A sex-abuse scandal involving a former assistant football coach at Penn State University could end the career of the school’s legendary head coach, Joe Paterno.
Calls for the 84-year-old Paterno’s resignation have been building over the past few days since it was revealed that Jerry Sandusky, the long-time defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, has been charged with sexually abusing eight young boys during and after his tenure at the university. Paterno has been criticized for telling only university officials, and not local police, about an allegation of abuse by Sandusky in 2002.
Now The New York Times reports that the university is figuring out how to handle Paterno’s exit from the university. He has coached Penn State for 46 years, and his 409 wins as a head coach are the most in NCAA Division I history. The Times says Paterno’s exit will likely come “within days or weeks.”
The scandal has already forced Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz — whose job includes overseeing campus police — to resign. Both men have been charged with perjury for failing to report allegations against Sandusky to authorities.
Paterno hasn’t been charged and reportedly isn’t a target in the investigation. But many in the Penn State community, in addition to law enforcement officials, are saying that Paterno could have done more to bring the allegations to light.
“Anyone — not whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building — I think you have a moral responsibility to call us,” state police commissioner Frank Noonan said at a news conference Monday (Nov. 7).
Penn State on Tuesday canceled Paterno’s weekly news conference, which in normal circumstances would have been devoted to the team’s upcoming game against Nebraska.
In his long run at Penn State, Paterno has won two national championships and 24 bowl games. He and his wife have also donated millions of dollars to the university, and before this scandal erupted Penn State has always had a reputation as a clean, well-run program. That legacy could become a lot more clouded in the coming days.