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Coach Joe Paterno's Future In Question At Penn State


The Penn State Board of Trustees says it will appoint a special committee to investigate a child sex abuse scandal. This is the case that engulfed the university, its football program, and coach Joe Paterno who is in his 46th season at the head of the team.

One question is what happens to Paterno now. His former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period, sometimes in the Penn State locker room. Paterno hasn't been charged but has been accused of doing too little when he heard about the allegations.

NPR sport correspondent Tom Goldman is with us. And, Tom, would you remind us how it is that Paterno's name into this case?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: You know, the grand jury report that came out on this, says Paterno was alerted to Jerry Sandusky's alleged behavior back in 2002, that he reported it to the athletic director but not release and didn't pursue the issue; one of many who allegedly didn't push to stop this alleged cycle of abuse. Now, amidst growing concerns about what Joe Paterno knew, hundreds of supporters, Steve, showed up at his house late last night that offer support.

He came out talked briefly. Here's a bit of what he said. Now, you speak softly so you have to listen carefully. He asked supporters to think about the kids who were victims in this scandal.

JOE PATERNO: I think we all ought to say a prayer for them because, you know, they were - tough life when certain people do certain things to you. But anyway, you've been great. You know, everything is great. All right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We love you, Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Joe, have you...


GOLDMAN: Now, after Paterno as to his supporters to say a prayer for the victims, as you can hear, Steve, the supporters then chanted: Let Joe Stay.

INSKEEEP: Which is what some people are saying, but there are also some rather angry editorials, including in local papers, urging them to go.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, and he's reportedly losing favor with that Board of Trustees you mentioned. The Board of Trustees, which is according to its statement last night: Outraged by the horrifying details contained in the grand jury report. The New York Times reported yesterday that school officials are planning the 84-year-old Paterno's exit from the school, possibly an imminent exit.

Paterno's son denied this was happening and said his dad will coach the Saturday versus Nebraska, and be coaching for the long haul.

INSKEEEP: Although the son, if I'm not mistaken, said an announcement of Paterno's departure was premature - not necessarily false. Seem to be some room there.


INSKEEEP: Now, of course, he's the most famous name attached to this scandal but he's not alone here. Who else is allegedly involved?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, along with the details of Sandusky's alleged crimes, that is the other shocking part of the grand jury report. The other is allegedly involved, spanning from the university president to a school janitor who witnessed alleged sex abuse. A number of people who didn't draw a straight line from something that was obviously wrong to making it right.

People either didn't report things or they reported them to superiors who didn't have the power or inclination to act. In some cases, that was technically the right thing to do. In fact, Paterno's son said, and I quote, "If you read the grand jury documents very closely, Joe fulfilled his legal obligation."

Well, maybe. But he didn't go to the cops, didn't doggedly pursue it. No one appears to have done that.

INSKEEEP: Why not?

GOLDMAN: It may be tied up in the hallowed position at Penn State football holds in the small town of State College, Pennsylvania. Football, Joe Paterno put that town on the map. They always appeared to do things the right way there, a program that didn't get in trouble with the NCAA. It was dubbed Camelot by some and who wants to bring that down?

INSKEEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

INSKEEEP: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.