Joe Paterno’s tenure as coach of the Penn State football team will soon be over, perhaps within days or weeks, in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that has implicated university officials, according to two people briefed on conversations among the university’s top officials.
It was one horrible misjudgement from a coach that until now has always been known for his good judgement.
Paterno has not been charged in the matter, but his failure to report to authorities what he knew about the 2002 incident, in which Sandusky allegedly sexually assaulted a young boy at Penn State’s football complex, has become a flashpoint, stirring anger among the board members and an outpouring of public criticism about his handling of the matter.
In recent days Paterno has lost the support of many board members, and their conversations illustrate a decisive shift in the power structure at the university. In 2004, for instance, Paterno brushed off a request by the university president that he step down.
Paterno came to Penn State in 1950 as a 23-year-old assistant coach making $3,600 a year. He planned to stay for two seasons, to pay off his student loans from Brown University, where he earned a degree in English literature.
He became the head coach in 1966, and he has been widely credited with helping spearhead the Penn State football program and the rest of the university from a local enterprise into a national brand. Along the way, Beaver Stadium grew to 108,000 seats from 29,000 and Penn State’s endowment grew from virtually nothing to more than $1 billion.
What separated Paterno from many of his coaching peers until this week was that he did this with few questions about how he grew the program. Penn State’s lofty graduation rates and education-first ideals, known as Paterno’s Grand Experiment, became as synonymous with the program as its plain uniforms and dominating defenses.