The Sins of Penn State: The Untold Story of Joe Paterno’s Fall

The world Joe Paterno created brought him down in the end.



IT’S A WEDNESDAY IN EARLY JANUARY, a gray afternoon, but not bad by State College standards. It’s not too cold. There’s no snow. And there’s smoke drifting up into the bare oak trees out of a chimney toward the back of the rancher on McKee Street, a couple blocks north of campus. Sue has got the wood-burner going, so I know the Paternos are home. I walk up a wood ramp—built a few weeks earlier for Joe’s wheelchair­—to ring the bell at the front door. Nothing. I ring again.

Through the narrow vertical window next to the door, I see someone coming. The door opens, and there’s Sue Paterno. She’s normally as willowy and blond and handsome as Joe is swarthy and hook-nosed and nearsighted, but now she’s wearing a gray sweatshirt, with no makeup, her hair up in curlers. Four very large red curlers, to be exact: two on top of her head, two along her temples.

I tell Sue my name, then say: “I’m an old Penn Stater—I went to school here back in the ’70s, and lived around State College for a decade. … I wonder if I can have a conversation with Joe.”

These things are true, though of course I will have to tell her I’m a reporter—but not yet.

“He’s resting right now,” Sue Paterno tells me. Joe, I’ve heard, is exhausted from the chemotherapy he’s been getting for his lung cancer.

“Could I come by later?”

Sue Paterno thinks for a moment. She has, I know, an enormous amount of influence on Joe. She actually seems to be considering that her husband might make time to speak to a onetime PSU student who shows up at their door, and given everything that’s happened in the past two months—starting with the allegations that over many years former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused eight young boys, which led to Joe Paterno’s swift dismissal­ as coach—I’m amazed. Not to mention the lung cancer, and the broken pelvis from a fall heading to the bathroom …

“We have an appointment at four,” Sue tells me. A chemo treatment.

“Would tomorrow be better?”

Sue Paterno considers. “Why don’t you call first?” she suggests.

“The number in the phone book?” As everyone knows, it’s listed.


“I hope Joe is doing well … ”

“He’s … ” She hesitates. Sue Paterno looks tired. Her face is lined. She’s physically fragile herself, with a bad back. “He’s getting there.”

In fact, her husband is gravely ill. That next morning, when I call, Sue answers, and before I tell her what I’m really up to, she beats me to it. “Are you a reporter?” Sue asks. “I am.”

She tells me, pleasantly, that they aren’t talking to the media just now.

AS JOE PATERNO SLIPS AWAY TO HIS DEATH over the next two and a half weeks, I’ll tell this story to people who know the Paternos. I’ll tell them about Sue Paterno’s informality and friendliness to an inquiring stranger, and everyone will say, “That’s them exactly! Joe and Sue—they are very down-to-earth. Very regular people. Wonderful people!”

Something else: As I talk to those who knew Joe Paterno, who worked with him, who played for him, it becomes clear that he was a man who lived up to his reputation. That he believed in developing scholar-athletes, in doing things the right way, and that his ideals for his football program­—and the university itself—were on the up-and-up.

Though he could be a charmer in East Coast living rooms, wooing the schoolboys he wanted, once Paterno got hold of those boys, it was a little different. “I remember telling my mother,” running back Charlie Pittman once said, “‘This guy’s too nice to be a football coach.’ Boy, was I wrong.” A dictator. Tough—but tough on everybody. Jimmy Cefalo, a kid from Pittston, became a star wide receiver and fulfilled the requirements for his journalism degree in three years back in the mid-’70s. Winter of his senior year, he signed up for cake courses, which quickly got him summoned to Coach’s office. “These courses are beneath you!” Paterno railed.

Which is why, over the years, Joe Paterno became JoePa, simultaneously fatherly and symbolic. He became a foothold of belief for the hundreds of thousands of middle-of-the-road kids from all over the state who matriculated to the middle of nowhere to get away from home and drink beer and … what? I was one of them. To “get an education,” maybe. But who were we? What in the world would we become in this beautiful, godforsaken outpost? Joe provided a center, a method: “Win with honor.” Collectively. In ugly white uniforms with no names.

A long time ago, he morphed from a very successful football coach to an idea, the idea that in fact we middle­-of-the-roaders weren’t average. That at this simple land-grant school plopped in the exact center of the state, a special method was born. We are … Penn State. Let outsiders roll their eyes. Graduates of Happy Valley square their shoulders.

Then they go on to give back. Penn State has the largest dues-paying alumni association of any university … in the world. Some of the alums are very rich and donate millions. They give to the idea that JoePa created. A 23-year-old Ivy League English grad came to a cow college in 1950 as an assistant coach. He was fired this past November, at the cusp of 85, from one of the country’s better research institutions—built, in large part, by him.

We’ve all heard the simple outline of what brought him down. In early March of 2002, assistant football coach Mike McQueary came to Paterno’s house on a Saturday morning and told him what he’d seen the night before in a football locker room: Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in the showers, where Sandusky was fondling the boy or doing something “of a sexual nature” to him, in Paterno’s description of what McQueary said.

A day later, Paterno called his athletic director, Tim Curley. And that’s all he did—the right thing, technically, reporting what he’d been told to his putative superior. But not doing anything more than that made Paterno the most important link in a chain of Penn State officials who looked the other way.

Which is why, when the Sandusky scandal hit and Paterno was immediately jettisoned, there was a monumental collision.

The Thursday in November after Paterno was fired, Penn State alum Anthony Lubrano took his teenage daughter to a concert in State College. Lubrano is a financial consultant who lives in Chester County, and he’s given millions to his school. He happened to run into ex-Penn State football captain and board-of-trustees member Dave Joyner in the Nittany Lion Inn.

“I have never been more disappointed in the board of trustees,” Lubrano said to Joyner, whom he knows. “What you did to that man is unthinkable.

“Anthony,” Joyner said, “you’re entitled to your opinion. But Joe is the most powerful man in the state.”

Lubrano was flabbergasted, and he got close to Joyner, jabbed a finger at his chest: “Are you suggesting that Joe Paterno is responsible for Sandusky’s behavior?”

“No,” Joyner said. “But he could have done whatever he wanted”—meaning that Paterno should have blown the whistle back in 2002. That would have been the end of Sandusky.

So there we have the two sides, writ large: great power abused, or a great man unjustly vilified. Since Paterno’s firing and death, the court of public opinion has jockeyed one way, then the other.

But as I poke further, I realize neither extreme makes sense. I begin to get an understanding of the way Paterno’s immense power manifested at his university. And why the Sandusky scandal played out the way it did, in a culture Joe Paterno created in the middle of nowhere.

HARRY TRUMAN WAS PRESIDENT WHEN JOE PATERNO drove west with Penn State’s new head coach, Rip Engle, to State College. Joe had studied English literature and played quarterback for Rip at Brown; he’d taken the law boards—scoring in the top 10 percent nationally—but he’d forgo law school. He had a thirst to learn but a “rage to win,” as his younger brother George once said. He’d give coaching a try for a year.

State College and Joe were a strange fit. He’d grown up in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section; his parents were staunchly Italian and staunchly pro-Joe, the oldest of three. His mother would ask George, who she suspected was the better athlete, to tone it down in high-school games so as not to outshine his older brother. His father, a state court clerk, studied nights to get his law degree at 42. Joe was a star student educated by Jesuits, a thinking-man’s athlete (i.e.: not a standout) given the nickname “The Dogfaced Boy” as a child—he was deadly serious. Big things were in store for him. It was a given.

But coaching football in central Pennsylvania? He had big doubts. Still, there was an idea Joe had of himself that would start to mesh with coaching. His favorite book, going back to Brooklyn Prep, was Virgil’s Aeneid. To Joe, Aeneas’s epic struggle­—to create a new city in Italy after his native Troy was destroyed—was symbolic of a man accepting his fate—not merely what happened to him, but his true responsibility to others, come hell or high water. The molding of young athletes as young men began to grow on Paterno.

It took 16 years, but finally, in 1966, Joe got his shot. By then he was married (Joe met Sue, 13 years younger, in PSU’s library; his idea of courting was to give her a copy of The Stranger and ask for her written thoughts on Camus) and had started a family. He spent a summer as head coach buried in an upstairs room, rethinking his defense. He took complete control of his staff, managing every detail. “When a guy stakes his life on something new, there’s no other way,” Joe would later write.

This was important. This was destiny. But would it work?

PSU’s record, his first year, was 5-5. But then, starting in 1968, Joe’s team started winning, and kept winning.

There were two straight undefeated seasons. Penn State didn’t lose for more than a thousand days. For the first time, the Lions were beating big teams—Kansas, UCLA—on national TV. In January 1970, 5,000 students came to a rally in Rec Hall. The player names were now big-time: Kwalick, Pittman, Reid. But the biggest ovation, a roar that rocked Penn State’s old gym, was for Joe Paterno. Joe had become Penn State football, and Penn State football was national news.

He got bigger. In 1972, the NFL’s New England Patriots tried to lure Paterno—then earning $30,000 a year—with the first million-dollar contract for a pro coach. Joe hemmed and hawed, but in the end he turned the offer down, with his particular ability to be humble and grand in the same breath: “You went to bed with a millionaire,” he said he told Sue, “but you woke up with me.”

With that one, the national press fell in love. Bill Conlin, then with the Philadelphia Bulletin, came up with “The Grand Experiment” to describe Joe’s dictum that his athletes came to Happy Valley to actually study. In fact, they did and still do; almost 90 percent of Penn State’s football players graduate, far above the national average for big-time programs, and professors at PSU say the team exerts zero influence on how players are treated academically.

Joe got bigger yet. In 1973, he delivered the commencement address in June. He quoted John Steinbeck, W.H. Auden and Robert Browning. He urged the graduates, as they walked into a Watergate-obsessed world, not to become cynical about civic engagement. Then he ended with this, to an audience of 22-year-olds who had cut their teeth on the ’60s:

“You have inspired us to stretch. You have disrupted our comfortable thinking. You have made us reevaluate, think again about our ideals and our principles. You have made us look again at our souls.”

This from the football coach? Not a coach. Joe. Sharing the way with us.

There was another big step to take, a decade later, after Paterno’s 1982 team beat Georgia for his first national championship. He was invited to speak before the board of trustees­—ostensibly so they could fete him. Instead, he let them have it:

“It bothers me to see Penn State football number one and then to pick up a newspaper and find a report that many of our academic departments and disciplines are not rated up there with the leading institutions.”

Paterno was right; Penn State was a very average public university. What’s more, its endowment, as of the late ’70s, was a pathetic $11 million. Chastised, the trustees soon began a $200 million fund-raising campaign­, vice-chaired by Paterno. Two decades later, the trustees wanted to raise another $700 million; Paterno didn’t see why the goal shouldn’t be a cool billion. Everybody thought he was nuts—until the campaign landed $1.4 billion. Or, overwhelmingly, Joe did. The master recruiter of kids was dynamite with moneybags boosters and alums, too.

By the end of the ’90s, Penn State had come up to speed as a research university, with enrollment tripling since Joe Paterno’s arrival half a century earlier. And Happy Valley belonged to him.

THERE WERE HINTS OF PATERNO’S POWER getting out of whack, of something not right, as far back as the ’80s, when he won his two national championships. Joe seemed to be toying with going into politics; he and Sue got more involved in fund-raising, in improving the athletic facilities, in charities. He was stretched thin. More to the point, as his brother George would write of Joe in his 2001 biography, “He was just getting too powerful. … The narcotic of success had gotten to him. He talked down to people.”

Rather than pay his brother a visit on McKee Street, George, who was the color analyst for PSU football broadcasts, wrote a letter advising Joe to come down to earth. As George knew all too well: “You don’t take Joe on head-to-head.”

Saintly Joe, it turns out, was quite capable of being full of himself. One day he checked out a defensive drill in practice and saw a walk-on player down in his three-point stance, ready to pounce. Joe yelled, “Get someone in here who’s actually going to play!” Walk-ons are non-scholarship players; this one, a 280-pound lineman who dreamed of simply making the team, who admits that he’s “scared to death” more than 20 years later to say anything bad about Joe Paterno—that day in practice, the legendary coach made him feel like nothing. A waste of the great man’s time.

There are stories like this, too: One day a few years ago, Paterno found his usual route home from practice blocked by some grade-schoolers visiting campus. Firing open his car door into the student cop redirecting traffic, he roared: “Do you know who I am?

Yeah, the man who built it all could be a jerk.

But perhaps it’s unfair to bring up isolated incidents in 60 years of coaching. Most players who spent four years in Happy Valley became true believers in Joe’s gospel of doing it his way, especially once they left. But you had to buy into it. A graduate assistant coach named Matt Paknis was hired just after Paterno won his second national championship, in 1986. “There was a very bizarre dynamic down there” in Happy Valley, Paknis, now a management consultant, says. “It wasn’t like other programs and staff.” Paknis is referring to Paterno’s absolute control and power. He remembers one time he was late getting a player out onto the field; Paterno threatened him physically, screaming that he would “come and get” both of them. Paknis only lasted a year and a half.

Joe Paterno moved on toward a record number of victories—until he hit rock bottom suddenly, disastrously. Nine games into the 2004 season, Paterno’s team had lost 16 of its last 21 games, an unthinkable falloff.

The nosedive cast a pall over the university and, in fact, all of Nittany Lion Nation. Paterno was the Penn State brand, and the brand was suddenly not just old, not just losing, but maybe lost. Paterno claimed his team was close to being good again, yet in a homecoming game, the offense was shut out in a 6-4 loss to Iowa. That was pathetic. But it wasn’t just the losing: If Paterno was lost—if he’d lost his grip but couldn’t let go—the school itself was in limbo. Waiting. Holding its collective breath for a 77-year-old man.

So PSU president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley, along with a board member and vice president Gary Schultz, paid Paterno a visit on McKee Street the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2004. They didn’t demand Joe’s resignation. They only asked, as gently as they could, how long he would stay. They wanted a plan for his succession. Could he tell them when?

Joe threw them out of the house. Nobody was going to force him, the guy who’d created the university’s centerpiece, its calling card, to say when. And then Paterno proved his point by turning his team around in the next couple of seasons. He was untouchable.

And any mere administrator who dared cross him would quickly find out who ran things. When the Sandusky scandal hit, a former PSU standards-and-conduct officer­ named Vicky Triponey told the Wall Street Journal a chilling story: In the spring of 2007, six football players were arrested after a vicious fight in a downtown apartment. Triponey wanted the players dealt with like any other students. Paterno said the players shouldn’t have to testify against one another; he would decide on punishments, as he’d always done.

Triponey said Paterno told Spanier he would stop raising money for the university unless she was fired. Spanier told her he wouldn’t let that happen, though in the past he’d warned her that she wasn’t fitting into “the Penn State way.” Joe’s way.

In the end, none of the players missed any games; Paterno’s punishment was to make the entire team clean up the stadium for two hours after home games that fall. Triponey resigned from Penn State that September, reportedly escorted from her office on her last day by security guards.

TO GET A REAL FEEL FOR THE UNDERBELLY of “the Penn State way,” we need to understand the administrators on the other side of Joe Paterno—meaning his bosses, Tim Curley and Graham Spanier.

Curley, as athletic director, wasn’t merely some administrator foolhardy enough to leap into the buzz saw of Paterno’s power. The job of being Joe Paterno’s de facto superior required a man who understood the territory. Curley was to the manor born.

He grew up in State College, across from the old Beaver Field in the center of campus. A friend who has known him well since 1966—since middle school—says Curley­ worried a great deal about what people thought. His mother worked at Bostonian, and Tim wore khaki pants, penny loafers, pressed shirts—“a company man in high school,” says his old friend. “He was very conscious of doing the right thing.”

He parked cars for games and sold programs, and went to Penn State. He made the team as a walk-on quarterback, and after he graduated in 1976, he became a graduate assistant coach. Curley was eventually promoted to assistant athletic director. A faculty friend, who teaches in athletics, says Curley idolized Joe, and it was clear early on, long before he got the job as athletic director at the end of 1993, that Paterno was grooming him for something bigger.

He felt the stress. “I never saw a guy’s hair go gray so fast as Tim’s,” his faculty friend says. “I know he disagreed with certain things [Paterno did]. But he took the company line. Joe knew he would. The number one trait of the job was absolute loyalty.” Even if Curley was Paterno’s boss.

Curley sent an email to the athletic department one season. A new floor had just been laid in the indoor sports complex. Curley directed that no water bottles, cleats, chalk or anything else that might mar the new floor be taken into the facility. And yet a couple days later, the end-of-year football banquet was held there. Steaks, beer—you name it—hit the new floor.

Curley’s friend emailed him: “Who’s going to tell Joe to stop using the facility?”

“Ha!” Curley emailed back. He understood the absurdity of his role, at any rate.

Graham Spanier spent a decade and a half in a different two-step with Joe Paterno. When Spanier came to Penn State in 1995, he knew that at some point he’d have to deal with the 68-year-old coach leaving, and that he might even have to push him out. It was a big headache, but suggested a possibility, too. Big-time alum Anthony Lubrano heard Spanier say it several times, with a certain pride: “I’m going to be the president to replace Joe Paterno.”

Spanier has a doctorate in sociology and was trained as a family therapist—his interest in therapy likely stemming from his childhood in Chicago. Several times when Spanier was a boy, his father beat him up, breaking his nose, which is notably long and flat; a few years ago, he had surgery to relieve a breathing problem presumably caused by the abuse. Michael Oriard, an associate dean at Oregon State University whose family has taken many camping trips with Spanier’s, says the only time he’s ever seen Graham angry was during one trip, when a teenage boy punched Oriard’s son. Spanier simply couldn’t abide a child getting hurt.

As president, Spanier was endlessly energetic, often answering emails until two or three in the morning. He made moves right out of the chute that changed Penn State academically—that, in fact, helped lift the school to the standards Paterno had called for. He promoted Rod Erickson (now president) to provost and brought in a number of new deans. He created an honors college that ratcheted up the school’s academic cachet; the endowment more than doubled.

It brought him attention, and he reveled in it. Before every home football game, Spanier hosted his own tailgate party, with perhaps 600 people attending. As the guests mingled, a pep band would march in, with a couple of horns, some drums; the last person to enter would be Graham Spanier, pounding away on a big bass drum strapped over his shoulders. And after the school’s nationally ranked baton twirlers performed, Graham­ would grab a baton and give that a whirl. He was a natural showman.

Yet Spanier had a continuing problem: His football coach was getting older and older. And not going anywhere. Worse, the coach was much more famous—and more important to the university—than Graham Spanier. And after 2004, Spanier knew there was nothing he could do about that.

A close friend of Joe Paterno’s told me a story: “Spanier would take big donors down before the game, while the team was warming up, and introduce them to Joe. Once, he took a certain ex-player down on the field, wooing this guy for big money. Spanier brought the guy to Paterno, and Joe said: ‘I heard he’s a good businessman. He was an ordinary fullback for me.’”

Did Spanier get his money from the guy?


JOE PATERNO, GRAHAM SPANIER AND TIM CURLEY would all miss or ignore—or possibly hide—what Jerry Sandusky is accused of doing to young boys. One of the big unanswered questions is what they might have known before Mike McQueary went to Paterno on that Saturday morning in 2002.

Back in 1998, university police investigated a complaint a mother of a boy brought against Sandusky, going so far as to listen in on a phone conversation between the mother and the coach in which he said, “I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. … I wish I were dead.”

No charges were filed, but the case generated a lengthy university police report. Joe’s son Scott and others around Paterno have said the coach knew nothing about that investigation.

Many Paterno watchers, citing how he knew everything that went on in his program, find that claim of ignorance laughable. Jerry Sandusky retired abruptly in 1999, a year after the investigation, at age 55, at the height of his powers as a ballyhooed football mind. Supposedly he wanted to devote more energy to his Second Mile charity. Apparently he’d been told by Paterno that he would never be his successor as head coach. But just why Paterno told him that is an open question. When Sandusky left, the friend who’s been close to Tim Curley for more than 40 years told the A.D. he was surprised the coach was gone.

“It’s for a very good reason,” Curley told him—but he wouldn’t elaborate. (I attempted to talk to Curley, but he hasn’t spoken to the media since the scandal broke.)

Moreover, someone who knows the Paternos well told me—reluctantly—that a person whose last name begins with P-A-T (a Paterno, obviously, though not Joe) told him at least four years ago that “Jerry Sandusky didn’t get along well with little boys.”

Joe Paterno claimed he never fully understood what McQueary was telling him that Saturday morning in 2002. But it sounds like some of the Paternos may have had a pretty good idea of Sandusky’s behavior.

There’s much we don’t know. Regardless, unless some bald cover-up emerges in one of the ongoing investigations or trials, this sort of speculation of who knew what when is ultimately beside the point.

It’s much more important to realize that any number of people—Joe Paterno, Graham­ Spanier and Tim Curley prominent among them—could have looked deeper into whatever they heard about Jerry Sandusky. But they chose not to.

ONE OF THE STUNNING ASPECTS of the Sandusky scandal was Graham Spanier’s seeming inability to grasp the seriousness of the crisis as it built last fall. He had allegedly signed off on Tim Curley’s decision, in 2002, to ban Sandusky from bringing children onto campus (which Curley admitted was unenforceable). He was well aware, of course, of the three-year grand jury investigation into Sandusky; he testified. But the trustees say he gave them only the most cursory heads-up about it, and when the indictments of Curley and Schultz for lying to the grand jury were announced, Spanier publicly proclaimed his “unconditional support” for them.

Spanier’s friends shake their heads. What happened? Did he go brain-dead?

A surprisingly simple answer to that comes from Richard Gelles, the dean of the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice, who knows Spanier well and thinks the world of him. Gelles says that 40 years ago he worked in a hospital. It was known that an employee there had molested his own 13-year-old daughter. But he was never reported. Because he happened to be head of a department.

There is a reluctance, Gelles explains, “to report way up,” to embroil our highest superiors in something so low and ugly. We might be afraid to, certainly, but we also may have trouble believing in the guilt of our betters.

Is that what made Spanier blind to the oncoming train wreck of the Sandusky indictment? A half-dozen people close to Spanier all say that if he believed a child had been raped on his campus, he would have acted immediately. It seems quite plausible that he simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the possibility of something so heinous emanating from Joe Paterno’s football program—though clearly not out of any love for the coach. It looks much more like an inability even to consider diving into the nexus of Paterno’s power.

As for Tim Curley, well, it’s pretty obvious he was going to weigh whatever his boss—excuse me, his subordinate—wanted, and then lean hard in that direction. What would Joe want me to do?

Curley simply didn’t know how to say no. His office supplied football tickets to Jerry and Dottie Sandusky, and there they were at the Illinois game—hobnobbing in a suite with big-time donors and other PSU big shots—a week before the scandal broke. Even though, by that point, Tim Curley surely knew what was about to hit Happy Valley.

AS JOE PATERNO LAY NEAR DEATH in the hospital in mid-January, his son Jay leaned close and whispered, “Dad, you won. You did all you could. … You can go home now.”

Paterno had met his fate, apropos of his beloved Virgil: He fulfilled his duty. A molder of a team, of men, of a university, of a new place in a beautiful valley.

But along the way, he’d forgotten his own fallibility. On a winter night back in early 1983, just hours after Paterno had won his first national championship, he stood in his hotel suite in New Orleans, overlooking the Mississippi, and said to a writer: “I know I can be a real pain in the ass. … The best thing any person in authority can do is make sure he has enough people around him to tell him when he’s acting like a pompous jackass. I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who can soften my impact.”

Joe Paterno was either kidding himself or blowing smoke. Perhaps his wife Sue would tell him when he was a jackass at home, in their humble rancher just north of campus. Perhaps his brother George could write him a letter, though George died of a heart attack in 2002. In fact, there was no one.

JoePa got so big that when evil lurked, hiding in plain sight, no one saw it. Because he couldn’t let go. It was new president Rod Erickson who unwittingly damned the culture Paterno had created when he said: “Never again should anyone at Penn State feel scared to do the right thing.” In the end, Paterno succumbed to the most human of all traits: The wonderful thing that he created became him, and no one could touch that.

Still: On the day of JoePa’s funeral, Jimmy Cefalo—Paterno’s former player—cried a little as he remembered something much more recent: He saw Joe at a luncheon a year ago, and his old coach asked how Gertie and Charles were doing—he remembered Cefalo’s parents’ names after almost 40 years. When Gertie died months later, Paterno called him: He was very sorry to hear about Jimmy’s mother’s passing. “Do you have any wonder why we are so loyal to him?” Cefalo said.

The same goes for students, and the vast number of alumni: He cared enough to give us an idea about ourselves. And we, too, became part of the power of the culture surrounding Joe Paterno.

After his funeral on campus, students, and alumni who had driven in, and a few hundred players current and past lined the streets of campus and College Avenue; thousands watched, on a cool gray day, as Joe Paterno’s hearse slowly rolled by.

When it slipped past Old Main, there was silence, save for the tolling of the tower bell. Then he was gone, and the crowd dispersed slowly, still silent, all the JoePa mourners returning to lives that he had, in some measure, helped create.


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  • Tim

    The facts of why Sandusky retired were not mentioned. In his last interview, Paterno said Sandusky spent too much time on Second Mile to be head coach.

    In the Grand Jury report, a boy testified how upset Sandusky was when Paterno told him he would not be the next head coach.

    Retiring was Sandusky’s choice to spend more time with his Second Mile boys. He also avoided the embarrassment of being passed over for head coach after the sports media had named him as Paterno’s heir apparent.

    After retiring, Sandusky interviewed for and was offered the head coach job at U. Virginia but did not accept it.

  • Mark

    What is new in this article? Seems like a rehash of everything we have read or has been speculated about in the past 4 months.

    By the way, you missed some facts about Triponey. Her successor has stated publicly that Joe could not overturn or change Student Affairs actions. He also stated that only one football player had discipline altered and that came from Spanier.

    Also, you may want to Google Triponey. You may learn that she was not liked by many organizations including the student body. That may have had more to do with her dismissal than what you allude to. Either way, try to get some balanced facts next time.
    And if you are going to title articles in the future as an ‘untold story’, please make sure you include some material things that have not been told before.

  • Mark

    You point out University Police involvement in 1998. That is true, but you fail to mention they handed it over to the DA who decided to drop it. The DPW did not find anything in their investigation to support charges.

    The misrepresentation and omission of facts in these stories over the past 4 months is stunning.

  • Marty

    I mean Tom Corbett DA, I haven’t seen much questioning him at all. Confuses me especially with the campaign money and donations etc to Second Mile knowing that this investigation was going on… Nevermind it is easier just rehash and print the same story and attach the famous name to it.

  • james

    Seriously? It’s almost March of 2012 and you’re reporting news from last November, and going as far back to the 70’s. Your story provided nothing new or newsworthy regarding Joe Paterno, or the Sandusky situation. It seems that you’re just trying to bleed the Paterno name for one more headline. AND, it also seems that you habitually take advantage of knowing some lesser known personal JoePa facts and lend your opinionated story parts credibility. If you want a real headline be a journalist and do some research and expose PA Gov. Corbett’s role in the Sandusky situation and how he alone could have put an end to it in the mid 90’s.

  • wendy

    Agree with the above…you fail to mention Corbett’s role in this debacle, you state too many fallacies, you string together rumor & innuendo and present it as fact.

    Why did The Second Mile allow these boys…their CLIENTS – to be abused like this! This is all on their plate and NO ONE IS ADDRESSING THAT ISSUE!

    Is it because The Second Mile is not as interesting as the Paterno name in grabbing a reader’s attention…

    Puhleeze. Come back when you’ve got some hard hitting information for us.

  • bruce

    Seriously… please point out to me one bit of information being reported that hasn’t be reported time and time again. Believe me, I’m no Penn State apologist and I definitely believe Coach Joe Paterno could have done more but with that being said, your article is nothing… NOTHING… but regurgitated facts.

    Now if you want to write a story… why don’t you talk about how are present Governor decided to turn a blind eye to the situation when this all started. And if you really want to be a journalist why don’t you investigate The Second Mile and their campaign contribution to Corbett when he was running for governor.

    But I guess that doesn’t sell magazines.

  • Tim

    If you want a fresh story, use this headline: “Did McQueary Perjure Himself or did the Grand Jury Report Lie?”

    We know one of those is true because McQueary’s sworn testimony at the preliminary hearing contradicts the Grand Jury Report summary of his testimony.

    Seems like a big story either way. Isn’t even an Attorney General subject to disbarment for lying in an official report?

  • Bill

    While the Cult of JoePa will certainly be around quickly to flood this article with negative comments, I say well done.

    The article is well though out, well researched and balanced. It gives Paterno credit where due but shines a harsh light on his megalomania, cult of personality and iron fisted rule of the entire university infrastructure that led to the dysfunctional and insular institution exposed to the rest of the nation.

    While Paterno undoubtedly helped Penn State grow, he also held it back in many important ways.

  • Cindy

    Your article’s only offering of proof that Paterno knew more was two instances of he said she said,third party recollections, of partial comments. God help our country that we can try and convict a man in the media and in public opinion based on such evidence. A society who cannot depend on its press to report news accurately and without judgement is truly in danger.

  • Jesse

    this was right on. well written.

  • Jesse

    I read the comments above and definitely expected to see the blue and white faithful crash down on the article. I grew up in State College and couldn’t wait to get out of there. Joe Paterno was the most influential person in the state of Pennsylvania. Stop making excuses for him. This writer gives credit where credit is due and exposes how closed minded Happy Valley is. Funny how the PSU faithful questioned the hiring Bill O’Brien. Did u really think Urban Meyer was gonna come in there? Come on! Who would want that job?

    • BA1262

      Absolutely right, Jesse! Pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction… and there is waaayy too much pride of the wrong kind at Penn State. The pride of doing a job well done is one thing, but the pride that turns a blind eye to child sexual abuse for the sake of saving face to protect the name of the university and a football program is disgusting!!!

  • Frank

    This story is boring.

  • Susan

    Mr. Huber:
    What a bunch of lies and distortions you have written about Mr. Paterno.
    What is your point?
    You used his name to get an article printed and a bad article it is.
    You have no clue what a classy and gracious man that Joe Paterno was. His legacy of good will live forever.
    Investigate our governor if you want to write a story about the Sandusky scandel.
    Mr. Paterno said “make an impact”. I don’t think that you ever will.
    Shame on you!

  • Pete

    Well written and interesting. But the straining-logic conclusion is bizarre, as is the fourth-party sourcing (“Someone who knows the Paternos reluctantly said that four years ago someone who is possibly a Paterno said that … ” Yeah, whatever). And the fact that Gary Schultz’ name only appears once, and merely as an aside (so, Schultz also was with Spanier and Curley in 2004 when they went to ask JoePa for a succession/retirement plan? That’s new to me) is ridiculous. Any story of this length/depth on this topic must address Schultz. He had a clear, central role in this entire tragedy. Schultz is the only person, at this point, KNOWN to have knowledge of BOTH the 1998 investigation into Sandusky and the 2002 McQueary accusation. And this story pretty much omits him completely? Ridiculous.


    I know editors like to give articles a catchy title and authors don’t have control over that, so I blame the editors for this rehash. I was totally expecting to read something new and “untold”. The

  • Tom

    First off, several players missed playing time due to the fight at the apartment, so that’s a lie. Also, I have read tweets from many people in the president’s box the day of the Illinois game that said Sandusky was not there. Another lie. Then again, what do facts matter to journalists nowadays?

  • Jim

    I wish you folks in the press would get this right and quit villifying Paterno and Penn State. You need to focus you investigative efforts on our current Governor and The Second Mile. Why does this Governor attend meetings personally when in the past prior Governors sent emissaries? In fact it could be argued that given this Governors role in the past couple of BOT meetings, he was more than merely a participant but rather steered the actions of the BOT. Although he is a trustee at other PA universities who receive the same amounts in state funding as PSU does, he does not play a micromanaging role at those institutions as he has been doing at PSU. This is more than merely a money issue, but rather an issue of being directly involved in order to throw others off-the-scent of where the real villainy lies. Again the crux of all this is why he chose not to prosecute Sandusky while he was AG? Why has The Second Mile not been the focus of this investigation when practically all of these alleged incidents involving Sandusky involved boys from the Second Mile, all but 1 of which occured off the PSU…

  • Quo

    I hope all of you arguing that someone who covered up molestation is being “treated unfairly” someday see your comments for the evil they truly represent.

    • BA1262


  • SR

    You state, when referring to McQueary’s report to JoePa: “A day later, Paterno called his athletic director, Tim Curley. And that’s all he did—the right thing, technically,

  • SR

    JoePa told Sally Jenkins he didn’t feel adequate to handle such an issue, so he turned it over to higher ups who he believed would be better capable. I wouldn’t have felt qualified to han

  • SR

    Penn Staters who support PSU or JoePa do NOT support rape. That’s a classic “either-or logic fallacy” used to force an uninformed audience to accept a conclusion by presenting only two o

  • SR

    It seems when some of us comment, only part of the actual comment appears. Why is that?

  • Tom McGrath

    We received the following Wick Sollers, lawyer for the Paterno family:

    Your article about the late Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno deliberately created the impression that Coach Paterno knew about a 1998 incident involving Jerry Sandusky that was investigated by local law enforcement. Your claim that you pin on anonymous “Paterno watchers” is baseless and not supported by the facts. There has not been one iota of evidence from any source to suggest that Coach Paterno was ever informed about that investigation. In addition, in every comment and interview made during the last months of his life, Coach Paterno made clear that he did not learn of the 1998 investigation until after the Sandusky investigation broke in late 2010/2011. There have been investigations into what Coach Paterno knew in 1998 by multiple agencies, and not a single witness has said he or she gave that information to Coach Paterno. Indeed, the coach testified in the Grand Jury that he had no knowledge of the 1998 investigation, and the Grand Jury – after reviewing the 1998 file and hearing testimony from all relevant witnesses – confirmed this fact by its findings.

  • Alfredo

    Your idol had clay feet, as do all idols.

  • mike

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Who would dare tell Ceasar he was no longer Ceasar? Power and influence colors our perspective and when surrounded by yes men there is no balance of thought or behavior, look how long it took to topple Nixon with almost the entire U.S. government at hand. What’s troubling is all the good works get overshadowed by the wrong and immoral and history just keeps repeating itself

  • Ronald L. White, JD

    I just want to thank Yahweh, for gifting us with Joseph Vincent Paterno, for 85 years, plus. I want to thank Sue, and the kids, for sharing him with us, the greater family of Joe Paterno. I never had the honor of meeting the Coach, in this life, but he is one of my heroes. I shall cherish his memory, all of my living days. When I grow up, I want to be just like Coach, Joe Pa. I am a Baby Boomer, but I am no baby. My heart was broken, when Coach was fired, but I was devastated when he left us. I will never get over that. All he asked for, was to finish the season, and the bowl game. Was that too much to ask, for a man who had generated more than $1 billion for Penn State, as head football coach for nearly half a century? Obviously, it was asking too much, for a Board of Trustees, who, in panic mode, came up with the knee jerk decision, to let him go. I know Tom Corbett was the catalyst for that decision, because Joe Paterno would not endorse him for governor. What a pity! What a little man, is Tom Corbett.

    Joe Pa, was the best. The Messiah, Yeshua, was perfect, the word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we all know what happened to him. If perfection can be crucified, who is Joe Paterno? Who am I? Who are you? It is a real shame that we destroy our heroes. We build them up, and then we tear them down, even when they have done no wrong. Shame on us. Glory to Joe Paterno. Glory, to Joe Paterno! Well done, sir, well done, indeed! We will see you, on the other side, Coach, at the appointed hour. Until then, keep up your good works! If a man is judged by his deeds, you are in a good place.

    • Ronald L. White, JD

      Remember Isaiah 45: 7: “I form the light, and create the darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Bad things happen to good people. Terrible things happen to the best of us. It is always in the hands of Yahweh. Sometimes, he will destroy the best people on the planet, to test your characters, the accuser. Remember that, when you pass judgment on Joe Paterno, The Patron Saint of Penn State University. It was not Joe Paterno, who erred, but what about you, Mr. Rock Thrower? What about you?

  • Lu Foremost

    I’ve worked at PSU and lived in this area for over 25 years. This entire situation was always about greed: Money and Sex. That about sums it up.

  • Excellent article, fair, well written and well sourced.

  • smokeybandit

    Another absolute hit piece against a dead man with no regard to fact.

  • Jim

    Why is any of this believable when the author doesn’t even know that the 2002 date he mentions twice has been changed to 13 months earlier than reported in the Grand Jury presentment from November of 2011. Do a little research please.

  • Erik

    ” It seems quite plausible that he [Spanier] simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the possibility of something so heinous emanating from Joe Paterno’s football program”

    Sandusky was retired as a Professor Emeritus. He was not part of Joe Paterno’s football program. This is a huge problem with your and many others understanding of the situation.

  • Rip E.

    Classic faint damning praise. You seriously tried to trick your past a woman in the process of nursing her dying husband of 50 years? Pathetic.

  • Bill Levinson B.S. ’78

    It is particularly telling that Joyner profited personally from his action as a Trustee (he was given Tim Curley’s job), and his statement to Lubrano tells me pretty much everything I need to know about Mr. Joyner’s character and trustworthiness.

    Either Joyner is stupid, which I do not believe, or he was willing to make the dishonest argument that Paterno should have gone outside the procedures established by the University (including the Trustees), become a loose cannon, and possibly exposed Penn State to a libel suit by telling the wrong people that a former employee was a child molester–an allegation that has yet to be proven. One thing you do NOT do if you are responsible for the well-being of an organization is run off at the mouth to the wrong with unproven accusations of crimes against employees, whether current or former. Paterno did take the allegation to the people who were responsible for acting on it, and actions were in fact taken.

    Joyner knows this, his colleagues on the Board know it, and what they did on 11/9 therefore reflects on their collective character, ethics, and integrity.

  • Joel

    Wow! That was the most fantastic piece I’ve read on the entire PSU/JoePa/Sandusky affair. It was very even handed, and gave me more insight than anything else I’ve read or seen. As a Penn State grad ’69, lifetime alum, husband and father to PSU alumni, and a regular returnee to State College…I both thank you and commend you. I will try to get your article to many others.

  • Baltimore Bob

    Joe PA in 1998 when Sandusky retired
    at age 54 was 70+ years old
    and your brain doesn’t work
    as well after age 70.
    I hold people responsible for Vietnam
    born between 1900 and 1947.
    I do Not hold those 66 or older in 1965
    responsible for Vietnam.
    90% of American Idiots approved of Vietnam.
    Joe Pa was right in the middle of that
    born in December 1926.
    One of many Cowards.

    Reparations for Vietnam Vet
    Righteous Robert
    Baltimore Bob

  • Shawn

    Mr. Huber, this is an extremely informative review of what the general public has be fed throughout this ordeal. I must commend you on the measured and tempered tone of this article, surely taking into account the raw feelings of the vast fans and family of Paterno and the justifiable anger of the victims.

    However, what is glaringly absent from your assessment is this: Paternos’ blatant disregard of the rampant sexual abuse by Sandusky of so many impressionable and disadvantaged young boys. That this behavior is not unique to PSU goes without saying. The facts are undeniable and unequivocal, Paterno did a huge disservice to his employer, players, staff and institution on the whole, all the while burnishing his legend at every turn and every opportunity shoehorning the title of “Most Winningest Coach” in each and every article he was mention in.

    Again, a very enlightening article.