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

tears themselves.

”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

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 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

alleged cover-up.

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

this week.

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,