Joe Paterno Speaks: 'Say a Prayer' for Victims of Alleged Child Sex Abuse

Penn State football coach thanks supporters outside his home.

November 8, 2011, 11:32 AM

Nov. 8, 2011— -- Penn State football coach Joe Paterno briefly came out of his home this evening hours after university officials canceled his weekly press conference to speak to supporters as his program and the school were reeling from a child sex abuse scandal.

Paterno, who is not only the winningest coach in major college football history but has done it while maintaining a program often held up as what college sports should be, today faced reports that the university board of trustees might try to force him out over allegations against one of his top former assistants.

"I've lived for this place. I've lived for people like you guys and girls," Paterno said to the hundreds of fans cheering outside his home this evening. "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 said.

Paterno, 84, didn't answer when he was asked if he was still the coach.

Earlier today, Paterno's son said reports of his father being ousted by the Penn State board of trustees were premature.

Scott Paterno, who has been acting as his father's spokesman since the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the university came to light, sent out a Twitter message today that referenced aNew York Times report that the board was in the process of planning Joe Paterno's exit from the university "within days or weeks."

"NYT report premature. No discussions about retirement with JVP," he tweeted.

Scott Paterno also said that he was "working on" setting up a press conference for his father off campus to address questions about the coach's involvement in the alleged cover-up of the crimes.

Paterno's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested Saturday for allegedly molesting eight boys, at least one of which Paterno allegedly was told about. Paterno was scheduled to have a news conference earlier today, but it was abruptly cancelled by campus officials.

Outside of his home today, Paterno told reporters and fans that he wanted to have the news conference, which was cancelled just an hour before it was set to begin.

"I know you guys have a lot of questions and I was hoping I was going to be able to answer them today," Paterno said. "We'll try to do it as soon as we can. Can't do it today."

Penn State officials also said today that they had not heard that the iconic football coach is getting the boot. Representatives from the public information office, board of trustees, and football department all denied being told anything that pointed to Paterno being removed from the head coach position, which he's held for 46 years.

The football department said that Paterno will be at the helm of the team as it plays Nebraska this Saturday. A board member told that the news of Paterno being forced out "sounds like a crazy report," but that she had no first hand knowledge of the meetings taking place.

The chairman of the board, Steve Garban, was unable to take phone calls and had meetings scheduled all day, according to his family.

The Times report came after public appearances by Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were both cancelled today in the wake of the devastating sex abuse scandal that has triggered calls for their resignations.

The university said the cancellation was due to the "on-going legal circumstances centered around the recent allegations and charges," and would not be rescheduled.

Joe Paterno Will Coach Nittany Lions on Saturday

The news of Paterno's news conference cancellation came shortly after Spanier announced that he was backing out of an honorary dinner on Wednesday at which he and his wife would be recognized for their contributions to the Penn State community.

Both Paterno and Spanier were said by authorities to have been told of allegations of sexual abuse of children by assistant football coach Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky. Two other university officials-- athletic director Tim Curly and Vice President of Finance Gary Shultz--have been charged with failing to report the crimes and lying to a grand jury during an investigation.

Paterno today would have faced questions for the first time in public of why he did not report the allegations to police.

In 2002, graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky in the shower of the football team's locker rooms sexually assaulting a young boy of about 10. McQueary told Paterno what he saw, and rather than tell the police, Paterno reported the information to his boss, Curly, and then never spoke of the incident again, according to a grand jury presentment.

Paterno released a statement Sunday saying he "did what (he) was supposed to do" by reporting the incident only to his supervisor, Curly.

Curly and his supervisor, Shultz, did not report the incident to police. They then told Spanier that Sandusky had been seen acting inappropriately with a boy in the showers and had therefore restricted his access to campus grounds. Spanier approved, and did not contact the police.

Under Pennsylvania state law, only Curly and Shultz were responsible for contacting the police to report the incident, according to the attorney general.

Calls for Paterno to Quit

Though Paterno and Spanier have not been charged, student groups, local newspapers, and sports fans have called for both men to step down. Neither Paterno nor Spanier has announced plans to do.

The allegations against Sandusky include eight named victims who have testified that Sandusky befriended them through the charitable organization he founded, The Second Mile, a group home and outreach program for troubled boys. Sandusky allegedly tried to mentor the boys, plied them with gifts, trips to sporting events, and access to the Penn State football facilities, and then sexually assaulted them.

Sandusky had coached at Penn State for 23 years, and served as the defensive coordinator before retiring in 1999. After his retirement, Sandusky continued to have full access to the school's grounds and an office in the football department, where he brought children from The Second Mile, according to the indictment.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events