Legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who has led the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 seasons and two national championships, was fired Wednesday night in a stunning shake up in the face of a devastating pedophile sex scandal.
University President Graham Spanier was also fired following the arrest of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky for molesting young children while a coach at the school.
Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in June 1999, has denied the charges. He founded The Second Mile charity in 1977 to work with at-risk youths, some of whom became his alleged victims.
University President Also Sacked
Board Vice Chairman John Surma said in a statement that “these decisions were made after careful deliberations and in the best interests of the university as a whole.”
“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,” Surma said.
Paterno, 84, had announced plans to retire at the end of this season, but the board chose not to wait.
Although Paterno was not directly implicated in the scandal, he was advised of incidents taking place in the athletic department locker room. He reported it to administration officials but never called police.
It was an inglorious end to a college football dynasty. Paterno, who for decades preached “victory with honor,” still had the support of much of the university community.
“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,” he said to students who had gathered at his house after the announcement.
Paterno couldn’t escape the scandal because, among other top officials, he didn’t go to the police after a graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the university locker room shower and reported it.
Joe’s Motto Was ‘Victory With Honor’
Paterno acknowledged, in hindsight, that he should have done more.
“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.”
Spanier claimed he was not told the details of the attack, but he has been defiant in the wake of Sandusky’s arrest.
He authorized the university to pay for the legal defense of athletic director Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz, who are accused of lying to a grand jury about the incidents.
Sandusky, Paterno’s one-time heir apparent, was charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, but according to the latest reports many more children may be involved.
The board said it would appoint a committee to investigate the “circumstances” that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, Curley and Schultz. Paterno notified Curley and Schultz about the 2002 abuse charge.