HARRISBURG, Pa. — Time and again, questions about an alleged cover-up of a sex abuse scandal at Penn State circled back to one name: Joe Paterno.
Major college football’s oldest, winningest and perhaps most revered coach, was engulfed Monday in a growing furor involving former defensive coordinator and one-time heir apparent Jerry Sandusky, who was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.
The Pennsylvania state police commissioner said Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he relayed to university administrators that a graduate assistant had seen Sandusky attacking a young boy in the team’s locker room shower in 2002. But the commissioner also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more.
On the Happy Valley campus and in the surrounding town of State College, some were even asking whether the 84-year-old coach should step down after 46 seasons on the sidelines.
Two Penn State officials, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley, surrendered on charges that they failed to alert police to the complaint about Sandusky.
Schultz and Curley are also charged with lying to the state grand jury that indicted Sandusky. Both stepped down from their posts Sunday, Curley taking a temporary leave and Schultz retiring. They appeared Monday in a Harrisburg courtroom, where a judge set bail at $75,000. They weren’t required to enter pleas.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said Paterno is not a target of the investigation into how the school handled the accusations. But she refused to say the same for the university president, Graham Spanier.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that although Paterno may have met his legal requirement to report suspected abuse by Sandusky, “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.”
He added: “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.”
At a news conference, Noonan and 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.
The grand jury report said McQueary was in the locker room that night to put away some new sneakers when he heard “rhythmic, slapping sounds” and looked into the showers.
He reportedly saw a naked boy, about 10 years old, with his hands against the wall as Sandusky subjected him to anal sex. McQueary left immediately and first contacted his father before calling Paterno the next morning and then meeting at Paterno’s home.
Exactly what was said during that meeting is unclear from the grand jury record, which states that Paterno called Curley the next day to tell him McQueary had seen Sandusky “in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
Paterno released a statement Sunday in which he said he was not told “the very specific actions” contained in the grand jury report, but that McQueary had seen “something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky.”
“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,” said Paterno, who has not spoken publicly about the matter. His weekly news conference is Tuesday.
The indictment also cited a 1998 incident in which an 11-year-old boy’s mother called university police to complain after learning that her son had showered with Sandusky.
Kelly would not say whether Paterno or the university president knew of that investigation.
“All I can say is that investigation was handled by Penn State University’s police department,” Kelly said. Penn State police said they were not releasing any information about the 1998 case.