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How rage over Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal engulfed Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno could be brought down by the public anger surrounding sex-abuse charges leveled at former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky.

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Penn State football coach Joe Paterno gestures as his son, Scott Paterno, ushers him past media members after arriving at his home Tuesday in State College, Pa.

Matt Rourke/AP

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The future of a legendary coach, a storied football program, and the course of a university appear to be at stake as the fallout from the sexual-abuse allegations leveled at a former Penn State football coach grows. 

Reports suggest that Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I football history and architect of Penn State's rise to national football prominence, could be forced out by the end of the week. Some public-relations experts don't see how university President Graham Spanier can keep his job, either. 

Activists seeking to expose and combat sexual abuse say there are lessons to be learned from the story. But, to many, the allegations are so heinous that any attempt at moderate discussion – about what Mr. Paterno actually knew, about how universities should respond – seems almost impossible in the current climate. 

“I really like to discuss issues that are debatable – issues where you can pick a side and defend it, where you can make an argument that a reasonable person might not agree with, but that they can understand,” says Bob Schneider, a professor of sports management at the State University of New York, Brockport, in an e-mail. “But I'm having a really hard time finding the other side on this one."

"It's pretty clear cut," he says. "The court of public opinion is going to have their say on this one. And it's not going to be kind to Paterno, to the president, or to anyone else involved with the situation at Penn State. Most people have kids. And they're not only flabbergasted by this incident, they are outraged."

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