Penn St. keeps Joe Paterno from media's glare

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno addresses the media after the game against the Indiana State Sycamores on September 3, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

STATE COLLEGE - Penn State administrators on Tuesday canceled Joe Paterno's weekly news conference in which he was expected to field questions about a sex-abuse scandal involving former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky.

"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," assistant Athletic Director Jeff Nelson said in a statement.

Paterno's son Scott told The Associated Press that the decision was made by President Graham Spanier's office.

Scott said that his father was disappointed and was prepared to take questions about the scandal as well as the upcoming game against Nebraska.

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The news conference was to be the first chance for reporters to ask Paterno about what he knew about Jerry Sandusky, his former defensive coordinator and one-time heir apparent, who was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.

Authorities have said that Paterno, who testified in the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges, is not a target of the investigation. But the state police commissioner has chastised him and other school officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

"Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child," Pennsylvania state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Monday.

"I think you have the moral responsibility, 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."

"This is not a case about football. It's not a case about universities. It's a case about children who have had their innocence stolen from them in a culture that did nothing to stop it or prevent it from happening to others," Noonan said.

Happy Valley has been consumed by the scandal since Sandusky, once revered as the architect of the "Linebacker U." defenses, was charged over the weekend with the abuse. Penn State athletic director Tim Curley — Paterno's boss — and senior vice president Gary Schultz have stepped down, and they surrendered Monday in Harrisburg on charges of perjury and that they failed to alert police about abuse complaints.

Lawyers for Sandusky, Curley and Schultz have said their clients are innocent. Paterno, in a statement Sunday issued by his son, Scott, said he was shocked and saddened by the allegations.

"If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers," Paterno said in the statement.

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But already there are some calls for his resignation from a program which boasted as its slogan, "Success with Honor."

"I don't know his involvement, but I do think he could send a very strong message if he would step down and retire, or even make a public statement," said Julie McGinn, a 23-year-old biology major from Chicago.

At a news conference, Noonan and state Attorney General Linda Kelly were peppered with questions about whether Paterno was given details about what graduate assistant Mike McQueary — now the team's wide receivers coach — saw on the night of March 1, 2002.

Paterno has referred to his grand jury testimony in which he testified that he was informed by a graduate assistant that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of the team locker room. Prosecutors have said Paterno passed on the information to Curley.

But Paterno said specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him.

"It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report," Paterno said in the statement. "Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."

Whether that was enough was being debated on campus and across "Happy Valley," where pride in the Nittany Lions is as deep as it is fierce.

"People were talking about having JoePa step down, making Facebook sites about it," Mac Frederick, a Penn State senior from Chambersburg, Pa., said as he ate at The Diner, just across street from campus. "I don't think that's really necessary. It's obvious some individuals tried to cover the story up, but I don't know if JoePa knew much about it."

Alex Fakhraee, 19, of Ambler, Pa., said it might be time for the 84-year-old Paterno to go. But his concerns have more to do with the direction of the program under JoePa's leadership than the scandal.

"I'm sure it's going to affect our image in some way," Fakhraee said outside the union. "From what I know, he knew about it and he reported it. After that I feel it's not his obligation. He's just here to coach the football team."

Others were more critical.

"If he cared, he would have said something 10 years ago," Joshua Daly said as he dined with a friend at Champs Sports Bar and Grill in State College. "He's as guilty as anybody. He knew about it ... no one called the police."

Paterno has won 409 games, the Division I record, along with two national titles. He has an impeccable record of focusing on academics as well as athletics — it's the Penn State library, not an athletic building, that is named for Paterno and his wife Sue.

But that doesn't absolve him of responsibility, said Lori Schope, who cuts hair at Rinaldo's.

"Anybody that says they knew about it and didn't do anything about it," she said, "is complicit."

A person familiar with Sandusky's relationship with Penn State told The Associated Press that the former coach long maintained an office in the East Area Locker building which is across the street from the Penn State football team's building, and was on campus as recently as week ago working out.

The university's online director listed Sandusky, whom PSU officials said banned from campus over the weekend — as an assistant professor emeritus of physical education in the Lasch building.

The grand jury investigating Sandusky found that he was given the office, a parking pass and other amenities as part of his 1999 retirement package.