When he returned to practice in the evening, about 300 Penn State students were camped out in the front yard to express their support of him, bringing him close to tears.
However, in between those two surreal scenes was business as usual.
Paterno had to coach his team, a surprising 8-1 going into what had been a big game Saturday against Nebraska, and he wasn't going to let his players down. He likes his players and their commitment, and he wants to see them succeed enough to get to next month's inaugural Big Ten championship game.
With calls for him to retire gaining steam throughout the state and nationally after the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky led to sordid revelations of sexual assaults on young boys, Paterno stubbornly stuck to his routine.
He may have been late getting to the Lasch Football Complex, but for the next few hours, his players and Nebraska were the only things on his mind, not a report in The New York Times that quoted sources as saying the university's board of trustees was working on ways to manage Paterno's exit from the job he has held for 46 seasons.
A report that Paterno informed his team at practice that he would resign was shot down by numerous sources.
ESPN college football analyst Matt Millen, who played for Paterno, wasn't surprised, that his old coach will keep at it until the board of trustees, or whoever is making the decision, doesn't allow him to coach any more.
"Part of it is arrogance and part of it is the fight that I know him to have," Millen said on the network's College Football Today show. "Joe is a feisty guy now. He was denied his right to be able to speak because the university canceled that news conference. He will speak and he will give you his side of the story.
"He'll give you what he believes and he'll fight it. He believes that so he'll fight it all the way through. The arrogant part is that you're going to continue to do it through the long haul, OK? He's 85, what is the long haul? How do you define it?"
Paterno had little to say Tuesday. Before he left his home for practice, he told reporters, "I know you guys have a lot of questions and I was hoping to be able to answer some of them today. We'll try to do it as soon as we can. Can't do it today."
His son, Scott, said Paterno would issue a statement "in a day or two." He also said no one from the administration had asked his father to step down.
Joe Paterno also skipped his portion of the Big Ten's weekly coaches' conference call. His colleagues in the league didn't have much comment on the scandal and cover-up that has engulfed the university.
"I honestly don't know much about what's going on there," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "I can't speculate on things I don't know. It's not a distraction for our football team. We haven't talked about it. We won't talk about. I don't believe in speaking about things I don't know anything about. So I'll leave it at that."
Pelini, whose team is spending its first season in the Big Ten, went on to say that he didn't know Paterno very well.
"I know coach Paterno kind of in passing," he said. "But he's always been very nice to me. He's a class act."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke would only say, "It's an unfortunate situation but it's not my place to make judgment on it because, who knows the facts?"
The questions remain on how much Paterno knew about Sandusky and what assistant coach Mike McQueary actually told him about an incident allegedly involving Sandusky and a young boy. But there was little question Paterno would stick to the same football routine Wednesday.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org