November 10th, 2011
12:26 PM ET

Penn State grapples with conflict over coach's firing, horrific allegations

With feelings running high on campus after the firing of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and the university’s president, a debate is raging about where the focus should rest in the scandal.

The Happy Valley family is dealing with raw, conflicting emotions sparked by child rape allegations that threaten to shatter the reputation of a great football coach as well as the school’s image.

The expulsions of Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier capped another chapter in the fallout from charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

On Wednesday night, the man who had been at the helm of the iconic football program for 46 seasons was greeted by cheers befitting a father figure viewed as the face of the university.

Except this was no football celebration. It was like a farewell to an era as Paterno spoke to members of the crowd, who clutched phones and waved their arms in the air.

"What can I say, I'm no longer the coach," Paterno told about 15 students gathered outside his house late Wednesday. "It's going to take some time to get used to. It's been 61 years."

The crowd chanted that they loved Paterno. Some of the students, many of whom came to Penn State because of its storied football program, apparently weren’t sure how to cope with news of the famous coach's firing and the allegations of what happened.

iReport: In praise of Joe Paterno | Student, parents shocked by allegations

But Paterno, known for being hard-nosed when it comes to education, seemed to feel he needed to temper the mood of the students, telling them to go home and get some sleep. “Study,” he said, as he peered from the walkway of his home.

Chants of “We are Penn State,” the rallying cry of the school, could be heard in the background.

In the town of State College, that phrase has taken on a new meaning Thursday. And it’s one some of the students are fighting to protect -  especially after the scene on campus quickly changed overnight: Students spilled into the streets. A news van was tipped over.

Then massive crowds swarmed the Old Main, the former administration building. Things by all accounts got out of control.

While those scenes are played over and over again on TV stations across the country, many students say they don't want those images to define them.

Hundreds may have flocked to Paterno’s home or to the grand bronze statue that towers over the campus, but they represent a small percentage of Penn State’s 35,000 undergraduate students. Some, including T.J. Bar, the student body president, said they want to change the focus of this debate from the emotions of football to the seriousness of the alleged events.

In some ways, at University Park, the campus is divided.

Some still mourn the loss of the almost godlike coach they have grown to love. Others are struggling with the heinous allegations.

The question of how the campus should move forward was at the heart of an editorial in the campus newspaper The Daily Collegian:

“Wednesday night was an embarrassment for Penn State. This is about more than Paterno and Spanier. The way students reacted set our university two steps back," the editorial said. "Penn State does not need to be put in a worse light than its leaders already have. The spotlight was on Penn State last night and we only drew more negative national attention to the Penn State name. The national media did not come for the students, but they stayed because we put on a show.

"The emotions brought on by the night varied from somber and respectful to angry and unlawful. This is not what Joe would have wanted.”

But it is what unfolded. And it’s also what students are trying to change in the wake of the scandal that rocked the campus.

“I think the emotions kind of run the gamut in terms of Joe Paterno,” Bard said. “I think a lot of students are obviously in support of Joe Paterno, but I also think a lot of students are realizing there may be more to this story than we realized. At the end of the day fundamentally what matters most is that justice is found for victims and their family and they can truly find some closure after this.”

Dave Cole, a junior studying journalism and political science at Penn State, who grew up in State College and whose parents both teach at the school told CNN’s iReport that he thinks there’s a mix of anger about how the events unfolded as well as who should be blamed.

“People I think initially are very angry at the University for firing Paterno. I think that there are a lot of people that wish that more of the blame was being levied on Sandusky right now,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of animosity toward the media and the role that the media played in framing Paterno in this. A lot of anger, sadness and frustration in students.”

Bard said many students feel the story isn’t just about saving the reputation of a mighty football program. (The financial implications of the scandal may be heavy.) It should be about the alleged victims and the investigation of what took place on the campus.

“I think a lot of students are realizing that due to the national media coverage there’s been a huge oversight of the victims and their families in all of this, and I think students are getting very, very frustrated that this is more than about a football program or a coach - this is about the victims and finding justice for them at the end of the day.”

Daniel Johnson, a 23-year-old business student who was at the rally Wednesday night, told CNN's iReport the scandal has “tarnished everything we students have come to be proud of here at Penn State.”

Johnson said he rallied at the Old Main, not just in frustration about Paterno's firing, but in support of the alleged victims and as a cry against what he fears happened to them.

“We are not responsible for the decisions made by school officials, who at the end of the day are Joe's bosses. We firmly believe that Joe would never turn a blind eye to something as sick and disturbing as this, had he known the full extent of the situation,” Johnson said. “... We pray that the victims can find a way to move on from this and find peace.”

Bard said that a candlelight vigil was planned for the alleged victims as well as a slight change to this weekend’s football game. Instead of the traditional “white-out” in which the entire student body wears white in support of the Nittany Lions, students are encouraged to participate in a “blue-out.”

An unofficial Facebook page encouraged fans to wear blue "to support the victims of child abuse worldwide. The Blue Ribbon Campaign against child abuse began 22 years ago and is recognized across the country.

“In addition to being the color of our team's home game jerseys, blue represents the color of bruises that have too often been neglected,” the post said.

Bard said he hoped this weekend’s game would be a chance to change the tide.

“It’s not about a football program; it’s not about a coach. … (It's) about moving forward,” he said. “This is a crucial point for this student body to really be able to move forward, unite together and remember the pride that really is involved in Penn State.”

That's a sentiment that Cole couldn't agree with more. He also  hopes that this moment can be turned into a major turning point for the school.

“I think that the image of this university is as low as I can ever imagine it being. I think that bouncing back from this will be difficult. I think that my first impression of the decision is that it was for cleaning house and fixing the image as soon as possible. ... I think that how we bounce back is very important,” he said. “What a few thousand students did last night unfortunately speaks out as what the whole 40,000-student body did. I think that there needs to be a way to get out the message that these actions do not speak for the whole body.

"The nation and the media need to see Penn State not as a violent student body, but as a minority of the students who did it out of anger and that was not the way to demonstrate that.”

soundoff (1,613 Responses)
  1. Clare

    These college students need to get a grip and a serious reality check. The issue is molestation of innocent AND unprivileged children by trusted people working in a multimillion dollar football program. Absolutely appalling behavior on all fronts.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Az ShoeShopper

      Agreed! When/if these college students become parents hopefully they will understand how wrong it was to NOT contact the POLICE, follow through COMPLETELY and be certain this disgusting excuse for a human being was never allowed near children. Anyone involved, who didn't go to the police, has some degree of culpability.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You get a grip they are supporting the team not thats all i can say

      November 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • GatorALLin

      ...I think honestly most of these students did not actually read the full 23 page PDF that others have. Lack of Education on the subject.... how ironic!

      November 10, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JS

    Way to defend a pedophile enabler. Joe Pa is the MAN, the man who turned a blind eye to the raping of 8 year old boys. Support Hitler too while you're at it. He sure got the German economy up and running after the WW1 sanctions, who cares about all that 'other' stuff he did, right?

    What a joke.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • CC

      Did you seriously just compare JoePa to Hitler? What is wrong with you?

      November 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      I understood the metaphor. Don't worry commentors who think you are saying Paterno is Hitler are just not very well read.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • bottleman57

      Maybe the not so very well read are correct in assuming his writing. You have assumed that Sandusky was an employee of the University at this time and that Paterno could have done more; like fire him.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankie b

      paterno is a bad man

      November 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      We don't defend him we defend the team because they have not done a thing and all i have to say is this. I am not in college yet but to go to penn state is my dream and still is. And why dont you all talk about Sanusky the abuser. He is the one that everyone needs to be talking about, not the students and team, they did not do anything.....We are Penn State

      November 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • knowno

      either you can't read or your retarded... Peterno didn't see anything... HE WAS TOLD...all he had was hear say and he acted on that. Peterno is the sacraficial goat because he's the bigist name envolved but he wasn't even envolved he was brought in by someone that allowed molestation to take place and then went and told someone.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • GatorALLin

      Dear Elizabeth....Your quote of "they did not do anything.....We are Penn State" rings loud and true.... when you have the choice to act or turn away and do nothing...especially for the person you hire and work with for 32 years....then that conflict of interest has to be looked at harder... and in this case.... differently. He had a Legal and moral obligation that resulted in Epic Fail.

      November 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kris

    HEAD Coach...knew about it and did nothing. He SHOULD be fired. Accountability people. That's what it is about.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • rkt210

      He was head coach of the football program. Sandusky did not work for the football program – he had retired three years earlier. He had access to the football facilities at the discretion of the AD.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • 16halo

      Correct, this is about accountability.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      I guess he is going to have to take it up the rectum like the countless number of 10 year old little chlldren he allowed to victummize on HIS WATCH.. Die in Hell you Football Penn State fcuckers..

      November 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wandrel

    All I want to know is why hasn't the former graduate assistant/current assistant coach not been fired. He's the one who saw them in the shower and he did nothing except tell JoePa. If I had been in his position and seen something like that I'd be in there in a flash to get the child out of there! There is no excuse for not coming to the child's aid in my opinion.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • I'mamom2

      I've been asking that from the beginning! And is this person still employed by the school? I am so sad for the victims and can't stop thinking "what if this was my child?".

      November 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • wandrel

      My understanding is his name is Mike McQueary and he is currently employed at Penn State as their receivers coach! He should be fired immediately!!

      November 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • 16halo

      That's a very good question. Why did he go to Joe? What did Joe say to him? Power or perceived power over people is a very common factor in situations involving molestation, abuse. etc...Even the parties who are a witness but the abuser, although complacent could be made to feel powerless and threatened. I agree he is just as accountable as Joe, but it's not that cut and dry.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • lucy2

      I can't understand this either, and to me it's more disturbing than all the other nonsense that went on amongst the higher ups. He was a grown man, who clearly saw a child being horribly attacked. How do you not try to stop what was happening? How do you walk away?

      November 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      We would all like to think we would step in but the facts say you probably wouldn't. In general a person will not act. This has been demonstrated by multiple scientific studies. It's an unfortunate fact that as humans we generally are to shocked to act.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      Its too soon to tell who will get canned next but make no mistake there will be others following soon into the unemployment lines. In the meanwhile read the Grand jury PDF script – good reading until you dive back in!

      November 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bobert

    I love how the media is talking about this as if they care at all about these kids, They love this, it's what they live for. The bigger the tragedy, the more they love it, just means bigger ratings for them. 90% of them are just a bunch of self righteous dillholes who hide behind the guise of nobility, when all they really are doing is feeding of the misfortune of others. Rant over:)

    November 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. elst

    I think it's funny when people say that Paterno reported it to "his superiors." While technically he may have superiors at Penn State, but Joe Paterno is the most powerful man at Penn State, if not the whole state of Pennsylvania. The buck stops with Joe Paterno.

    If it had happened to one of Paterno's grandsons, I'm pretty sure he would have acted differently when first finding out about it.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Yup, he would have asked his grandson what happened since there would be an identified victim. Of course that has nothign to do with this actual case, but lets talk what ifs.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChrisGar

      If he really cared, he could have asked Sandusky.

      From comments this morning from football players - Sandusky was around the Penn State football team a lot the last 6-8 years. (as recently as last week)

      How could Joe tolerate that ? (without at least asking Sandusky about it?)

      November 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. decur

    Does JoePa get to keep his pension???

    November 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kodiakj

      Not sure but I bet he has blood sucking lawyers all over him...Joe was fired from a position for a crime that he didn't commit and has not yet been proven by law. In the Grand Jury testimony report he followed local protocol and 'legally' did what he had to do. Due to media pressure they fire him and he could file a wrongful termination law suit. Not saying this is right or wrong - but the law is ugly sometimes and while his moral obligation is what got him fired...his legal duty was followed.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      Unless there is a clause which states there is a breach because of damage to the school (you name it) I think he can get his retirement but then again maybe hes gets what he put in and not what the school puts to speak. A lawyer or two would have to battle out that phase of the argument.

      November 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |

    merck is on the board of trustees of that school. they don't seem to hold kids in very high regard.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. xchange

    These are our future leaders? I fear for out nations future. I

    November 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut

      who are?

      November 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      The ends justifies the means even if the Ends is a 10 year old boys rectum.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lowell

    -- Go Nebraska!!! I hope they go the their house on saturday {The so called Happy Valley) and get the "W"

    November 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      I just heard that Nebrska was looking into hiring Sandusky as defensive coord.
      I couldn't \pass that up. Enjoy the game. Not sure if I can root for Nittany Lions yet. Might take a few yrs to get over this BS.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankie b

      second that

      November 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. xchange

    These are our future leaders? I fear for our nations future. I guess morality is passe.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chicagok

    The only thing the public doesn't know is the truth. I have no clue what is going on at Penn State. The news media has already tried and convicted Paterno of 1st degree – or so it seems. What was he really told? What did he know? The US news media has replaced the courts and can hang anyone they want with misinformation. Penn State students should be treating the news media like terrorists, truth terrorists!

    November 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChrisGar

      In the Grand Jury testimony, Joe said he was told that Sandusky was fondling a 10 year old boy in a shower at Penn State.

      That is a fact. (obviously there may be more to it - it is that at a minimum)

      What part of this fact isn't disgusting ? (that he didn't stop Sandusky from being around - among other things)

      November 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Which in light of other testimony might be prejury.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FajitaBob


    November 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Their won't be any jobs to pay for those student loan payments either. Just football games to watch while you are sitting at some OccupyWallstreet Protest..

      November 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. PSU Alum

    Hey folks, read the grand jury presentment and you will have all the evidence you need from Joe's own words of his culpability in this matter and his failure to act. He may have only been the head football coach on paper but his power was far greater than any other PSU administrator in State College including Gram Spanier. If anyone could have acted and made it certain that justice was done it was Joe. Instead he chose to tell the Atheletic Director and let him decide how to proceed. Never bothered to followup as evidenced by his silence on this angle in his testimony. This week he further admitted quilt by saying he wished he had done more. Well Joe, you had 9 years to think about doing more and you didn't. What a great football coach but such a lousy man in failing in such a critical matter that had young children at stake. Let's all learn a vital lesson from all of this tragedy so that he continues NO more.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Which report did you read...the one I read on this case only says that if you try really hard to make it.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      It also says that the the Athletic dir or vice prsident ws told by Joe and the witness. Joe should of followed up (No excuse) but the person who this was reported to twice should be shot!!

      November 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Whatever makes you sleep at night, I guess everyone has to blame a scapegoat – too bad Paterno is such a good guy that he will just take the blame sitting down.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • wandrel

      I think the guy who saw Sandusky with the boy should have reported it to the police. He should have also gone in their and gotten the child free from the situation. I don't know how he can live with himself – and Penn State still hasn't fired him McQueary). At the least JoePa should have told McQueary to call police on top of telling the two Penn State officials.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmartPotato

      Exactly... I doubt many of these students bothered with it. It's full disclosure to ALL. Perhaps they don't deserve jail time as they didn't commit the crime, but it's no less than being an accessory, or standing around a watching while the crimes went down. Seriously? No call to the police? No investigation? No reporting him to the local authorities, KNOWING he was working STILL at the Mile house for boys? These men had their priorities all kinds of messed up. Those poor boys.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      And Joe may be looking at perjury and obstruction of justice charges since his testimony doesn't really jibe.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pellmellus

      You are exactly correct. But a lot of morally weak people exist in this world, you only have to read a lot of the comments here to see that.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kodiakj

      Kiki – not sure if he purged or not - can't tell by reading the testimony...because we do not know what the local protocol is for reporting at Penn State. Accoding to other records stated to the Grand Jury, Joe followed that protocol – whatever that was. We can assume that is was contacting his supervisor. He also, seperately, contacted the campus police. Depending on whether he followed what he was susppose to do - don't confuse this with his moral obligation - I am not sure anything will be further done to him.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Paul

    Maybe these so called students should go back to class and get they degree their parents are paying for. Sheesh – football is only entertainment for crying out loud.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reason

      I myself wouldnt even call it entertainment.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51