Penn State trustees oust coach Paterno
The day was always coming. The old coach was 84, and each new
season brought questions whether it would be his last. No one,
though, expected it to happen quite like this.
The Penn State board of trustees voted unanimously to fire
football coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday night amid the growing
furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an
assistant coach. Penn State president Graham Spanier also was
The massive shakeup came at the end of a day that started with
Paterno announcing he planned to retire at the end of his 46th
season, saying he wanted to finish with ”dignity and
determination.” But the board decided he had to go
”The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” board
vice chair John Surma said during a packed press conference.
Paterno and Spanier were informed of the decision by
”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.
Earlier in the day a tearful Paterno, who won more games than
any coach in major college football history, stood in an auditorium
in the Penn State complex and told disbelieving players that he
planned to retire at the end of the season.
Not because he was too old or couldn’t win anymore, but because
of the child sex abuse scandal involving longtime assistant coach
and onetime heir-apparent, Jerry Sandusky.
”Success With Honor” was ending in disgrace, and the tears
flowed from behind the thick eyeglasses.
”In all the clips I’ve seen of him, I’ve never seen him break
down and cry,” quarterback Paul Jones said. ”And he was crying
the whole time today.”
Cornerback Stephon Morris said some players also were nearly in
”I still can’t believe it. I’ve never seen Coach Paterno like
that in my life,” Morris said.
”He spent his whole life here, and he dedicated everything to
Penn State,” added safety Nic Sukay. ”You could really feel
Paterno said in a statement he was ”absolutely devastated” by
the case, in which Sandusky has been charged with molesting eight
boys over 15 years, with some of the alleged abuse 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
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 10-year-old 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.
Paterno’s ouster 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.
He appeared on the practice field earlier Wednesday in his
signature khakis and navy windbreaker. Within five minutes of the
start of practice, PSU officials told reporters to step back and
then erected tall wooden boards in front of the fence.
The decision to remove 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
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.
After meeting Tuesday, the board said it would appoint a
committee to investigate the ”circumstances” that resulted in the
indictments of Sandusky, Curley and Schultz in the scandal and
In Washington, the U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday
it has launched an investigation into whether Penn State failed to
report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal
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.
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 his initial statement, Paterno said the trustees should ”not
spend a single minute discussing my status” and have more
important matters to address.
According to the grand jury report, Paterno informed Curley and
Schultz of his meeting with the graduate student but said Sunday he
was not told about the ”very specific actions” of the sexual
Critics say Paterno should have done more.
”When an institution discovers abuse of a kid, their first
reaction was to protect the reputation of the institution and the
perpetrator,” John Salveson, former president of the Pennsylvania
chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said
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.
On Wednesday, Sandusky’s portrait on a mural in State College
was painted over.
In his statement, Paterno said: ”I grieve for the children and
their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.”
He went on: ”I have come to work every day for the last 61
years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of
this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my
care. I have the same goal today.”
AP sports writers Nancy Armour and Jim Litke in State College
contributed to this story.
Information from: The Morning Call, http://www.mcall.com