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. Jason, Chicago IL

    Paterno stood by while one of his coaches was raping children. "Stepping down" is the very least of what he should do.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PSU Alumini

    Joe did report this incident. It was brought it to the attention of his superiors. Joe Paterno has done nothing wrong. He is not guity of any wrong doing. This is just a smear campaign to destroy his reputation. Be very careful "Mass Media". This is called Slander and Defamation of Character. Legal action will be taken against you.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • newshamg


      November 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jnpa

      @PSU Alumni...I totally agree. The witch hunt is on for Paterno. Everyone want to bring down a "big guy."

      November 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |

      People have to understand that a DA investgated the 1998 incident and for whatever reason chose not to prosecute. 1999 Joe got rid of Sandusky. So in 2002 Sandusky was a retiree and not Joe's employee. Sandusky had privledges at PSU as part of his retirement package not from Joe. He followed the protocol of all major corporations and reported it to his superiors. Again, Sandusky was not his employee. Even if he followed up with the administrators they would have no obligation to update him on the investigation.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Earl Weaver

    I'm very disappointed in Paterno. A feeling I never thought I would have. Joe is the last person on the planet I would ever think would be associated with something like this. It would be like a scandel involving your grandfather. Unfortunately, it's all about winning. Joe needs to step down. So sad.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      YUP!!! So sad. What a fool.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jay

    Honestly, I've been a Jo Pa fan (not a fan of Penn State, just a fan of a coach who seemed to win consistently and generally did so the right way) for a long time. That is, until today. Jo Pa should not resign, Jo Pa should be fired. Everyone who knew of these allegations and did nothing about them (including following up to make sure someone else was following up) should be fired, and potentially prosecuted for covering up these crimes. Sandusky, like other child molesters, should be given the death penalty for essentially ending the innocent lives of these young kids.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      YUP again!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Common Sense

    Comment to Matt – McQueary did have a reason for not interferring and it is called a job as an assistant coach for Coach Paterno. Basically McQueary shuts up and gets rewarded by Paterno. If Paterno did not believe McQueary saw anything he would had to question McQueary's credibility, but that didn't happen, what happened was a job offer and McQueary shutting up. Paterno may not be criminally negligant, but he should be sued to the poor house.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Randy

    Maybe PaJoe knew nothing about it but he should just retire hes way to old to be coaching

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    Joe must Go!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ChrkeePrde

    You can't be the boss if you can't take all the responsibilities as boss. He might be infallible or what have you in the football field and in coaching, but he failed and failed terribly at keeping an eye on his co-managers. How can anyone miss something like this?? especially miss something right under his eyebrow for so many years!

    Thumbs down JoePa, thumbs DOWN.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bellabiv Devot

    Even if he had no knowledge or legal responsibility regarding any of these instances, he is the symbol of the team/staff/school and must go to show that changes have been made.

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

      Absolutely. To prove you are morally responsible, you should punish someone even if they didn't do anything wrong. Makes perfect sense. So for all unsolved murders, let's go back and randomly pick someone from the investigation and destroy their life to prove how just we are. Wait, you were serious?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul

    If these people want to make the "moral obligation" an issue, then they had better do so with banks, corporations, and yes....politicians. Moriality is important, but lacking in society. How many of you out there have not done what is morally correct: help a guy with a flat tire, give an old lady your seat on the bus, say Thank You when someone has done something for you. This should not be born as an argument here.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mervyn

    Sounds like a witch hunt to me.

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

      sounds like your a pedophile

      November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • My2Sense4U

      Could very well be a witch hunt. I wonder if PSU is looking for an opportunity to get Coach Paterno into retirement. After all, he will probably coach until he's at least 100.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snowdogg

    "Paterno, who is not facing charges in the case, says he told his superiors in the athletic department about what the graduate assistant saw".

    Any chance we can let the legal process move forward here? Getting tried by the media is bogus... Cain is facing similar situation [and NO he isn't my candidate of choice].

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

      I agree. This media circus needs to stop blaming JoePa. Sandusky (who wasnt a employee of Joe) was the man who touched boys...did horrible deeds to them. He is the man who needs to pay for what he did. All of these people saying Joepa did this and that like he was the man who touched the boys. News flash Sandusky did not JoePa. If anyone should be witchhunted it should be Mcleary (sp?) for not doing a thing. He saw it, he should of went to the cops, not tuck his man hood away and let the act continue. The media and everyone elts needs to get their heads out of their asses and concentrate and put all of that anger and hatred to Sandusky and the school admins who turned a blind eye to this horrible act.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. traveller

    This is a very troubling state of affairs. No one that I know had more respect for Joe Paterno than I did until now. This is NOT a question of administrative action. In this case, no matter who the person is, the matter should have been brought to the police immediately, no question. Mr. Paterno should be removed from his position, whether forced to resign, resign by choice, or discharged. After that, quite unfortunately, it is a matter for the courts which by precedent will not amount to anything that can be called justice.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. henry massie

    this is a typical example of persons who have no talent of their own and delight in attempting to destroy the successes of others. this man is a shining example of what sports is all about and should not be tarnished by a bunch of lesser lights..

    November 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. James PDX

    Without all of the details, it's hard to be sure what was right. But based on what I do know, Paterno reported the incident which was based on a 2nd hand account. Handing it up to those in charge to investigate was the right thing to do. Those people should have fired the accused. It's not a coach's job to run an investigation, however, it is his job to abide by the decision of those in charge, and that decision was to not fire the coach in question. Unless Joe admits he knew the allegatations were true and chose to ignore them, I don't see that he is to blame.

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

      Paterno=educator=mandated reporter= immediately notify police or child welfare agency re: suspected child abuse. He broke the law.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
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