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. bb

    First of all if you saw one of your co workers raping a child in a bathroom at work I hope you would do more than tell your boss. Disgusting.

    There are also reports coming out that Sandusky agreed not to shower with boys anymore after another incident in 1998 while a coach under Paterno. This means that Paterno knew of his "friends" disgusting behavior. When his graduate assistant came to him it wasn't the first time he had heard similar accusations.

    If this is true Joe Paterno should be removed and banned from the college football hall of fame.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Russ

    Yep, let's blame everything on Joe. Just like the Republicans trying to blame everything that started under Bush on Obama. Go figure. Joe has done more for college kids and sports than anyone in this country. If he took on everyone else's responsibilities he wouldn't have time to coach. His superiors dropped the ball not Joe. Now get over it and let the man do his job.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    I am also confused about calls for Joe Paterno to retire. I would first have to say, however, that these charges against those involved are nothing to be taken lightly and no, I would not want any children or friends childrens, etc. to be exposed to such actions as what the accuser had to allegedly had to endure. But just as a district attorney might preclude himself from trying a case against someone he or she knew, much can be said about this. I believe Paterno did the right thing in reporting this to his supervisors. He did not view this firsthand and an investigation should have been forthcoming. To blame him because it is Penn State and he is supposed to be in charge of everything is a bit ridiculous and I find Lupica's comparison a bit over the top as I do Sean Gregory's comment that nobody could watch Paterno at work on a Saturday again. When something at my company is viewed as morally, ethically or legally wrong, we are told that we must report these things to our supervisor. To hold someone to different standards because of who they are or where they work is, in itself, a bit unethical and unfair. In hindsight, could he have done more. Yes, it is easy now to say that he should have. I personally, unlike Lupica or Gregory, will not judge someone based on what I have read, that should be done by a higher judge than any of us.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Dave, I agree with you. I am glad someone else feels this way.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      If this was the one and only incident he "heard about", I agree with you. I'd bet my entire life savings it was not.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      People are outraged because letting your supervisor know is simply not enough... is it enough legal to get you off the hook. Yes, but should it be? Should he be let off the hook? My thought is NO. If this was your son, the grad student found being molested in the bathroom by a trusted coach... would you be okay and satisfied that they told their supervisors like they were supposed to... "not sure what happened but I did what I was supposed to". I don't think you would be. I think you would be outraged that the grad student didnt step in or didnt call the cops... and only reported it to the supervisors who did nothing either. I think you'd be ready to hurt them. I would think you would understand why people are upset with the coach.

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

      Paterno says Mike Q came to me upset but did not tell me all the details - Well it was you job Joe to get the details and call the cops. What details do you need Sandusky in the shower with a child

      Paterno is feces and all Penn Staters who protect him are covered in that feces

      November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • call me crazy


      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • BuckStopsHere

      The comparison to JoePa being the King was accurate. He's the top of the football organization and despite a loose hierarchy – he answers to and reports to no one.

      Legally speaking he did the minimum required. But if asked if his morals/ethics are still intact – can you say that they are without tip toeing around the truth?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Right on Dave – Why crucify Joe P after all he was protecting a great university - his monster friend and his own but

      Who got hurt except some nobody kids - they were losers anyway certainly poor probably black

      We gotta remember what is important

      November 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      If it were your kid you'd be singing a different tune. He could have stopped this in it's tracks. DISGUSTING!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Banks

      While I agree in part with what you're saying, I agree that there should be some sort of amazing explanation to why he didn't pursue anything or that he should step aside. If that was my kid and there was the potential that something was going on I would want it pursued. Sure, you can tell your supervisor that one of your grad assistants saw something, but how about following up on it? You have to know that he knew it wasn't followed up, because it would have been big news at the time.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joan

      Do you think he would have followed it up a bit more if he had a grandson who was being tutored by Sandusky? I think he would have.. and so would have you.... no he was morally responsible to make sure that an investigation was held, at the very least to protect himself because of his association with Sandusky. He had to realize it would come back on him eventually. Very short sighted and a VERY BAD DECISION.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouSirAreAMoron

      You must be kidding? You hear about a employee/friend molesting a child in a shower at the place where you are the boss and you don't confront him? Even though there were allegations of this sort before this one? Over 30 years together and you think JoePa never had an inkling? Never heard a rumor? Never bothered to ask? God help me if my kids are ever being harmed around you. Pathetic.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PETER

    JoePa needs to GoPa. What a bum.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. aNN

    Get out Pervert!!!!!!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Withpeace

    Sadly, it comes down to choices. Joe Paterno chose to set the standard of excellence – a code of honor – for Penn State. Yet, when a true test of moral and ethical judgement was put to him...he failed and betrayed every honorable thing he ever did. In the end, all we have is our honor and Mr. Paterno is not a honorable man for allowing children be put in harms way to save a monster.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. T PSU

    I am beyond disgusted that a school that is able to run such a tight athletic program can't save a helpless child from the freak of a human called Sandusky. If you were involved as a member of this the high level coaching circle, you all heard the talk and you all knew about it, you may have reported it as required, but not to the police where it would have at the very least been investigated. What do you say to that child now? Let me help you: I ...followed my part of the deal and was able to wipe off your hell from my hands once I did what I was obligated to do. Graham Spanier, you disgust me with your BS support comment. Joe Paterno, you knew and should have done more. To the ones who knew and did not report to police: Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, is this guy still worth protecting now, how many more kids were abused because you did not tell? Sad part is, I am not sure you even care about the kids that were involved, if you did you would have told.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      don't forget these were loser Second Mile kids, from bad homes, poor, probably minorities - Paterno's personal reputation was way more important than these loser kids

      Lupica is right on - Patrno's playbook came right from the Catholic Church

      November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joan

    He should admit that he didn't do enough, and apologize at the very least... then at the end of the season he should retire. He's had a great run... leave with dignity but leave none the less. His reputation will always be scarred by this and rightly so. How would anyone feel if their child had been victimized and it could have been stopped if he had been more forceful and followed through with making sure there was an appropriate investigation. Very dissappointing to say the least.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BigAl

    blue and white (penn state?) look it up yourself-"The NCAA still has the power to ban schools from competing in a sport without any preliminary sanctions in cases of particularly serious violations." i think this applies.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dean

    How is it Paterno is legally shielded here? The statute is clear about requiring all educators and school employees to immediately report child abuse to the police. There isn't some statute saying you report it up the chain of command. Is there some sort of JoePa exemption to the statute? And does Paterno think we're actually buying this BS excuse that he didn't know the details but that he somehow was concerned enough to inform his superiors? Sorry, but he's lying through his teeth. But again, how is Paterno legally shielded here per the PA statutes?

    November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mermade

      Best comment I have read. I agree about educator's REQUIREMENT to report. Am surprised this has not been mentioned before. Just read too that Joe is paid over a million a year.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      If Mike Q did not give the details, why didn't Joe P ASK FOR THE DETAILS?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted

      Agreed... he needs to be prosecuted if possible... I don't understand why he is not ? It's not just a moral question, but a legal one too.... I don't know how they sleep at night...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      In my opinion, he was a mandated reporter...end of story. He failed.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. College players dad

    There is no way in hell I would want any of my sons currently playing for other teams to be recruited by any college team with a coach that lacks moral grounding such as Paterno is showing now. Parents with sons that have committed to this program should think twice about sending them to Happy Valley this fall. FBS, the NCAA and college sports in general are a mess. This is just another example of it all.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. calijoe

    On the story as I have it so far, Paterno should definitely NOT quit. He was given a single unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, report. He reported it to the athletic director. His actions were correct. That said, America and its press love vengeance, so he'll probably be forced out.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ed

    everyone at PSU who has touched this will be fired, resign, or be in jail.....drip...drip...drip..

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    Bye Joe- Time to Go.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Penn Stater

    Oh yes, we all certainly have the obligation to hold up the law, and we certainly do have the obligation to hold up what is right. And while we cry for the heads of those who are negligent in their obligations at the college level, we turn our eyes from those at the federal level.

    And how many of us reading this article routinely do what is right, or do we do the minimum as well and wash our hands?

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason, Chicago IL

      We're not talking about an unpaid parking ticket.

      We're talking about turning a blind eye while a person in a position of authority was raping children on campus.

      It's not just a matter of "breaking the law" it's a matter of enabling the most horrible behavior imaginable. If your tribalistic allegiance to Penn State Football prevents you from perceiving the significance of that, then you have a severe problem.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted

      If I saw a grown man in the shower with a 10-year old sodomizing him, there's no way in hell I would have walked away and called my supervisor!!! I would have walked in there and stopped him and then called the police. He witnessed a crime against an innocent child ... unbelievable!! How can anyone after reading the indictment, support any one of the personnel from Penn State that was involved... it is sickening.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
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