Source: Support for JoePa 'eroding'

Updated: November 9, 2011, 2:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Support for Joe Paterno among Penn State's board of trustees Tuesday was said to be drying up, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach's career amid a child sex-abuse scandal involving one-time heir apparent Jerry Sandusky.

A source with knowledge of internal discussions at Penn State told "Outside the Lines" reporter Steve Delsohn that "the support on the board of trustees for Joe is eroding."

"But what that means and how much that support has eroded remains to be seen," the source said.

The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the trustees' discussions, said it was unclear what the consequences for Paterno will be and that a decision could be rendered before the board meets on Friday.

Penn State president Graham Spanier also has lost support among the Board of Trustees, the person said, but again, how much was unclear. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Earlier Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the board has had discussions about Paterno's departure and how to manage it. The newspaper, citing "two people briefed on conversations among the university's top officials," said that Paterno's exit could come within days or weeks.

Paterno's son, Scott, said his father hasn't spoken with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down.

Trustee David Joyner said he was unaware if any decision had been made on Paterno's future.

"No one has asked Joe to resign," Scott Paterno told The AP in a text message.

Earlier Tuesday, Penn State administrators canceled Paterno's weekly news conference, during which he was expected to field questions about the scandal involving Sandusky, his former defensive coordinator.

Scott Paterno said the decision to cancel the news conference was made by Spanier's office, and that his father was disappointed.

Paterno was met by a crush of reporters as he left his home for football practice Tuesday and said he wanted to talk to reporters. "I know you guys have a lot of questions. We'll try to do it as soon as we can," he said before being whisked away.

While institutional support for Paterno appeared to be wavering, hundreds of fans staged a raucous rally outside his home Tuesday evening. He appeared briefly, along with some family members, and thanked the crowd for coming.

"I've lived for this place. I've lived for people like you guys and girls," Paterno said. "It's hard for me to say how much this means."

"As you know, the kids that were the victims, I think we ought to say a prayer for them," he added.

Asked if he was still the coach, Paterno didn't answer but a young woman who stood with her arm around him replied: "Now is not the time."

Paterno was met by a crush of reporters as he left his home for football practice Tuesday and said he wanted to talk to reporters. "I know you guys have a lot of questions. We'll try to do it as soon as we can," he said before being whisked away.

Addressing reporters outside his father's house, Scott Paterno said his father plans to not only coach in Saturday's Big Ten game against Nebraska, but for the long haul. He also said he was attempting to organize a press conference for his father on Wednesday.

Later in the afternoon, Joe Paterno stepped out of a silver sedan being driven by his wife, Sue, and headed to team practice. At one corner of the facility, managers hastily put plywood boards over an exposed fence to block photographers' view of the field.

At one point during the impromptu rally at his house, Paterno held his fists over his head three times and said, "We are ..."

And the crowd replied, "Penn State!"

"We're always going to be Penn State," Paterno said. "I'm proud of you. I've always been proud of you. Beat Nebraska."

Sandusky, the defensive coordinator on Paterno's two national championship teams in the 1980s and once thought of as the coach's likely successor, was arrested Saturday on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. A ninth alleged victim came forward Tuesday. Sandusky's initial hearing in the case has been delayed until Dec. 7.

[+] EnlargeTBD
AP Photo/Ralph WilsonJoe Paterno, center, is escorted from his home to Penn State football practice Tuesday. At left is his son, Scott, who said his father will answer questions "when he's got the right opportunity."

A second person familiar with the board's discussions told the AP that it was focused on the horrific aspects of the charges against Sandusky; two university officials -- former athletic director Tim Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz also have been charged in the scandal, accused of failing to notify authorities when told Sandusky had assaulted a boy in a shower used by the football team.

Scott Paterno described the grand jury report as "a sickening thing to read."

"If you read the grand jury document very closely, Joe fulfilled his legal obligation," he said. "The other questions that everyone has, only Joe can answer. He will do that when he's got the right opportunity. The front yard of his house in front of his car is not the place to do it."

Authorities have said that Paterno, who testified in the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against Sandusky, is not a target of the investigation. But the state police commissioner has chastised him and other school officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

Meanwhile, another potential victim has contacted authorities.

The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky's arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, which first reported that the man had come forward, said he is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from the former coach's The Second Mile charity and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.

Young declined to release the man's name or provide details about what he claims occurred.

The Patriot-News published a rare full, front-page editorial calling for this season to be Paterno's last and for Spanier to resign immediately."

"There are the obligations we all have to uphold the law. There are then the obligations we all have to do what is right," the editorial board wrote about Spanier's role in the sex abuse scandal, along with Paterno's.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in an editorial, also called on Paterno and Spanier to both resign.

A person familiar with Sandusky's relationship with Penn State told The Associated Press that the former coach long maintained an office in the East Area Locker building which is across the street from the Penn State football team's building, and was on campus as recently as a week ago working out.

The university's online directory listed Sandusky -- whom Penn State officials said was banned from campus over the weekend -- as an assistant professor emeritus of physical education in the Lasch building.

The grand jury investigating Sandusky found that he was given the office, a parking pass and other amenities as part of his 1999 retirement package.

Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan said Monday in Harrisburg that 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.

"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."

Jerry Sandusky's son, Jon, is the director of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns. Jon Sandusky will remain in his role and not take a leave of absence, as was initially expected, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Browns said Jon Sandusky does not intend to comment about any aspects of the scandal at Penn State.

In a related development, a Philadelphia-area congressman called on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to investigate whether Penn State violated a federal law requiring colleges and universities to report campus crime in its handling of the Sandusky allegations.

"The failure to report the 2002 allegations would appear to break Penn State's own reporting methods for sexual abuse on campus," wrote Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., in a letter to Duncan. "Had the 2002 allegations been properly reported, investigated and disclosed, the later instances of abuse could have been prevented and future victims protected."

Information from ESPN.com college football reporter Brian Bennett and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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