Start with the theory that this was a roughly 15-year cover-up, which also qualifies him for enabler status, concerning his friend and longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who is now under indictment as a child sexual predator of the lowest denomination.
For now, it's a case of the proof vs. common sense. But at least two other Penn State officials, one being the just-fired athletic director, do face criminal charges involving a cover-up on Sandusky, and once their trials begin, and once the saving-of-their-butts testimony begins, it will be interesting to see where it goes.
Michael McCann, a sports law professor and NBA TV's on-air legal analyst, wrote for SI.com this week that Paterno's statement to a grand jury will come under close scrutiny as these other cases go to trial.
Plus, when the lawsuits start to roll in from the young victims' families -- and those will be for a staggering amount of money -- Paterno could still be found negligent in a civil trial.
What did Joe know, and when did he know it?
See if this makes sense:
In 1998, with Sandusky serving as Paterno's defensive coordinator and also considered heir apparent as head coach, a story surfaced that over the previous four years Sandusky had inappropriate conduct with three young boys, including shared showers.
Once a mother of one of the boys learned of this, she went to the university police. In June of '98, the state welfare department and the university police interviewed Sandusky, who promised them he would not shower with children again.
Oh, well, everything is all OK again in Happy Valley. The man promised he wouldn't take showers with young boys.
Right then, why was Sandusky not fired by Paterno? I've never heard of a head coach at any level, junior high on up, who would not terminate this kind of human trash immediately.
Instead, Sandusky coached the entire '98 season, then mysteriously retired before the '99 season, but stayed on at Penn State as a volunteer coach while maintaining full access to campus facilities.
Despite more "incidents" that were even reported in local newspapers, and despite the now infamous situation in 2002 when a graduate assistant coach reported to Paterno he saw Sandusky in the locker-room shower committing sex acts on a boy thought to be 10 years old, Sandusky until last weekend was listed on the school's website as "assistant professor emeritus of physical education."