Paterno, Spanier Out At Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Joe Paterno was fired by the Penn State board of trustees Wednesday night despite saying he would retire as coach after the football season ended, brought down by the growing furor over the handling of child sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.

Penn State President Graham Spanier was also ousted.

“I am disappointed with the board of trustees’ decision, but I have to accept it,” the 84-year-old Paterno said in a statement. “A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed.”

Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football history, learned of the board’s decision at the end of a day that began with his decision to finish out his 46th season and leave.

It was not to be.

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“The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” board vice chair John Surma said during a packed news conference.

Paterno and Spanier were informed by telephone of the unanimous decisions to remove them.

“We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction,” Surma said.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach while Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president. The university scheduled a news conference with Bradley for Thursday morning.

“The Penn State board of trustees tonight decided it is in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing,” Surma said.

“The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place.”

Asked what Paterno did wrong, Surma said: “I can’t characterize that. We thought because of the difficulties that have engulfed our university, it was necessary to make changes.”

Speaking outside his home, Paterno said: “Right now, I’m not the football coach. And I’ve got to get used to that. After 61 years, I’ve got to get used to it. I appreciate it. Let me think it through.”

His wife, Sue, was teary-eyed as she blew kisses to about 100 students on the lawn. “You’re all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there. We love you all. Go Penn State,” she said.

Hundreds of students gathered about two blocks from the campus, with some chanting “We want Joe! We want Joe!” Some shook a lamp post and others tipped over a news van, kicking out its windows. Police fired bursts of pepper gas.

Paterno said in a statement earlier Wednesday that he was “absolutely devastated” by the abuse case, in which his former assistant and onetime heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years, with some of the alleged assaults taking place at the Penn State football complex.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Paterno has come under harsh criticism – including from within the community known as Happy Valley – for not taking more action in 2002 after then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary came to him and reported seeing Sandusky in the Penn State showers with a young boy. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz.

Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, although Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities.

The firings came three days before Penn State hosts Nebraska in its final home game of the season, a day usually set aside to honor seniors on the team.

The ouster of the man affectionately known as “JoePa” brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers – not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories – a record for major college football – won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.

Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.

After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.

The board had already said it would appoint a committee to investigate the “circumstances” that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of Curley and Schultz.

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Education said it has launched an investigation into whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law.

Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a leave of absence and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent.

The committee will be appointed Friday at the board’s regular meeting, which Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine “what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure” similar mistakes aren’t made in the future.

Surma said McQueary would retain his job for now.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity in 1977, working with at-risk youths. It now raises and spends several million dollars each year for its programs. Paterno is listed on The Second Mile’s website as a member of its honorary board of directors, a group that includes business executives, golfing great Arnold Palmer and several NFL Hall of Famers and coaches, including retired Pittsburgh Steelers stars Jack Ham and Franco Harris.

Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  • Denver Deadite

    Good riddance to an enabler of evil.

    • L

      I agree. Shame on him for not protecting the innocence of those sweet boys. My heart aches for their lost childhood.

  • AT3374

    Oh happy days

  • Jane


  • vetdana

    More heads need to roll.If we have here a criminal sexual child molesting predator allowed to roam free for years, even decades, after responsible people know about his actions, then have a very disturbing cover up that evolves a great number of people.Many investigations are now commencing, the results of which will have far reaching implications regarding crimes and cover up.In addition, we will .no doubt, see a great number of lawsuits. This is not over…it has just begun !

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  • Cris Benson

    Last night the Penn State board trustees told coach Joe Paterno that he will no longer be coaching the Nittany Lions thus not giving Joe the celebrated send off on the football field.

    The board of trustees made the right decision but unfortunately it was the first time someone at Penn State made the right decision in a very long time. The first morally correct decision not legal.

    If Joe Paterno was given the opportunity to continue coaching even one last game it would have been viewed as a celebration of awarding deceit.

    Joe he has been given a gift. The gift to enjoy his grandchildren in the safety and love of his and his wife’s home. Where his grandchildren are loved, cared, and blessed with lots of kisses. Real love.

    As for Penn State University the football motto is “Success With Honor,” something the players, students, and faculty should remember when they play Nebraska this weekend. With coach Paterno removed they are taking the first step towards reclaiming that motto.

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  • Creighton

    A poster at the suntimes Bears insider blog had this to say.

    “SuaveDave | November 10, 2011 6:09 PM | Reply”

    “All I have to say is, “You don’t hang a man ’cause his brother stole your horse.” There is an investigation going on, and it was premature to sack Joe Paterno before its conclusion and findings were made known. Until then, the operative word is “alleged”. Joe was tried and convicted by public opinion and the press, yet he was not a “person of interest” in this matter. This was a gutless, CYA, and totally wrong thing for Penn State to do. ”

    Here is the link.

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