State College, PA - STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach who preached success with honor for half a century but whose legend was shattered by a child sex abuse scandal, was fired Wednesday by the school's board of trustees.
Paterno had offered to retire at season's end earlier in the day, saying he was "absolutely devastated" by the case, in which his onetime heir apparent, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys in 15 years, including at the Penn State football complex.
He had said he hoped the team could finish its season with "dignity and determination."
One emeritus trustee who was on a conference call with the board Tuesday told CBS News, "The tone of last night's call was of concern for all the people involved, including the children, the coach and the reputation of the school."
Paterno had said earlier that said the trustees, who had been considering his fate, should "not spend a single minute discussing my status" and have more important matters to address.
The 84-year-old Paterno has been engulfed by outrage that he did not take more action after a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, came to him in 2002 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.
Penn St. scandal dwarfs others in college sports
Curley and Schultz have since been charged with failing to report the incident to the authorities. Paterno hasn't been accused of legal wrongdoing. But he has been assailed, in what the state police commissioner called a lapse of "moral responsibility," for not doing more to stop Sandusky.
The U.S. Department of Education said late Wednesday that it was launching an investigation into Penn State's handling of the abuse.
"This is a tragedy," Paterno said in a statement. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
Paterno met with his coaching staff and players in the football building at Penn State for about 10-15 minutes Wednesday in what was described as a very emotional session. Standing at a podium, Paterno told them he was leaving and broke down in tears.
Players gave him a standing ovation when he walked out.
Junior quarterback Stephon Morris said some players also were nearly in tears as Paterno spoke.
"I still can't believe it," Morris said. "I've never seen Coach Paterno like that in my life."
Asked what was the main message of Paterno's talk, Morris said: "Beat Nebraska."
The decision to retire by the man affectionately known as "Joe Pa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers, not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno won 409 games, a record for major college football, and is in the middle of his 46th year as coach.
His figure patrolling the sideline — thick-rimmed glasses and windbreaker, tie and khaki pants — was as unmistakable at Penn State as its classic blue and white uniforms and the name Happy Valley, a place where no one came close to Paterno's stature.
The retirement announcement came three days before Penn State hosts Nebraska in its final home game of the season, a day set aside to honor seniors on the team.
Penn State has bounced back from a mediocre 2010 season to go 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in the AP college football 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, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
In the 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."
A day earlier, Paterno had showed up for practice and adoring crowds rallied outside his modest home into the night, chanting his name.
But Paterno, whose football program bore the motto "Success with Honor," could not withstand the backlash from a scandal that goes well beyond the everyday stories of corruption in college sports.
"If this is true, we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families," Paterno said in a statement Sunday. "They are in our prayers."
Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer.
Paterno has defended his decision to take the news to Curley and Schultz. Paterno said it was obvious that the graduate student, since identified as McQueary, was "distraught," but said he was not told about the "very specific actions" of the sexual assault in the grand jury report.
After Paterno reported the incident to Curley, Sandusky was told to stay away from the school. But 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.
Paterno's requirement that his players not just achieve success but adhere to a moral code that they win with honor transcended his sport. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said in June for an ESPN special on Paterno: "Values are never compromised. That's the bottom line."
His sudden departure leaves his fans and detractors wondering who exactly was the real "Joe Pa."
Was he the gentle once-in-a-lifetime leader with a knack for molding champions? Or simply another gridiron pragmatist, a detached football CEO, his sense of right and wrong diluted by decades of coddling from "yes" men paid to make his problems disappear.
History will decide whether the enduring image will be that of Paterno surrounded by all those reporters as he hurried to practice this week, or his signature look on the sidelines: Rolled-up khakis. Jet-black sneakers. Smoky, thick glasses. That famous Brooklyn accent that came off only as whiny as he wanted it to be.
"Deep down, I feel I've had an impact. I don't feel I've wasted my career," Paterno once said. "If I did, I would have gotten out a long time ago."
Paterno turned Penn State into one of the game's best-known programs and the standard-bearer for college football success in the East.
National titles in 1982 and 1986 — under defenses run by Sandusky — cemented him as one of the game's greats. In all, Paterno guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons, and he reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
A year after he took over at sleepy Penn State in 1966, Paterno began a 30-0-1 streak fueled by players such as Jack Ham and Dennis Onkotz.
But the Nittany Lions fell short in the polls, finishing No. 2 in 1968 and 1969 despite 11-0 records, and No. 5 in 1973 despite a 12-0 record.
In 1969, Texas edged out Penn State for the title with help from an unlikely source: President Richard Nixon declared the Longhorns No. 1 after their bowl game.
"I'd like to know," Paterno later said, "how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973, and so much about college football in 1969?"
Elite status finally arrived in the 1980s. The Nittany Lions claimed national titles in 1982, with a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl, and in 1986, intercepting Miami's Vinny Testaverde five times in a 14-10 win at the Fiesta Bowl.
They have made several title runs since then, including the 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 regular-season campaign in 2008 that ended with a trip to the Rose Bowl and a 37-23 loss to Southern California.
"He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him," former Florida coach Urban Meyer said after his last game with the Gators, a 37-24 win over Penn State at the 2011 Outback Bowl. Now Meyer's name will be among those raised as a possible successor.
Paterno's longevity became all the more remarkable as college football transformed into a big-money business.
The school estimated there have been at least 888 head coaching changes at FBS schools since Paterno took the job. He is the all-time leader in bowl appearances (37) and wins (24). And he sent more than 250 players to the NFL.
On Oct. 29, Penn State beat Illinois 10-7, earning Paterno win No. 409, breaking a tie with Grambling State's Eddie Robinson for most in Division I.
All he wanted to do, he had said two days earlier, was "hopefully have a little luck and have a little fun doing it. I've been lucky enough to be around some great athletes."
He said the success came because "the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I'm better than anybody else. It's because I've been around a lot longer than anybody else."
So long, in fact, that it seemed there was no getting rid of him, even as age and injuries crept up and his famous resistance to modern technology turned him into a dinosaur.
But just as much, it was a string of mediocre seasons in the early 2000s that had fans wondering whether it was finally time for Paterno to step aside.Paterno's salary was about $1 million annually, and some questioned how much actual work he did in his later years. He always praised his veteran assistants.
"I'm not where I want to be, the blazing speed I used to have," he said in October, poking fun at himself. "It's been tough. ... it's a pain in the neck, let me put it that way."
Paterno cut back on road trips to see recruits. He ended his annual summer caravan across Pennsylvania to meet alumni and donors.
He often said he never read the newspaper — though the critical comments got back to him somehow. Some suspected his wife, Sue, kept him abreast of the news.
"You guys write stories about how I sit around and don't do anything," Paterno said after watching his 409th victory from the Beaver Stadium press box. "I just hope we can help the team do the things that they want to do."
How much longer he was going to coach was — until this week — the biggest question to dog him.
"Who knows?" Paterno said with a straight face in October. "Maybe I'll go 10 years."
The terms of his departure conflict significantly with the reputation he built in nearly a half-century of turning a quaint program into a powerhouse with instant name recognition.
He made it to the big time without losing a sense of where he was — State College, population 42,000, a picturesque college town smack-dab in the middle of Pennsylvania.
Paterno and his wife raised five children in State College. Anybody could ring up his ranch home using the number listed in the phone book under "Paterno, Joseph V." Anybody could walk up to offer good luck as he walked to home games.
For the most part, Paterno shunned the spotlight, though he had a knack for making a joke that could instantly light up a room.
"You guys have to talk about something. The fans have to put something on those — what do you guys call those things, twittle-do, twittle-dee?" Paterno cracked at one Big Ten media day.
He was referring, of course, to the social media site Twitter.
Paterno had no qualms mocking himself or the media, with which he could be abrasive at times. Stubborn to a fault, Paterno also had disputes with his bosses, as might be expected for someone who has spent decades with the same employer.
As his reputation grew, so did the spotlight on his on-field decisions and program as a whole.
In 2002, following some run-ins with officials over controversial calls, an effigy of a football official, yellow flag in hand, was seen hanging on the front door of Paterno's home. Though he never said how the doll got on the door, Paterno hinted his wife might be responsible and it was all done in fun.
After he started the 21st century with four losing seasons in five years, Paterno faced growing calls for his dismissal — once considered heresy in Happy Valley — in the 2004 season.
The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions capped the campaign with a thrilling 26-23 win in triple overtime at the Orange Bowl against Florida State and Paterno's longtime friend, coach Bobby Bowden.
Bowden left the Seminoles following the 2009 season after 34 years, finishing with 389 wins. Asked whether any contemporary coach would stick around as he and Paterno had, Bowden said: "Not likely. It doesn't seem to be the style nowadays."
A 1950 graduate of Brown University, Paterno said his father, Angelo, hoped his son would someday become president. Paterno himself planned to go to law school.
A quarterback and cornerback at Brown, Paterno set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions — a distinction he sometimes boasted about to his team.
Law school never materialized. At 23, he was coaxed by Rip Engle, his former coach at Brown, to work with him when Engle moved to Penn State in 1950.
"I had no intention to coach when I got out of Brown," Paterno said in a 2007 interview before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "Come to this hick town? From Brooklyn?"
Paterno turned down an offer from the late Al Davis to be offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 1963.
Three years later, Paterno became Penn State's head coach after Engle retired.
The New England Patriots offered Paterno the head-coaching job in the early 1970s, only to be rebuffed.
Engle never had a losing season at Penn State, but when Paterno took over, the Lions still were considered inferior "Eastern football."
As the program turned into something much bigger, Paterno's fans always insisted it was more than simply about winning.
"He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man," former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. "Besides the football, he's preparing us to be good men in life."
As of 2011, Penn State has had 49 academic All-Americans — 47 under Paterno — the third-highest total among FBS institutions. The team's graduation rates consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten. In 2010, Penn State's 84 percent rate trailed only Northwestern's 95, according to the NCAA.
State College, PA - Penn State trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.
The massive shakeup Wednesday night came hours after Paterno
announced that he planned to retire at the end of his 46th season.
But the outcry following the arrest of former assistant coach
Jerry Sandusky on molestation charges proved too much for the board to ignore.
One key question has been why Paterno and other top school officials didn't go to police in 2002 after being told a graduate assistant saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in a school shower.
Paterno says he should have done more. Spanier has said he was
not told the details of the attack.
Sandusky has denied the charges.
Joe Paterno to Retire at End of Season
November 9, 2011 - 10:55am -
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno released the following statement:
"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.
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.
That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.
My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University."
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- November 9, 2011 -
A person familiar with the decision says Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has decided to retire at the end of the season.
The person says Paterno will announce his retirement later
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of
anonymity because the decision has yet to be announced.
Official Tells AP That Support for Paterno Eroding
by Genaro C. Armas
State College, PA (AP) - A high-ranking Penn State official
says support for football coach Joe Paterno is eroding among the
school's board of trustees.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition
of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. The person is
familiar with the trustees' discussions but says it's unclear what
the consequences for Paterno will be.
The person says a decision could be at hand before the board
Meanwhile, Scott Paterno is telling reporters that his father has had no talks with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down. He told reporters outside his father's house Tuesday that Joe Paterno plans to not only coach in Saturday's game against Nebraska, but for the long haul.
Penn State Sex Scandal Engulfing Revered Paterno
Harrisburg, PA (AP) - Time and again, questions about an alleged cover-up of a sex abuse scandal at Penn State circled back to one name: Joe Paterno.
Major college football's oldest, winningest and perhaps most revered coach, was engulfed Monday in a growing furor involving former defensive coordinator and one-time heir apparent Jerry Sandusky, who was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.
The Pennsylvania state police commissioner said Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he relayed to university administrators that a graduate assistant had seen Sandusky attacking a young boy in the team's locker room shower in 2002. But the commissioner also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more.
On the Happy Valley campus and in the surrounding town of State College, some were even asking whether the 84-year-old coach should step down after 46 seasons on the sidelines.
Two Penn State officials, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley, surrendered on charges that they failed to alert police to the complaint about Sandusky.
Schultz and Curley are also charged with lying to the state grand jury that indicted Sandusky. Both stepped down from their posts Sunday, Curley taking a temporary leave and Schultz retiring. They appeared Monday in a Harrisburg courtroom, where a judge set bail at $75,000. They weren't required to enter pleas.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said Paterno is not a target of the investigation into how the school handled the accusations. But she refused to say the same for the university president, Graham Spanier.
"All I can say is again, I'm limited to what's contained in the presentment, and that this is an ongoing investigation," Kelly said.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that although Paterno may have met his legal requirement to report suspected abuse by Sandusky, "somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child."
He added: "I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."
At a news conference, Noonan and Kelly were peppered with questions about whether Paterno was given details about what graduate assistant Mike McQueary - now the team's wide receivers coach - saw on the night of March 1, 2002.
The grand jury report said McQueary was in the locker room that night to put away some new sneakers when he heard "rhythmic, slapping sounds" and looked into the showers.
He reportedly saw a naked boy, about 10 years old, with his hands against the wall as Sandusky subjected him to anal sex. McQueary left immediately and first contacted his father before calling Paterno the next morning and then meeting at Paterno's home.
Exactly what was said during that meeting is unclear from the grand jury record, which states that Paterno called Curley the next day to tell him McQueary had seen Sandusky "in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."
Paterno released a statement Sunday in which he said he was not told "the very specific actions" contained in the grand jury report, but that McQueary had seen "something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky."
"If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families," said Paterno, who has not spoken publicly about the matter. His weekly news conference is Tuesday.
The indictment also cited a 1998 incident in which an 11-year-old boy's mother called university police to complain after learning that her son had showered with Sandusky. A state Department of Public Welfare investigator told the grand jury that Sandusky said he showered naked with the youth and hugged him, "admitted that it was wrong," and promised not to shower with any child again.
Kelly would not say whether Paterno or the university president knew of that investigation.
"All I can say is that investigation was handled by Penn State University's police department," Kelly said. Penn State police said they were not releasing any information about the 1998 case.
Sandusky retired in 1999 after learning that he would not be Paterno's successor as head coach.
Kelly and Noonan encouraged anyone who would accuse Sandusky of sexual assault to step forward and talk to police, with Kelly specifically asking that the child reportedly assaulted by Sandusky on March 1, 2002, call detectives.
Paterno has long had an image as a leader who does things by the book and runs a program that has seen far fewer off-field troubles than other major college football teams. Doubts about his judgment in handling the Sandusky matter quickly began to emerge.
Facebook users, including those on a newly created group called "Joe Paterno should resign," expressed outrage and disappointment in Paterno. Many said Paterno should have gone to police after the 2002 incident.
At Rinaldo's Barber Shop in State College, hair cutter Lori Schope said she believes Paterno shares responsibility.
"He passed the buck," she said. "Anybody that says they knew about it and didn't do anything about it is complicit."
Advocates for priest-abuse victims saw parallels in how the university and the Roman Catholic church handled similar problems.
"Here we are again," said John Salveson, former president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "When an institution discovers abuse of a kid ... their first reaction was to protect the reputation of the institution and the perpetrator."
"They didn't even try to find out the identity of the kid that was being raped in the shower," he said. "Their solution to this was to not let Sandusky into the shower anymore. It's just stunning to me that no one called the police."
Sandusky was described by Keith "Kip" Richeal, co-author of his autobiography "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story," as a loving father of six adopted children
"I hope to God it's not true because I admire the man very much," Richeal said. "All I saw was Jerry was kind to kids of all ages, including the students he dealt with."
Sandusky has maintained his innocence, his lawyer said Saturday.
At Sandusky's two-story brick house at end of a cul-de-sac about five minutes from campus, a State College police car was parked in the driveway for a time Monday. An officer said police had been asked to keep people off the property, which included a neatly trimmed lawn with a pumpkin at the front.
Schultz, 62, and Curley, 57, are innocent and will seek to have the charges dismissed, their lawyers said. Curley's lawyer, Caroline Roberto, called the case weak, while Schultz's lawyer, Tom Farrell, said the men did what they were supposed to do by informing their superiors of the accusations.
"You folks may have seen Mr. Paterno's statement," Farrell told reporters. "Mr. Paterno's statement matches their statement. They were given a general allegation of inappropriate conduct. That's what Mr. Paterno told them, that's what Mr. Paterno told you folks yesterday, that's what he testified to in the grand jury, and that's what these gentlemen testified to in the grand jury."
Sandusky continued to use the school's facilities after retirement for his work with The Second Mile, a foundation he established in 1977 to help at-risk kids. The charges against him cover the period from 1994 to 2009.
The allegations against Sandusky range from sexual advances to touching to oral and anal sex. The young men testified before the state grand jury that they were in their early teens when some of the abuse occurred; there is evidence even younger children may have been victimized.
Buffalo Bills safety Bryan Scott, a three-year starter at Penn State from 1999-2002, said he was roommates with Sandusky's son Jon and had heard from mutual friends that the younger Sandusky was "just completely devastated."
"How can you not be? Your dad being accused of these allegations," Scott said.
He said he was praying that the charges against the former assistant coach were not true. "If it is, my thoughts and prayers are on the victims and on the victims' families," he added.
On College Avenue, the street running in front of the Penn State campus, the scandal - and who bears responsibility - was a popular topic of conversation.
"It's uncomfortable for us, because we know a lot of the people involved," said Rebecca Durst, who owns Rinaldo's Barber Shop.
"I don't think there's an easy solution," Durst said. "Damage has been done to a lot of people."
Anthony Vecchio, working on a street improvement project nearby, agreed. In any other job, he said, a boss would be held responsible if he or she didn't report wrongdoing by an employee.
"He's the boss, he's the head coach," Vecchio said. "He should know what's going on beneath him."
No matter what happens, Durst said the scandal has left a permanent stain on Penn State and the community.
"Happy Valley is not going to be Happy Valley anymore," she said.
AP writers Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia and Nancy Armour in State College contributed to this story.