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
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
”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
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
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
”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