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. MIT

    Come to Papa!

    November 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morg

      Please pick up the powered soap!

      November 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. d from the east coast

    ***Read the Report** 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 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. not even a penn state fan

    innocent until proven guilty

    November 8, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. not even a penn state fan

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    November 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stephanie

    Actually, it is required by law to report even suspected child abuse, and not doing so is a punishable crime. I realize that there are several people in this situation who ultimately failed to do what they should have done, and because of that, more children were left defenseless, but saying you should not report child abuse because you did not witness it yourself is a terrible excuse. I am a social worker and have worked at the abuse hotline in another state. I can;t imagine how many children would continue to be abused if we didn't receive reports from teachers, parents, friends, or professionals who suspected something or saw a bruise or something like that. Even if you do not witness abuse, does not mean you should not report it, and in this case, any of the men who knew, saw, or suspected what was going on, failed these children by not reporting it directly to law enforcement or a child welfare agency. To all of those on here who feel he did what he was supposed to do by reporting it to his superiors, the law requires all "mandated reporters," those people who are licensed or employed by the state (doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and even football coaches) to report abuse yourself, and telling your boss doesn't count. It won't count on the record as you fulfilling your obligation to report it. Obviously most school districts, companies and individuals don't realize this, but regardless of whether he fulfilled his legal obligation, why do you care? Why would you be unwilling to risk your big salary or your winning season for the safety of a child?

    November 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • dean

      Agree, these people worked together for years. Joe had to know this was still going on and did nothing because he didn't want the school and his little world turned upside down. WELL,IT'S ABOUT TO BLOW UP IN YOUR FACE, JOE

      November 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nicole

    I've yet to hear anything mentioned about this grad student who, if we believe him, witnessed a child being rapped or at the very least molested, and instead of him whisking the child to safety and calling the police, he called his dad for advise ( who also apparently didn't think a 10 year old boy being sodimized was worth calling the police over), then he reports it to the coach THE FOLLOWING DAY!!!! This grad student should have to answer for his lack of action along with everyone else who failed these children.

    November 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony In Largo

    No Joe Paterno does not have to go. He reported an incident that he had knowledge of immediately when it happened. He did the right thing. Should we penalize someone simply because they were in the vicinity of an up-to-this-moment reported crime? I don't think so. Joe Paterno is not and could not be accuser, judge, jury and executioner. No one can be that. I didn't attend Penn State ,but Joe Paterno has done nothing wrong and he doesn't have to go, period. Joe Paterno is an American Hero and Icon, and Lord knows that we need some more like him nowadays.

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

      I totally agree with you Tony. My God people wake up. Those of you calling for Joe Paterno to step down are wrong. You and much of the print media are treating Coach Paterno like he was the one who commited these terrible crimes.
      He did the right thing by reporting the incident to his superior. It was up to that individual to take proper action. You want to call for blood, then direct your anger at the guy who was messing around with these young kids and those people above Joe Paterno who should have called the police. Stop and think what Joe Paterno has done for Penn State in his
      40 plus years there. That man has given his life to Penn State and this is how he gets paid back??? Its not right PERIOD.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • CullThePopulace

      Hero? NO FOOTBALL COACH is a freaking hero. WAKE UP AMERICA. Your priorities are in the WRONG PLACE. Idiots!

      November 9, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tron

    I just read the full report. There were a couple of people, the graduate assistant and the janitor, who were both eye witnesses to henious crimes and both failed to report anything to police. The graduate student at least reported it to someone. But both of these people walked away WHILE the kids were being abused! They just left these kids there to be abused. They walked away and the janitor and his pals never said a word because they didnt want to lose their job. Yes, by all means, keep your jobs! These people make me sick.

    The irony is that the janitor was quoted as saying that this was something he would never forget. He has dementia now and is in a nursing home. Lucky for him. His victims are the one's that will have to live with his cowardice.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • CullThePopulace

      The sickness in society is exacerbated by the greedy, guilty rich like Paterno and all these losers in college/pro sports.

      Our society glorifies a guy that can run with a ball.
      But we don't reward the truly intelligent and gifted when it comes to feeding the world, developing new ideas, scientific discoveries, etc. But most Americans can recite a litany of worthless statistics about a college sports team or athlete.
      What a joke. Morons.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. mac316

    why did'nt paterno confront sandusky about it instead of just letting it slide by . JUST TO KEEP HIS COACH??? C'MON

    November 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diz Denooch

      Prime example of an uninformed statement, and proof that people are jumping to conclusions based on one-sentence headlines.

      I'll explain...again. At the time of the incident that was reported to Paterno, Sandusky was retired, and no longer a coach with the university. Get your facts straight by reading the darn grand jury report.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • CullThePopulace

      Exactly. Something like this should have been reported to Law Enforcement immediately. WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR SON that had been molested" I'd have that old man's head on a platter.

      GUILTY for not contacting authorities. JOE is OUT.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mmmmm

    You have h0m0s€xua!s wolves hiding behind
    p€d0ph€lic fox clothing when will Americans realized that these deviant predatory behaviors are not a benign presence...

    November 9, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mmmmm

    You have h0m0sx-wolves hiding behind
    p€d0ph-fox clothing when will Americans realized that these deviant predatory behaviors are not a benign presence...

    November 9, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. tam paliotti

    i have been listening all morning, I am a huge Penn state i was at the northwestern last year when he got the big win, however on this scandal i have herd he should do this he should do that. my question why diddent the person who saw the act in the showers call the police themselfs i have been to that university iam sure he could have found a phone or he could have used the coaches office phone, common mannnnnnnnnnnn we should learn what we say as people could change a outcome in any ones life let the investigation take its toll as far as paterno goes he the godfather of college football

    November 9, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • CullThePopulace

      Paterno is now the "Dope on a Rope" swinging in the shower.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ben

    The media seems to be doing all they can to short-wire a direct connection from Paterno to the acts themselves. The last two media quotes make that very clear: Taken on their own, one would have a hard time realizing from just those two quotes that it wasn't Paterno himself who committed the alleged acts. Oh, how they do love to create sensation! Especially when they can sense perceived weakness.

    But, honestly....Paterno received hearsay from an eyewitness, so he really even had nothing with which to go to police. He acted to the degree ALLOWED to him by the system. It's the only window he had on the situation. And, apparently, the system was starting a criminal investigation from what he reported, and it was then shut down by the top administrators. (This is according to comments I've read. I've not read the jury report.)

    November 9, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      The comments here and the apparent scandal seem like a prime example of people making up their minds based on what they want to believe, instead of making a fair assessment based on facts.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. CullThePopulace


    November 9, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Typical Penn State Alum Moron


      Joe Pa loves me
      This I know
      'cause my cornhole tells me so

      November 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CullThePopulace

    Read the report and you will be sickened. And Paterno knew. All those counts and all those years and he did nothing.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Lori

      Who is the real villian here? By focusing on Paterno and not Sandusky, you are all guilty of the same thing your accusing Paterno of – not reacting to the real crime. See how easy it was to do exactly what you're criticizing someone else of doing?

      November 9, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      Lori keep telling yourself that.......PLEASE


      November 9, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
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