Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with 40 criminal counts of abusing children. Paterno announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season.
"I'm really, really, really sad about this," said Amanda Axt, 19, a sophomore from Northeast Philadelphia, among those who gathered in support of Paterno at his home Tuesday night. "He's pretty much the king of the school. I'm sure he regrets his lack of actions every day."
Outside the Pattee and Paterno Libraries, two meteorology majors said they were in class when they heard the news. As the teacher spoke, their classmates continued to act as if they were listening to the lecture, but everyone was reading the news about Paterno on digital devices.
"We've been waiting, but didn't think it would happen so soon," said Brian Bastian, 21, a senior from Danville. "I love Joe."
"I agree," said his friend Carl Motts, 21, a senior from Lansdale.
"I think the phrase they're using is a 'lapse of moral responsibility,'" Bastian said.
Motts offered, "I think he's getting blamed unfairly."
Both seemed to want to defend Paterno, but Bastian blurted out, "This is disgusting. ... It's the struggle we have between everything we love about Joe, the reputation that Penn State has. We were scandal-free, and then this happens."
Students are struggling to reconcile "what we revere, what JoePa has brought to the school for the last 60 years, and not understanding how something like this could happen and how he couldn't have done more," Bastian said.
Others have grown impatient.
"He's got to go," said Kaylyn Gibilterra, 21, a senior from Hershey majoring in computer science. "Anyone with any knowledge of this needs to get out of the school. He may have spent his entire life at Penn State, but this is child abuse."
Senior Katherine Bartlett eyed the "Kids B 4 Football" protest sign someone had left on the steps of Old Main. "It's a shame about JoePa, but we want to know what happened," said Bartlett, a marketing major from Landenberg, Chester County. "We want those responsible to be punished."
Paterno, 84, has been condemned for failing to take stronger action after a graduate assistant came to him in 2002 and reported seeing Sandusky in the showers in a sexual act a 10-year-old boy. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a university vice president, Gary Schultz. Those men are charged with failing to report the incident to authorities and with perjury before the grand jury investigating the case.
Paterno was not charged, but the state police commissioner cited a lapse of "moral responsibility" for not doing more to stop Sandusky.
The shops around campus continued to sell Paterno paraphernalia, including a $28 banner bearing one of his quotes: "It's the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back."
Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.
Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article, which also contains information from Inquirer wire services.