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. Some Things

    Some things just matter more than others. Anybody who would not stop this activity against a child is as guilty as the doer of the abuse.Papajoe [?] needs to apoligize and step down. The others need to be tried by their peers.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. PP

    HE NEEDS TO STEP DOWN! ANyone that does this to an innocent child should be shot. How could Joe P. not have saved these poor innocent children from this monster?!?! And they did nothing about it just to save his image?! What an awful story and what a way to go down Joe could've been a hero but now this is what you will be remembered for...what a shame!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jake

    It happened in PA, so what does Newark, NJ and NY Post get a quote and mention for? Newark is in metro NYC and NY is of course NY. Since this is a PA thing – not a NY thing, they should have quoted some Philly papers instead! Always trying to put NY into something that does not concern NY!

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

      Hear Hear!!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      true, and I hope PA newspapers are also as clear as the NY and NJ newspapers!!! JOE MUST GO!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. matt

    I'd like to point out that so far all we have is grand jury testimony. While these statements are considered legal fact, just like any sort of forensic evidence, they also don't contain all of the facts. They are obtained through a prosecutor's examination of witnesses, without any cross-examination, without any legal counsel for the witnesses. The prosecutor is not obliged to solicit facts that may strengthen the defense's case, or even solicit facts that allow the witnesses to save face.

    The point I'm trying to make is that Paterno and McQueary may very well have followed up with law enforcement or the administration, or McQueary may have had a reason for not intervening on the spot, but the prosecutor had no obligation to uncover those facts. The prosecutor wasn't necessarily trying to malign the witnesses. It's just that those facts would be irrelevant to building the case against Sandusky, and building a case for probable cause which would allow the arrest warrants to be served. That's the sole purpose of the grand jury presentment here.

    I fully expect that once this goes to trial, the questions about who followed up with who will be answered under oath. I'm not defending Joepa or McQ, I'm just saying that there aren't enough facts available yet to affirm guilt or innocence.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian L.

      Thank you for a clear-headed response.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Starman

      The evidence is in. Joepa did not act on credible information. He believed enough to report a whitewashed version to the AD. He did not take further action to protect a victim. Far as is known he did not contact Sandusky and ask if it was true. No, Joe must go. Fast. The longer he stays, the worse he will look.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PaulNYC

    My personal opinion and conjecture is that Paterno was probably involved in the cover-up, caring more about Penn State and his own legacy than about any of the victims of a serial predator. This entire thing is sickening and it makes me sicker that people think loyalty to a person or organization is more important than justice or the law.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      don't forget the "victims" were just poor black loser kids

      November 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ben Roethlisberger

    mE LyKe fOoTbALL

    November 8, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • TommiGI

      Hey Ben, you tossed another interception that resulted in a TD. Are you going to do this every week? You know in a tie the Ravens win because they beat you twice during conference play.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SwilliamP

    I am a '74 PSU grad and I think Paterno did the minimum legally required-but that was insufficient for something like this. He should 'retire' and unfortunately it will be in deserved disgrace. This does mimic the Catholic church. That was a litany of whitewash, wrist slaps and denied justice...

    November 8, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    Ok ... so let me understand this .... since is the media (as quoted throughout this piece) is calling for him to be ousted.... that substantiates this matter. Please ... go play golf if this is such a slow news week for you the media. I'll wait for someone credible to comment further on the PennState, JoePa matter.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Starman

      But Tim, Sara and Michelle are busy this week.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Starman

    Can't say it ain't so Joe, so just go. Do it now, like it was your idea and the right thing to do. Being on the sidelines Saturday would only further tain't the retirement.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe Linebacker

    One to many happy endings in Happy Valley

    November 8, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dutch Cartoon fan

    He should definitely step down because of that, and because he's about 200 years old and football passed him by a decade or two ago.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. TommiGI

    These felonies are darn serious. Heads should roll all the way up. Otherwise it looks like a cover-up. Exclusion, a free pass or a whitewash cannot be tolerated in this case. If mercy based on years of service are opted for then let him retire but all involved regardless of the extent must go.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. BethInGeorgia

    People seem to forget that Sandusky had already retired when JoePa heard of the incident. Forcing JoePa out doesn't do anything – it was Sandusky that is accused. Not Joe Paterno. People seem to forget that.

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

      Missed the whole thing did you Beth?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • adamr73

      Joe did nothing wrong. Do the minimum...pass the buck....and wash your hands clean of it. What a fine, decent human being.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • PSU Fan

      I agree Beth!

      Starman, though I seriously doubt that you are a star or much of a man, have you ever heard the saying "better to remain silent and be thougt the fool, than to speak and prove it"? Well, they must have had you in mind when they came up with it!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GeoC

    We should first get all the facts before rushing to judgement concerning Joe Paterno. But we love tearing people down. Then there is the media and the need to sensationalize to sell magazines, newspapers and advertising. So what exactly did the grad student tell Joe?

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

      What facts are you interested in Geo?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. WooHoo77

    Pen State has to cut its losses......way to screw up a great career trying to protect a pedophile.

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