According to the indictments made public last weekend, fabled head football coach Joe Paterno learned about the alleged 2002 incident from a member of his staff who witnessed it. Paterno referred the matter to the university athletic director, who in turn reported it to senior vice president of finance and business Gary Schultz.
University officials then banned Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach named in the charges, from bringing children to the campus. The charges cite other alleged abuses dating to 1994.
"I think the greatest lesson to be learned is that people have to report these crimes to law enforcement," said Williams. "We saw the same problem with the clergy sex-abuse scandal in Philadelphia. People reported to the church, but the church might do something, or not."
Although Paterno may have had no legal obligation to call police, said Williams, "you would have hoped that more would have been done than just telling the athletic director and taking away [Sandusky's] key. ... It pains me to say this because I know Coach Paterno personally. ... I would have hoped that he would have at least made an anonymous tip [call] to the State College police."
As the scandal has unfolded, "the focus has been on Joe Paterno" and now-former university president Graham B. Spanier, said Williams. "They deserve attention," he said, "but the biggest evil here is Jerry Sandusky. . . . If the charges are true, he stole their lives."
After Paterno announced Wednesday that he would not return as coach next year - hours before Penn State trustees announced he and Spanier were being removed immediately - people familiar with him fretted about his legacy.
"It's a terrible, sad series of events, especially that would lead to someone who's accomplished so much retiring. But I think the most important concern in all of this is for the kids," said University of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
"My thoughts and prayers go out for the young people, the victims in this case, and certainly, equally, my prayers go out to coach, too. It's tough," said University of Miami coach Al Golden, a former Penn State player who was on Paterno's staff in 2000.
"This is like having a scandal in the White House. That's how big this is," said Beano Cook, a football historian and ESPN analyst.
Calling himself "a big fan of Coach Paterno's," Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said, "I think the reputation the school has has been hard-earned, so hopefully things get worked out there, and I think they will."
Former governor and permanent sports fan Ed Rendell said of Paterno in a WIP radio interview, "We've got to figure out what Joe Paterno did and didn't do.
"It's just brutal for Joe Paterno, [who has] done so much for the state. ... Did he make a terrible error by not coming forward? Without prejudging the facts it looks like he should have. For him to end his career on this is tragic. But what happened to these kids is tragic."
Contact staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Amy Worden, Angela Couloumbis, Claudia Vargas, Gary Miles, and Jeff McLane. It also contains information from the Associated Press.