State College, PA – Penn State canceled head football coach Joe Paterno's usual Tuesday press conference amid the scandal involving the sexual child abuse charges against former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky, and reports have surfaced that the school is now planning the legend's exit.
The New York Times cited sources as saying the university's board of trustees has begun discussing how to manage Paterno's departure. The paper indicated that Paterno's tenure could come to an end within days or weeks.
Paterno is essentially the face of Penn State. Not just the football program, but the university. He was an assistant coach starting in 1950 at age 23 and was elevated to the head coaching position in 1966.
The 84-year-old just became the winningest coach in Division I history on October 29, as a 10-7 win over Illinois gave Paterno 409 career wins to surpass the old mark set by Grambling State's Eddie Robinson.
Paterno not only led Penn State to success on the field with national championships in 1982 and '86, but he and his wife have also made generous financial contributions to the school and the surrounding community.
However, for all of the incredible accomplishments and benevolence, his legacy could very well be stained by the shocking allegations from this past weekend.
Sandusky, a longtime assistant under Paterno who retired in 1999, was arrested Saturday and charged with 40 counts of various sexual crimes -- some of which allegedly took place on the Penn State campus.
While Paterno is not regarded as a target of the ongoing investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and state police, his knowledge of the alleged transgressions and his actions in the aftermath have come under scrutiny.
Paterno was made aware of one of the incidents that took place in 2002 in the showers of Penn State's football building by a graduate assistant, said to be current assistant Mike McQueary. Paterno dutifully informed athletic director Tim Curley. However, the coach's involvement apparently ended there.
The charges against Sandusky include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; aggravated indecent assault; unlawful contact with a minor; and endangering the welfare of a child.
Details of Sandusky's actions were included in a grand jury presentment, which found that eight young men were the targets of sexual advances or assaults starting in 1994 and continuing through 2009.
Sandusky had operated a charitable organization for young people called The Second Mile and had unrestricted access to the Penn State football building and locker rooms as part of his retirement agreement.
Paterno reportedly wanted to speak with reporters regarding the allegations at his usual Tuesday news conference, but the university decided against it.
"Due to the on-going legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today's press conference cannot be held and will not be re-scheduled," the school's statement read.
Paterno, who testified before a grand jury, did issue a statement Sunday night.
"While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred," the statement said.
"The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. 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.
"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. 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. 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.
"I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are."
While Paterno's status is in limbo, president Graham Spanier's job could also be in jeopardy.
Already, Curley stepped aside from his post as athletic director and Gary Schultz, who oversaw Penn State's police department and was also informed about the incident in 2002, resigned. The two were charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General with perjury and failure to report under the Child Protective Services Law.
The attorney general's release this past weekend said the two men were charged because they took little action when confronted with Sandusky's alleged actions and lied about their knowledge of them.
Both Curley and Schultz made court appearances on Monday. Lawyers for both proclaimed their clients' innocence and both were released on $75,000 unsecured bail.