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 SI.com.
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.
"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 CNN.com.
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.
TIME.com'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.
He is a coach, not an administrator. Any administrative action has to come from administration after it is reported to them. If they failed, now look at them for any firing or dismissial for malfeasance in office.
Yes he is a coach....isn't he also a human being? What he did allowed CHILDREN to be scarred for life.....do you get that??? BE HUMAN....It would appear that you don't have children of your own. If you do then your comments are even MORE ridiculous!
FIRE JOE PA
By protecting a Molester, how many more children where taken advantage of? That's SICK!
FIRE THIS MONSTER
What happened to turn the other Cheek, Reverand?
Turning the other cheek ends when multiple children are being violated.
He had his chance for salvation, but instead put more people in danger.
Well Rev, Joe isn't a monster, as far as we know. He didn't do anything wrong, he just didn't do anything. I would say he is a moral coward, who put other interests ahead of those of a known and potential future victims.
All you people who condemn someone when you don't even have a quarter of the facts should be ashamed of yourselves.
Good point lets find out the facts first. But I will say that if even 1/4 of the facts are accurate he has to go.
Presumably JoPa, morally has fallen short of his moral obligations if these allegations are true. However, on the field and in his position, this man has not been found to have done anything illegal. With all these quotes about christianity and catholicism I am reminded of one particular quote which I'm sure everyone has heard at some point in their lives, regardless of faith. The quote goes some like, "Let he whom has not sinned, cast the first stone". While this particular case deals with something more morally significant, of all the naysayers, I'm sure there are few if any that have reported every single wrongdoing they've ever seen and followed up on it to ensure law enforcement was brought in. We're all human and make mistakes. JoPa should not retire unless he deems it is his time.
I will cast the first stone then. There are transgressions, which we all are guilty of and there are sins, with few of us are guilty of. This is a SIN.
WOW, These comments are sad. People are obvoilsly more concerned about winning football games than correcting terrible lapses in judgement. As someone who has responsibiluty to protect kids in my care, I have specific instructions on how to handle abuse. JoPa failed miserably in many areas when dealing wtih his longtime friend but mainly in his responsibility to immiediately remove the person in question, regardless of guilt, from the situation until a judgement of guilt or innocence is reached. The charges are sickening, I read the indictment.
Paterno and the university president must go. This moral irresponsibility does not warrant the 6- and 7-figure salaries that my tax dollars are paying.
Tax dollars don't pay for athletic programs skippy. You aren't paying for jack.
If Paterno ran his football program like J Edgar Hoover ran the FBI with spies, phone wire tapes, paid informants, extortion, bribery, and 24 hour camera surveillance, he would have known about Sandusky. Paterno is running a football program, not a police state
As an educator, he should be a mandated reporter. And when I say "mandated reporter" I mean he should have reported it to an appropriate channel...like the police or child welfare agency, not his supervisor. He failed miserably.
I was wondering about this because I assumed that someone in his position would be a mandated reporter, therefore breaking the law by not reporting it. I don't know enough about it though.
If he had witnessed the incident, I would agree. But he was told. He raised the issue to the approriate level. What would he tell the police ? Someone told me something they may have or not have heard from someone else. Would you go to the police and report something some one told yo that you could not confirm ? Or would have to conduct an investigation to confirm ?
@jrzydvl – hearsay is plenty of reason to give law enforcement the heads up. Hearsay is sufficient to open an investigation. Just not sufficient to convict in the court of law.
@kate – technically Schultz was the head of University Police. I don't recall if Joepa contacted Shultz directly, or instead went through Curley. In any case I wonder if this would be considered "going to law enforcement"? Not sure.
What no one seems to understand here is falsely accusing someone of kid touching is a serious allegation as well. Joe heard the information from a source (who didn't relay the info to police either) he himself WAS NOT a witness so he reported it to his supervisor and expected them to dig into this matter and alert the authorities if the need called for it. How do we know that he didn't follow up with authorities because Curly and Schultz (men whom Paterno trusted) said 'yeah we took care of it and it was a false accusation'. Why would he follow up on that if he trusted these men? Paterno wanted to make sure there was 100 percent credibility to the allegations (WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD DO) before they report a serious allegation like this to police. What if an assistant lies and a coach reports it to police. The person in question would be subjected to media scrutiny, university scrutiny, family scrutiny and public scrutiny all because noone bothered to get the fact. Now in this case the Athletic Director lied, VP lied but JoePa didn't lie. But without JoePa's face this is NOT a front page story. Unfortunately thats the way our media goes and public opinion goes the way of the media so because of such a storied 46 year career will end because the man with the most recognizable face will be held more responsible then the Man who committed these horrendous acts and the men who lied about it.
That's an absolute load of crap. By doing what you suggest, Paterno puts himself in the position of judge and jury. Police exist for a reason – to investigate possible crimes. It wasn't up to Paterno to decide whether or not the report had merit, especially since he was well aware of similar reports 3 years earlier.
Look if someone tells you your Father, grandfather brother uncle(or someone you look up to, care about, love, etc) is doing something like this are you calling the police right away or are you going to thisnk 'this cant be' and get to the bottom of it, maybe by telling someone of a higher authority like your Mother, Grandmother, Aunt (etc) that this was the information you got. 20/20 hindsight makes it so easy for us to say "well he shoulda done it like this" but try and put yourself in that situation. Sandusky was a 20 year colleague and good personal friend (at the time)
I couldn't agree more. People are out to hang JoePa, however he recieved third party information and then turned it over to people with the authority and resources to handles an investigation something he as a football coach has no credentials to be doing. The admins failed him and JoePa is being unjustly attacked by the media and all these faceless online Hacks.
I agree that many of us are rushing to judgement before all the facts are laid bare.
But I also with to correct you. For crimes of this magnitude, by no means should you try to ascertain 100% credibility before going to authorities. Hearsay is a legitimate reason to open an investigation, and it is the investigators – not you – who should determine the witness's credibility. That's what they are specially trained to do. By trying to ascertain credibility yourself, you are actually obstructing the judicial process.
Those who are defending Paterno should ask themselves this: If one of your subordinates told you he saw a child being molested in your office building, would you think it sufficient to report it to your supervisor and forget about it? I don't know how he slept, much less how he kept quiet about it. There is no excuse for his failure to immediately notify the police.
Before JoePa is crucified , lets wait till the full investagation is made. Wait for the facts to come out. If he knew of the crime then throw the book at him.
Agreed. The grand jury presentment is a prosecutor's examination only of the facts surrounding Sandusky. It does not, and should not, provide great detail about every action taken by ever witness, if those actions are irrelevant to the prosecution of Sandusky. Paterno and the others will tell their full story soon enough, if not in a press release, then under oath in the court of law.
For a so called man to allow another so called man to work for him after finding out about an horrific act is just as guilty as the molester. A simple phone call was not good enough. Paterno should be fired today!!
Fight this with all your life-force JoePa! Like Bobby Bowden or any of the hypocrits on this board would have dun anything different!
JoePa did NOT exercise proper moral judgement.
There is no law against this but he must still be held accountable in the court of public opinion.
This does NOT hinge upon the ulitmate verdict in the Sandusky trial – instead it can be decided now BECAUSE regardless of Sandusky's guilt or innocence, JoePa did NOT act in a moral manner.
He didn't question McQueary further about the incident, he did NOT follow up his report to his "superiors", and he did NOT raise any questions when Sandusky continued to be a presense on campus all the way up until 1 week ago.
I agree he should be fired. But lets not stop there. I think we should bring some Bishops and Cardinals up on charges and ask for the Pope to resign as well.
What a bunch of garbage... Paterno did what he was supposed to, report it immediately to University officials to investigate. This garbage about his "moral obligations" is crap. So what, he's supposed to head up his own investigation? Head out for invesigative interviews? Maybe bar this guy based on unproven allegations and subject the school to a lawsuit? This is assinine. The only responsibility he had was legal, which he fulfilled by reporting it to the appropriate officials to investigate. All these people trying to lay blame on Paterno have zero clue about the legalities if this was false of they are grand-standing for their own benefit to gain some fame from this unfortunate incident.