Paterno’s resignation leaves players shocked, sad

Joe Paterno was in tears, his players in shock.

”All the clips you’ve ever seen of him, you never saw him break

down and cry,” quarterback Paul Jones said. ”And he was crying

the whole time today.”

Struggling to keep his emotions in check and old school as

always in a sweater and tie, Paterno stood in front of his players

and coaches Wednesday and said the words many already knew were

coming but never thought they’d actually hear. After almost a

half-century of head coaching at Penn State, and more victories

than any other Division I coach, he was resigning at the end of the

season.

Paterno told his players it was the best decision following the

child sex-abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator and

one-time heir apparent Jerry Sandusky. In just a few days, the

tawdry allegations have managed to sully the pristine reputation

that Paterno built with such care all these years.

When he finished talking, his last group of players rose and

applauded.

”Obviously, it was pretty emotional,” safety Nick Sukay said.

”He’s spent his whole life here and dedicated everything to Penn

State. You could really feel that.”

Criticism of Paterno has grown all week, and his support among

the Penn State trustees was ”eroding” ahead of a board meeting

Friday. On Wednesday morning, as players were waking up or heading

off to class, they got phone calls and text messages telling them

to report to the Lasch Football Building as quickly as possible for

a team meeting.

While players were making their way to the glass and

cream-colored brick building on the northeast side of campus,

Paterno arrived at the football offices in a white Mercedes-Benz

SUV driven by his daughter, Mary Kay.

”I had a feeling,” said junior fullback Michael Zordich, whose

father was an All-American safety at Penn State. ”I’d heard some

things.”

As a statement from Paterno announcing his resignation was being

released, the 84-year-old coach delivered the news to his team

personally. He spoke for about 10 minutes while his players and

staff listened in stunned silence.

As Paterno broke down, so did some of his players.

”I’ve never seen players get that way. I’ve never seen coaches

get that way,” junior cornerback Stephon Morris said. ”I’ve never

seen coach get that down before.”

Added senior offensive tackle Chima Okoli, ”It wasn’t anything

that felt good for anybody at all.”

Paterno asked his players to stay focused and beat No.19

Nebraska on Saturday, the final home game of the season.

But the coach who has preached ”Success with Honor,” demanding

academic excellence and good behavior from his players, also asked

them to continue being ”great young men,” sophomore tailback

Silas Redd said.

”Continue to have good character,” Redd said Paterno told

them. ”That’s the thing he’s been teaching us the whole

time.”

While other powerhouse programs have been embarrassed by NCAA

violations in recent years, Penn State had avoided any major

troubles – until now.

”For coach Paterno, the greatest coach of any sport really, to

go out like this is unfair,” Okoli said. ”He’s meant so much more

to the university (than football). He’s had such a legacy, and this

isn’t a fitting end.”

Paterno finished by reminding his players they would always

share a bond, would always be a family, and they responded by

giving him a standing ovation. The coach then left with his

daughter, looking somber and sad as he got back into the SUV. He

declined to say anything more. He waved and they drove off.

His players stayed for a few more minutes to talk with their

position coaches. Several stopped to talk to reporters. Others

walked away with their heads down, some wearing head phones to

drown out questions.

”We’re all still feeling the effects of it,” Sukay said.

”We’re pretty shocked, pretty sad.”

At Paterno’s house, just a few blocks off campus, it was largely

quiet aside from a few deliveries: flowers, what looked like a

fruit basket. One student stopped to leave a letter in Paterno’s

mailbox.

”He gave his life to the university for 50 years,” Okoli said.

”You’ll never see that again in college football.”

AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas also contributed to this

report.