morally sick to your stomach!!!!!!?????? he saw nothing was done, he should have gone to the police!!!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rachael

    Paterno should not step down. He did not witness anything. A graduate assistant told him of something he saw and he immediately told the administration. How could he call the police when he didn't witness anything? The graduate assistant should have called police if anything.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      I hope you are never in charge of anyone and they come to you with something this horrific and all you do is report it to your manager and you see nothing was done and just let the person keep molesting children......

      November 8, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. sdabby

    In recent years, it has been all about Joe. And the fact that he did the minimum and did want to rock the boat, is not a surprise.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. db

    Why? It was not his fault the preverted S.O.B. was preverted. He probalby wants to do like the rest of the saine world and kick the idiot out of the state. There is no excuse for this even in the gay world.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Gay? What does that have to do with anything here.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      what does gay have to do with this?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bob Schoenberger

    This is all so sad. I have been watching Penn State football since 1968 and I agree with most, Paterno did not do the morally right thing period. So standing there being pious is not acceptable anymore. He should do the right thing and admit his shortcomings in not reporting this to law enforcement and how morally reprehensible that was and resign today!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. TR in ATL

    RADICAL IDEA: In these stories, we always expect someone to step down from their job. Why? Personally, I think he had a moral obligation to react more strongly, so no question, he made a (major) mistake. Prosecute him if he did something illegal. Joe Pa has to live with the public scrutiny of his moral behavior, but why do we expect him to quit his job? Do you think he's a habitual moral threat? Do you think he's dangerous to the players or to society? I don't think so at all. He made a mistake, keep a close eye on him now if you think he's a threat to anyone. But we all need to be a little more humble and a lot less self-righteous.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      I like your last sentence. Some original thought for once on this thread.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. dkdek

    While I agree with the moral outrage that surrounds this case, I couldn't disagree more with people calling for the head of Joe Paterno. As someone who works in an organization with a well-established Risk Management Policy, I know the procedure. Anyone witnessing (or even suspecting) abuse has a responsibility only to report it to the person designated under their policy. They are NOT to investigate it, nor are they to be the person reporting it to police. If the person responsible does not report it, it is their head, not anyone else's. This is the way that has been dictated to us by the insurance companies and law enforcement.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • adamr73

      My company has the same policy. I know if my coworker came to me traumatized and said he just saw another coworker raping a little boy, I would fill out a report, turn it in and walk away without ever asking about it again. Seems reasonable. Especially when that other coworker admitted to nude showering with a little boy a couple years earlier. Nothing to see here.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      I'm not trying to be rhetorical, just trying to understand this "tell your supervisor" policy. What difference does it make where or who committed the crime? Do you go to your supervisor if the crime occurs in your workplace, and to the police if it occurs outside? Do you go to your supervisor if the crime is committed by an employee, and to the police if it is committed by a non-employee? What if the offender is an ex-employee? What if you don't know the offender's employment status? And what's the definition of supervisor? Does my supervisor then go to his/her supervisor, who then goes to their supervisor, etc. until it reaches the top of the organization? This policy makes no sense to me.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • dkdek

      Just to clear this up – this is a pretty standard policy for any organization that deals with children and minors. All employees and volunteers must be screened, have criminal record checks, and are trained in what to do. They know that they have direct access to report anything to the person who is organizationally responsible for reporting to police. But that is the end of their responsibility at the workplace. Sure they can help the traumatized, sure they can help ensure that it doesn't happen again, BUT, it isn't their place to investigate things on their own. Why not? Because it can very much interfere with the official police investigation. Sorry folks, but this is the route recommended by police and insurance alike. Of course if an incident is not work or workplace related, you have a personal responsibility to report it. So, if Paterno did not receive the full facts of what happened and he turned it over to correct authorities, that is where it ends for him. He needs to trust that it is being dealt with. What would have happened had it been a false reporting and he banished the guy and stirred up controversy? A lawsuit at the very least. I know that this seems a little hard to understand, however, having studied this and working in it (I am one of 2 people delegated to report anything in my organization) this is, for better or for worse, the way it needs to be.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Owen Johnson

    if it involves an underage male and joepa knew about and didn't notify the police-i don't care how many games he's won.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
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