Joe Paterno news conference canceled amid sexual abuse scandal
Legendary Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno's weekly media news conference was canceled Tuesday after the school insisted Paterno would not take questions about the unfolding Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
Paterno's thus-far refusal to publicly address the most pressing questions facing his program had set the stage for an all-out media brawl at the conference, originally scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Eastern. And sports reporters were already teeing up.
SB Nation quoted one sportswriter, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror, as saying he wouldn't put up with any attempt to gag the media: "Paterno wants to keep burying his head in the sand and hope this all goes away .... But it's our job to ask the questions, and we will ask."
But less than an hour before the conference was to begin, it was canceled.
Jeff Nelson, Penn State assistant athletic director, addressed the more than 100 reporters gathered outside Beaver Stadium by reading from a one-page statement: "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.''
Nelson refused to answer any other questions.
In many ways, the cancellation delays an inevitable showdown. Paterno is used to a certain level of deference from the media given his stellar record: He has more wins than any other NCAA Division I coach. But at this point, reporters are not likely to relent on demands for Paterno to tell all he knows about Sandusky.
Moreover, there are growing calls for Paterno's resignation over the scandal.
Sandusky, 67, served as Paterno's defensive coordinator for 23 years before retiring in 1999, but he continued to maintain a close relationship with the school. Sandusky now faces allegations that he sexually abused eight young boys from the late 1990s to 2009, in part by luring them in with his Penn State ties and a charity he started for underprivileged children. Sandusky says he is not guilty.
But the explosive charges have already tarnished the school, in some people's views. They've also led to the resignations of two officials who allegedly tried to cover up early suspicions about Sandusky, putting the school's interests above the victims'.
Also at question: What did Paterno know, and what did he do with that information?
According to the 23-page grand jury report in the case, an assistant coach had seen "a naked boy … whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall," and a "naked Sandusky" forcing him to have sex.
Paterno said the coach who witnessed the incident never went into such specifics with him, though Paterno said it was clear the assistant coach had seen something "inappropriate." Paterno reportedly passed the information along to Athletic Director Tim Curley, one of the two men who has since resigned.
-- David Zucchino at Penn State, Rene Lynch in Los Angeles
Photo: Penn State Coach Joe Paterno watches his Nittany Lions play in the Capitol One Bowl last January. Credit: Scott Audette / Reuters