Head coach Paterno, university president Spanier fired by Penn State trustees

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 10:29 PM
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011 5:19 AM
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier were fired Wednesday night by the board of trustees amid the growing furor over how the school handled child sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.

Joe Paterno called the sex abuse case "a tragedy" and wished he'd done more.  File/Associated Press
File/Associated Press
Joe Paterno called the sex abuse case "a tragedy" and wished he'd done more.

Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football, was ousted at the end of a day that began with his announcement to retire at the end of the season, his 46th.

It was not to be.

"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 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.

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.

After the firings, thousands of students descended on the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" then headed to downtown to Beaver Avenue. Almost all the students were decked out in Penn State gear.

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.

Students riot following coach's firing

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Police in riot gear dispersed about 2,000 Penn State students who took to the streets after the ouster of football coach Joe Paterno. Crowds toppled a television news van and at least one photographer was pelted with a rock.

The students flooded downtown State College on Wednesday night for about three hours after Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired amid a growing furor linked to their handling of sex abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach.

Officers used pepper spray at times to control the crowd. Some students chanted 'We want Joe! We want Joe!" Others kicked in the windows of a toppled news van.

About 100 police officers were downtown, many wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray. State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests.

Paterno had announced earlier in the day he planned to retire after the season and expressed remorse for not having done more after he learned of the sex assault allegations.

Players, coaches, students react to firing
  • "Let's see what's going to happen, OK? Right now I'm not the coach. And I've got to get used to that. After 61 years, I've got to get used to it." — Joe Paterno speaking to a small group of students that clustered around his house after he was pushed out of his job
  • "I think he certainly understood maybe more than anyone else, given his role as attorney general in this investigation, he understood the magnitude of this case, obviously before anybody else would have and he believes, as he said this morning, that what he was looking for was for the board to take swift and decisive action to restore the trust and integrity of the university." — Kevin Harley, spokesman for Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett who participated in a phone conference with trustees Wednesday night
  • "After all he's done for this school he didn't deserve to go out like this. As students, we respect him so much. We deserve to send him off in the last game." — Penn State junior Ariel Chavarria from Houston, Texas
  • "This university is a large and complex institution, and although I have always acted honorably and in the best interests of the university, the buck stops here. In this situation, I believe it is in the best interests of the university to give my successor a clear path for resolving the issues before us." — Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who was ousted by the board of trustees
  • "You're all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there. We love you all, go Penn State." — Sue Paterno, Joe Paterno's wife, to a crowd of students gathered by their house after his firing was announced
  • ". ... I love Penn State. I went to school there, it was such an important part of my life. It's part of me. I will never say, 'Oh, I regret going there now because of it. That's just now the case. ... But this situation is just an unbelievable black eye for the program and it's going to be tough because whenever anybody says Penn State or you see Penn State, sexual assault of young kids is what's going to come to mind, and that's such an unfortunate thing." — Jacksonville Jaguars and former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny
  • "I've certainly been in prayer for the young people that are involved in this, young men as they are now. I certainly feel for them. I don't know a whole lot about all the details. I haven't read through all the transcripts and things of that nature. ... I'm also very close to coach Paterno. It's tough to see his legacy ending in this way." — Indianapolis Colts coach and former Penn State assistant Jim Caldwell
  • "This one moment in time, this one decision, is going to tarnish his reputation and put a big black eye on Penn State and what he stood for. I can't imagine what it will be like to live with, knowing you knew this nine years ago and you did the bare minimum. How many more lives were affected by that decision not to go to police? How could he betray all of us like that?" — Penn State graduate Kathy Schmouder, 39, Selinsgrove, Pa.
  • ''I've known Coach Paterno since I started coaching. I know nothing of the circumstances, but college football will miss him greatly on the field. He has done much for the game, and for Penn State." — Texas coach Mack Brown
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charliemanson 11/10/11 - 04:02 am
"As Recently As 2009, Jerry

"As Recently As 2009, Jerry Sandusky Was Running An Overnight Football Camp For Kids On Penn State Campuses."


wildman 11/10/11 - 05:10 am
Said it before, bad deal for

Said it before, bad deal for Joe Pa. It's sad to me that it ends for him like this. Yea I know he could have said more guess that why I'm a disappointed in him but he beat all odds at one school and did it with diginity except for this one unforgettable time. Just DAMN!

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 11/10/11 - 05:15 am
KUDOS to the PSU Board of

KUDOS to the PSU Board of Trustees for making a difficult, but correct, decision.

Their "standing tall" reminds me of the actions of a current local sheriff and a former DA in their handling of a case involving a local school system's substitute teacher who was indicted and convicted for sexual battery against local elementary-level kids.

Riverman1 11/10/11 - 05:46 am
Absolutely, fantastic. I

Absolutely, fantastic. I listened to some out of town talk shows yesterday and Paterno did nothing after being pretty sure of what had happened. He didn't check on what the administration had done or anything. He stayed friends with Sandusky. No reason to let him retire honorably on his terms. This sends a message.

avidreader 11/10/11 - 06:33 am
Frank I and any other

Frank I and any other bleeding heart conspiracy-theorists, you're giving me a rash. Joe Paterno admitted his indiscretions to a national audience. He said, "I should have done more." And yes, he should have. Some sins are simply unforgiveable, and Paterno's is one of them. We all have faults and regrets for certain actions in our lives, but the welfare of children who are molested is a crime that should never be "overlooked".

Cocomommy 11/10/11 - 06:51 am
"The past several days have

"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." - Exactly. Some of the above comments are downright offensive and lack the maturity that adults should have in this situation. What ever happened to integrity in America? Perhaps it never existed. Personal integrity should have led everyone involved in this case to do everything within their power to protect these children - not Penn State Sports. Hats off to the school itself for stepping up and doing just that. We have to stop revering child molesters and those who protect them and send out a zero tolerance message in support of our children. Looking at another article today - why are we tracking and supporting sex offenders in our society rather than removing them completely? Who's too soft on crime to protect our children, and why?

copperhead 11/10/11 - 07:59 am
All he did was allow one of

All he did was allow one of his coaches to abuse children but he made up for it by being a winning football coach. Small price to pay for a winning team. AMNESTY and a golden parachute retirement. Maybe he can open a child care facility.

TheArmyWife 11/10/11 - 08:21 am
Why does McQueary still have

Why does McQueary still have his job?

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 10:55 am
Read all the stories before

Read all the stories before sticking up for any of these people. Every single person involved or who heard or who were told, should be prosecuted. Those boys were tormented and they were little boys, too! It went on for years. It ruined lives.

How can any of them live with themselves? I know, the team and winning came first. Completely despicable! And how dare anyone blame the AC for reporting the truth. How can anyone defend this? If that happened to my child, I'd have to hurt somebody.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 11:09 am
cocomommy said, "Who's too

cocomommy said, "Who's too soft on crime to protect our children, and why?"

Because our society does not VALUE their lives. You are allowed to kill them in the womb, because that makes you PC and progressive, not to mention you could be a victim of not practicing safe sex and need additional birth control measures. Killing them outside of the womb is a little different; you'll get a few years for it, maybe.

kiwiinamerica 11/10/11 - 11:10 am
When I switched on the TV

When I switched on the TV this morning I was immediately confronted with film footage of Penn State students rioting. "Uh-oh", I thought, "they're ticked that the college allowed this sex abuse to continue for so long and turned a blind eye to it."

How wrong I was. They were angry because Paterno was fired! Utterly amazing!!

To the students of Penn State: you are a bunch of cretins and should any of your resumes ever come across my desk in the future, they will go straight in the shredder!

follower 11/10/11 - 05:08 pm
kiwi, you're lumping every

kiwi, you're lumping every single student in with the 10%. Don't miss out on a good applicant because they went to Penn.

Is that any different than saying people of one race or another is bad because of a few idiots?

I would question your decision making ability to hire and fire if that is truly your position in this matter.

freeradical 11/10/11 - 09:39 pm
When the lawyers for the

When the lawyers for the multple sodomized boys are done with this

catholic church of a college , football will be the least of their problems.

Their pockets may be deep but after the lawyers have turned them

out they can turn that campus into a king-sized Augusta Golf &


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