Column: Sadly, it's time for Joe to go
Two top Penn State administrators are gone, out the door so quickly they didn't even last the first weekend of a scandal far more distressing than any in a sport plagued with scandals.
Athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz have more to worry about than their jobs. They turned themselves in Monday and face possible prison time for lying to a grand jury and for not reporting to proper authorities the allegations of sexual misconduct by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
My guess is that university president Graham Spanier - who was not charged - will be the next to go. He did himself no favors by immediately leaping to the defense of his two accused subordinates in the sordid case, though he may have thought he had little choice.
This is a guy, after all, who testified before the grand jury that all he knew in 2002 was that it was ''Jerry Sandusky in the football building locker area in the shower with a younger child and they were horsing around in the shower.''
That's all. Just a grown man naked in the shower with a naked little boy not related to him.
Nothing to see there. Let's move on.
University presidents come and go, though, without anyone paying too much attention. They don't win football games, and not one of them is the winningest major college football coach ever.
Joe Paterno does, and he is.
My initial reaction was to give Paterno a grudging pass in this whole mess because he immediately reported the 2002 allegations to his superiors, presumably with the assumption that they would do the right thing. The tendency for all of us, I suppose, is to want to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who has spent 46 seasons coaching the same team, with hardly a whiff of wrongdoing surrounding the program.
Besides, my guess is that with the coach growing increasingly frail and a new administration arriving in the wake of the scandal, this could be Paterno's last season no matter what happens.
There comes a time, though, to put aside the respect for everything Paterno has accomplished in Happy Valley. A time to think about what would happen to any other coach who had these kind of things happen on his watch.
A time to take a stand, no matter how difficult it might be.
That time is now, and what has to happen is clear. No one can sit on the fence on this one, no matter how much Paterno has done for Penn State and how much the octogenarian coach might mean to the university and the game of college football.
It almost hurts to say it: Joe has to go.
Not at the end of the regular season. Not after the big bowl game the No. 12 Nittany Lions will almost certainly play in.
Paterno needs to step down now. There is no other option.
He was Sandusky's boss for 32 years, including a portion of the period from 1994 on that Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight different boys. He had complete control of the football program at Penn State, and the crimes that are alleged occurred on his watch.
Paterno will have to answer for how that happened, and here's hoping that he does better with that than he did Sunday night when he issued a statement that basically said no one could have known what was happening - when in fact he and the people around him were told years ago that terrible things were happening.
''The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling,'' Paterno said. ''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.''
The really troubling thing is that there likely are even more victims because of what Paterno and others didn't do in 2002. That includes the graduate assistant himself, identified as Mike McQueary, now the team's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
They didn't call police. They didn't notify child abuse authorities. They didn't try to find out the identity of the young boy.
And they didn't stop Sandusky from doing anything, other than making it more difficult for him to bring other young boys to the football complex.
Paterno is used to giving lectures, not getting them. But let's hope he was listening today when Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan said that fulfilling his legal requirement to report the 2002 incident to his supervisors wasn't nearly enough.
''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,'' Noonan said. ''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.''
For reasons known only to him, Paterno failed that responsibility. A coach who took pride in disciplining his players for even the smallest violations to maintain a clean program for some inexplicable reason didn't follow through on something far more important than a win or loss on the football field.
Unfortunately, you can't lead a program with the slogan ''Success with Honor'' when the honor has been stripped away. There is no way to recover from this mess, even if it wasn't largely of his own making.
It's a terribly sad way to end a great career.
Not to mention a very sad day in Happy Valley.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg