Penn State coach Joe Paterno watches his football team practice Wednesday in State College.AP PHOTO
STATE COLLEGE -- Hours after he had announced his retirement for the end of the season, Penn State coach Joe Paterno was fired, effective immediately, by the school’s board of trustees. The 84-year-old coach was informed by phone Wednesday evening that he would not be allowed to coach the remainder of the 2011 season as he had intended.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been named interim coach. The rest of the coaching staff, including Paterno’s son Jay, appeared to be intact as of late Wednesday night.
“In consideration of all the facts and the difficulties we’re encountering during this time, it was the Trustees’ view that this was in the best interest -- long-term interest -- of our university to make that change,” said John Surma, vice chair of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, adding that the decision was unanimous.
Surma spoke at a frantic press conference at the Penn Stater Conference Center, where university president Graham Spanier was fired in tandem with Paterno as the university continued to crumble under the weight of an alleged sexual abuse scandal and cover-up.
According to an Associated Press report, students again gathered outside of Paterno’s State College home. As he did the previous night, Paterno briefly addressed the crowd.
“Right now, I’m not football coach, and that’s something I have to get used to,” Paterno said before shrugging his shoulders and returning indoors.
Local police were out in full force in campus and in town as students flocked into the streets.
Paterno had announced Wednesday morning that he would be retiring at the end of the season, distraught that he did not do enough to bring allegations of sexual abuse against children to light.
Issuing a personal statement, Paterno called it “one of the great sorrows” of his life.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” he said.
Paterno’s former top assistant Jerry Sandusky is facing 40 counts of sexual abuse of children.
Though he does not face any legal action himself, Paterno has come under heavy scrutiny for not going to the authorities after being told of an alleged incident between Sandusky and a young boy in the shower of the team’s headquarters in 2002.
State police commissioner Frank Noonan said this week he thought Paterno and others at Penn State had “a moral responsibility” to contact police instead of merely reporting the allegations to a superior.
With pressure mounting since charges against Sandusky were filed over the weekend, Paterno’s family denied reports that the coach was on the way out on Tuesday.
Matters changed overnight, as Paterno released a statement saying he would step down after the season on Wednesday morning as reporters and camera continued to mob his State College home.
“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case,” Paterno said. “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.”
The announcement came with three regular-season games left in this, Paterno’s 46th season as head coach at Penn State and his 62nd overall with the program.
Paterno did not release the statement through the university.
"At this moment, the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status,” Paterno said. “They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”
Surma said Paterno’s preemptive statement did not affect the board’s decision to remove him.
Penn State players found out that their coach would be retiring even before a hastily called full-squad meeting at 11 a.m.
"I’d honestly say about 15 minutes before the squad meeting even started," senior captain Drew Astorino said. "I think everyone pretty much knew about it by then due to ESPN and social media."
The talk was short but emotional.
Paterno stood up at a podium and broke into tears while telling the team that he would be leaving, according to multiple players, who said the team gave a standing ovation to the coach after he was finished.
Astorino summarized Paterno’s speech to the squad.
“He said he thinks this will be the best for Penn State, the best for his family, the best for everyone,” Astorino said. “He said he cared for Penn State more than anything, and he wants us all to remember that this team will always be a team, always be together. Not just for the game, not just next year, but for the rest of our lives. And he wants us never to forget that.”
“The last words of the meeting were that we’re Penn State football players and we’re going to forever be linked,” senior tackle Chima Okoli said. “We’re a family.”
“It’s such a tough thing to happen,” Astorino said. “Joe’s been here for a long time -- he’s the head coach. It was tough to hear. Very tough to hear. We’re all very emotional and upset."
Quarterback Matt McGloin said Paterno told the players not to give up on the season despite the extreme distractions.
“I don’t think we realize what’s going on yet,” said the Scranton native who was under center for Paterno’s historic 400th career victory last season as well as for his 409th win two weeks ago that made Paterno the winningest coach in the history of Division I college football. “We’re all pretty upset with the news. Coach Paterno reminded us we have some games to play.
“We’re upset with it, but he reminded us to stay focused.”
That has been increasingly difficult for anyone on campus to do since the weekend.
Sandusky was arraigned Saturday on 40 counts of sexual abuse against eight young boys over a span of 15 years. That same day, athletic director Tim Curley and a Penn State senior vice president, Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury and failure to report.
Curley and Schultz have since stepped down, with Curley listed as being on administrative leave.
All three men have maintained their innocence through their attorneys.
“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination,” Paterno said in his statement. “And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.”
Paterno was found innocent of any wrongdoing by the grand jury.