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Penn State shaken by Paterno's firing; support rally turns violent

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:46 a.m. HST, Nov 10, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.>>  After nearly a half-century on the job, Joe Paterno says he is still getting used to the idea of not being Penn State's football coach. So is the rest of the shaken campus, after one of the most tumultuous days in its history.


In less than 24 hours Wednesday, the winningest coach in major college football announced his retirement at the end of the season — then was abruptly fired by the board of trustees.

Also ousted was Penn State President Graham Spanier — one of the longest-serving college presidents in the nation — as the university's board of trustees tried to limit the damage to the school's reputation from a child sex abuse scandal involving one of Paterno's former assistant coaches.

Paterno's firing sent angry students into the streets, where they shouted support for the 84-year-old coach and tipped over a news van.

In less than a week since former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period, the scandal has claimed Penn State's storied coach, its president, its athletic director and a vice president.

"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," Paterno said outside his house late Wednesday night. "Let me think it through."

Paterno had wanted to finish out his 46th season — Saturday's game against Nebraska is the last at home — but the board of trustees was clearly fed up with the scandal's fallout.

"In our view, we thought change now was necessary," board vice chairman John Surma said at a packed news conference where he announced the unanimous decision to oust Paterno and Spanier.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach, and the university scheduled a news conference with him for later Thursday. Provost Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.

As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out.

State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests.

Paterno had come under increasing criticism — including from within the community known as Happy Valley — for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by Sandusky. Some of the assaults took place at the Penn State football complex, including a 2002 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary.

McQueary went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier.

Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has not ruled out charges against Spanier.

Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in "moral responsibility."

Paterno said in his statement earlier Wednesday that he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.

"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."

The Penn State trustees had already said they would appoint a committee to investigate the "circumstances" that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of Curley and Schultz. 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.

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.

Surma said it was "in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing."

"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," he added.

Sandusky, who announced his retirement from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a temporary leave and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent.

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.

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.

Paterno has raised millions of dollars for Penn State in his career, and elevated the stature of what was once a sleepy land-grant school. Asked why he was fired over the phone, Surma said, "We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction."

At Paterno's house, his wife, Sue, was teary-eyed as she blew kisses to the 100 or so students who gathered on the lawn in a show of support.

"You're all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there," she said. "We love you all. Go Penn State."

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JPM wrote:
At least someone acts when they get information about sexual child abuse. Our future is scary if these young adults protesting represent it. The guy had a moral obligation to make sure the police were involved. Even if the report was just touching, but the report was very graphic and disturbing. Hopefully these young adults realize the error in their thinking.
on November 10,2011 | 05:02AM
hanoz808 wrote:
Im apalled at the actions of the town...... this is the message it tells sex offenders "Be friends w/Joe and you can do ANYTHING"
on November 10,2011 | 06:47AM
hanoz808 wrote:
Im apalled at the actions of the town...... this is the message it tells sex offenders "Be friends w/Joe and you can do ANYTHING"
on November 10,2011 | 06:47AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Gotta let the investigation shake out the facts. Did Penn State have a policy in place regarding incidences such as these and were they followed precisely? Paterno is an institution but did he do enough. The crimes committed by Sandusky is heinous and if a coverup is revealed, more heads will fall. This 15-year crime spee should have been nipped in the bud. The priority is and at least should be the victims who are traumatized for life. The focus seems to be on Paterno which is understandable but not right. The victims should be the focus.
on November 10,2011 | 05:27AM
bender wrote:
But it seems footbal is the pri8ority for these protestors. Their message is clear on that point. And it sends another message as well "don't send your kids to Happy Valley". As for the question of whether Penn State had a policy, it doesn't matter. Coach Paterno had a moral obligation to report these offenses so they could at least be investigated. He failed in that obligation.
on November 10,2011 | 08:15AM
nanakuli32 wrote:
Sad story. I wish hope and pray that joepa will get involve again. He knows he made a big mistake.he's time has past as coach. But in due time, time heals all wounds. Everyone have a bless day.
on November 10,2011 | 05:27AM
hanoz808 wrote:
HEAL, try telling that to the children that was prayed upon by a beast and then covered up..... what a joke.
on November 10,2011 | 06:48AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
Kind of sad that a story book coaching career comes to an end mainly because of something an assistant done almost a decade ago. And that assistant did leave the University soon after the incident. I believe things were just done behind the scenes... and maybe Paterno just didn't want to publicly throw a former friend under the bus. If Paterno was the one who committed the crime, that would be a different story. In this case, maybe the school should have let him finish up the year and go out on his own.
on November 10,2011 | 05:52AM
jimmyhouse67 wrote:
If that had been your child that was assaulted by a coach and the head coach knew and did nothing about it, would you be so forgiving of the coach? Anyone with knowledge had a "moral" responsibility to go directly to the police. If it had been my child, an immediate firing would not be enough because no one will get away with hurting my child. Paterno may not have done the act, but he did nothing himself to prevent it and the coach still has an office on the campus. Looks like he protected a friend over protecting an innocent child.......oh yeah, "allegedly"
on November 10,2011 | 06:36AM
mrluke wrote:
The assistant DID NOT leave soon after the "incident". And, NOTHING was done. Seems that Papa Joe washed his hands of it and pretended it never happened.
on November 10,2011 | 06:38AM
hanoz808 wrote:
ok, so when your child is sexually preyed upon and the teacher/coach knew, but didnt take further action...who will you feel should be responsible?
on November 10,2011 | 06:49AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Penn State is in damage control mode. By firing Coach Paterno, they are reducing their liability. They still will probably pay millions but they had to do this to send the message. As for Coach Paterno, he will always be a major part of Penn State. Donʻt expect him to fade into the sunset, it will be more like the rise of the sun at daybreak. Heʻll come back slowly but always glow brightest among Penn State boosters!
on November 10,2011 | 06:26AM
hanoz808 wrote:
everyone has to be blind to not realize that Joe was like the towns president! so he told the A.D., who is usually higher than the coach, BUT really is he??? everyone around him knows that if they do something against him, then it could result in retaliation..... Come on people wake up! Let's turn the picture around..... Would you as the sexually abused childrens parents buy such an excuse??? If so, then don't be upset at the person that knew your child was being abused, but failed to pursue such a disguisting act.
on November 10,2011 | 06:46AM
charja wrote:
The incident was witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary, why didn't he contact police. He didn't have to go to Joe Paterno, he could have called police himself. Yet there is no mention of what happened to him in this case of failing to contact the authorities.
on November 10,2011 | 07:35AM
cojef wrote:
Like in the Catholic Church case, institutions have a moral obligation to report these incidents of child sexual abuse by employees, immediately to the police for investigation. Even accusations must be reported to avoid any suspicion that a crime has been commited. In the past, especially the Catholic Church attempted to handle matter internally, and as recent reveletions have shown, it is a bad policy. The Penn State story is another attempt to resolve the problem internally, and it never, ever, works. You can't hide dirty linen.....
on November 10,2011 | 09:27AM
BigOpu wrote:
For something as serious as this, Penn St. is making the right moves. Anyone of authority who knew about it and didn't fire the person responsible at the time of the incident should be fired. I don't care if the person won 8 national championships or is involved in a variety of charities. Sweeping this under the rug and exposing other minors to this monster is a travesty and should be dealt with severely. Firing is a start. I have no sympathy for those who covered this up.
on November 10,2011 | 10:43AM
kenjiSAITO wrote:
What about Mike McQueary? He actually witnessed the sexual assault, why didn't he step in and stop it? Just asking.
on November 10,2011 | 01:49PM
BigOpu wrote:
Just as guilty. This is not an excuse, but he was sort of a low man on the totem pole at the time. Sandusky was the Heir Apparent. MM's sighting would've been glossed over just as his mentiioning to JoePa has. MM took it to someone who was pretty much God on campus that could've brought it to an end immediately. But I guess we'll never know, and your inquiry has merit for sure.
on November 10,2011 | 02:18PM
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