Originally published Nov. 9, 2011
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has been fired by the school's board of trustees effective immediately. In addition, the long-serving president Graham B. Spanier is out as a result of fallout from the child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the school.
It comes less than a week after a grand jury report alleged that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused boys on Penn State's campus.
The board decided 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," board vice chairman John P. Surma announced at a news conference, with other board members in the background.
Paterno had announced earlier in the day that he would retire at the end of the season, but the board said last night his end would come much more abruptly. He will not coach the team's final home game against Nebraska on Saturday.
"In consideration of all the facts and the difficulties we are encountering during this time, it was in the trustees view that it was in the best long-term interest of our university to make that change," Surma said.
The board, he said, is "committed to restoring public trust to our university. We do not yet know all the facts and there are many details yet to be worked out."
Provost Rodney Erickson will step in as acting president, and Tom Bradley will serve as interim football coach, Surma said.
Surma offered no comment on other personnel, including Michael McQueary, the assistant coach who as a graduate assistant in 2002 reported seeing Sandusky rape a boy in a campus shower.
"Other matters over time will get resolved and dealt with," he said.
Riot police were on standby in State College as the news further rocked the university where football is king. Thousands of students took to the downtown streets late Wednesday night after the trustees' news conference, climbing trees and standing on rooftops along Beaver Avenue. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Students were chanting "We want Joe Pa!" and "One more game!"
Surma said he hoped students, staff and others would understand that the decisions were made in the interest of the university as a whole, "which is much larger than athletic programs."
Both Spanier and Paterno have been under fire since a grand jury report emerged late last week, charging that Sandusky had molested young boys on Penn State's campus over a period of years. Two university administrators also were charged in the case for perjury and failure to report a crime.
When told of a 2002 alleged sexual assault by Sandusky on a 10-year-old boy, Paterno notified University officials but not law enforcement.
Spanier acknowledged that one of his administrators told him about the incident involving Sandusky, but said that it was only described as "horseplay."
Since arriving at Penn State in 1995, Spanier has been credited with increasing fund-raising and enrollment and starting a plethora of new programs and initiatives. In 2010, his contract was extended by the board of trustees to 2015.
The terms of his departure were not discussed.
"Our great university has been rocked by serious charges against a former coach," Spanier said in a prepared statement. "The presentment by the attorney general describes acts that should never be tolerated or ignored. I was stunned and outraged to learn that any predatory act might have occurred in a University facility or by someone associated with the University.
"I am heartbroken to think that any child may have been hurt and have deep convictions about the need to protect children and youth. My heartfelt sympathies go out to all those who may have been victimized. I would never hesitate to report a crime if I had any suspicion that one had been committed."
Staff writers Jeremy Roebuck and Amy Worden contributed to this article.