In an interview at his home in College Park., Pa., the 85-year-old Hall of Fame coach told The Washington Post he was bowled over when assistant coach Mike McQueary alleged the abuse by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno told the New York Post he waited a day to mull over the allegations and then called his superiors to ask them to investigate.
"Cause I didn't know, you know. We never had, until that point, 58 years I think, I had never had to deal with something like that. And I didn't feel adequate," Paterno said.
Paterno subsequently stepped down and wasn't charged. However, Sandusky was charged with more than 50 counts of sexual assault and has pleaded innocent. Two other university officials also face perjury charges in the case.
Paterno led the football team to a record 409 victories in 60 years at the university.
He is now confined to a wheelchair with lung cancer and a broken pelvis, the reports said.