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 abuseÂ 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 doesnâ€™t absolve Paterno from a moral obligation. He shouldâ€™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.
â€œThose 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 â€” once Paterno's top football sergeant, and so a priest of football at Penn State â€” 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? Weâ€™re not talking about a recruiting violation here. Weâ€™re talking about an unspeakable violation, to innocent children," Gregory writes. "We donâ€™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 Paternoâ€™s lack of judgment when told, itâ€™s time for him to take his 409 victories and Hall of Fame bust and leave. Quickly," the Ledger said.
The good old boy network strikes again. One would hope a boy being molested would pierce it but at Penn State it didn't. Now the press conference has been cancelled. It was stated yesterday Joe Pa wouldn't address the scandal. Today, Joe Pa states he's disappointed the press conference has been cancelled because he wanted to address the scandal. What?????????A lot of double talk. Sports builds character? Time and time again this is proven false.
I can't believe anyone is trying to defend Paterno. I WAS a proud Penn State alumni and have been sickened, depressed, and literally lost sleep over this. Paterno proved that he is a vile maniac, and to those trying to convince themselves he behaved appropriately, you are delusional. Of all the terrible disgraces, I would have rather they try to cover a murder than child molestation. Paterno obviously knew and if he didn't trust his source, why would he have been promoted. So much wrong, who cares about the 409 wins or the game against Nebraska, Paterno and others turned a blind eye to the worst crime imaginable.
why should he have to quit? the pope wasn't ask to quit and the priests were just slapped on their wrists.
Actually, the pope is being asked to leave by lots of people.
You are a moron.
All he did was tell the AD. He should have made sure the police were immediately involved. He should be terminated ASAP.
"The church of football" shouldn't be associated or related to the Catholic Church. And please let's not make comparisons to the two.
If Paterno let the guy in the building after he was accused of this, he needs to step down.
The phrase, "he followed protocol" keeps being used. How about following your conscience as a decent human being. He should resign – this is disgusting beyond words.
There's a great piece on this at RockTheCapital http://www.rockthecapital.com
I am an '82 PSU Grad and am ashamed of the behavior of the University leadership. The Trustees need to fire everyone who had ANY involvement in this horrible situation. This includes the University President and Paterno. Don't bother calling me for any more donations PSU – they won't be coming any more.........
I grew up in State College and graduated '99. Let's not forget that the university is more, MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE, than a handful of administrators and coaches. I'm ashamed and deeply troubled by the alleged behavior of some senior people who we all trusted. But I'll never stop being proud of the nearly 50,000 students and faculty that truly define Penn State.
This is just so disgusting! Joe Paterno – what kind of example have you set for your players and people who used to look up to you? I hope the rest of your life becomes a living hell just like the lives of these young boys you failed to protect.
Now we know why they call the place Happy Valley.
I haven't heard this mentioned once in any of the 100 articles I've read, but does no one have an issue with the McQueary not stopping whatever was going on in the showers AS THEY WERE OCCURRING? Aside from what someone who received the knowledge second or thirdhand should or should not have done, what about the guy who was there!? He leaves the facility and let's Sandusky go about his business? Why is no one talking about this?
Same thing I said...and I find it interesting that he is now an assistant coach on staff. Reward for letting the issue drop?
I'd like to think the two are unrelated. He was a former QB and has always seemed qualified to me, but would I be shocked if it were linked? No.
I'd like to think that if most people saw this they would do something on the spot. Maybe I've missed some of the facts, but it sounded like he just kind of left all distraught-like and consulted his dad, rather than making it known that he saw what was going on, and stopping it.
I am utterly horrified that the eyewitness did not immediately call the police. Anyone who sees an assault of any kind in progress should inform the REAL authorities,not just one's immediate supervisor.
Where do you draw the moral line and who get to draw it? After the line is drawn, someone will want to move it.
The creepy old troll doll has admitted he knew. His choices should be – Resign immediately, forgo a pension, make a public apology and offer to contribute to a victims fund – OR go to prison and die there.
JoePa should not be fired or his legacy disgraced by this. Sometimes in life we are fooled by the people around us and closest to us. His assistant coach COULD be guilty of a heinous crime but that does not make Coach Paterno guilty. All the reporters are trying to stir it up and need to shut up and stick to the facts. Coach Paterno did his job!
It's ok for PSU fans to have a brain and a conscience. Try using yours.
@Callie – Having a brain and a conscience means not rushing to judgement and not starting a lynching. I'm a fan of the U.S. judicial system. Not a brainwashed football fan/hater.
Ridiculous. A fine example of the sad state of journalism in this country, and, apparently, particularly in Pennsylvania.
Telling the athletic director of the university does not 'absolve Paterno from a moral obligation. He shouldâ€™ve taken action himself.'
Uh, you mean informing the athletic director of the hearsay isn't taking action ??
Paterno had a moral obligation to check the athletic director's work?
A bit early to be calling for a resignation. Who was the graduate assistant? What did he see? Who else did the graduate assistant report the matter to? The actual eyewitness did not contact police about what he saw??
As a former student of Penn State and fan of the football team, I'm deeply ashamed and outraged by the way this handled by Joe and the admin. Since when is the minimum effort acceptable at PSU? If Joe's players gave minimum effort in games or practice would it be acceptable to him? No, they'd be gone in an instant! Joe needs to live up to the ideals he's required of others, admit he "dropped the ball", appolgize to the victims and their families, then go away quietly. While we love Joe and thank him for all of his efforts and dedication to the school, program, and players, we simply can not overlook this. Joe should be worried about going to jail and being sued for everything he's worth by all the victims that wouldn't exist if Joe had done the right thing and called in the police.
I think you're taking it a little too far. I agree with a lot of this and, as a former student, am also ashamed and embarassed of what has transpired. And yes, he should probably step down. But if what the rest of what you're saying is valid, I'm guessing that there are 100+ people minimum who should be worried about going to jail and being sued for everything they're worth. There were several eye witnesses cited and who knows how many who have not came forward. Now let's factor in all the people who may have heard things second hand (e.g. Paterno) and I'd bet you're getting up there. Should all of these people be in jail and sued for everything they're worth or just the most visible one? Yeah I get the whole thing that since he's a figurehead of PSU that he's taking the bulk of the backlash. But come on, in this type of situation what does it matter if you are a famous football coach or a janitor (one of the firsthand witnesses)? A LOT of people more than likely failed morally here. It's extremely disappointing, yes, but you're getting ahead of yourself a bit.