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The Penn State trustees fired university president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno due to the growing anger with how the school has dealt with the allegations of sex abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The trustees met and decided to clean house Wednesday night after Paterno made the announcement earlier that he was planning to retire after 46 years at the end of the season.
The board couldn’t look the other way after the chorus of disapproval that was heard round the country following Sandusky’s arrest on molestation charges.
“The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” board vice chair John Surma said during a news conference.
“The Penn State board of trustees tonight decided it is in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing,” Surma said.
“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.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been named the interim coach and provost Rodney Erickson interim school president.
Paterno expressed disappointment with the decision, but accepted it and urged people to remain calm.
“A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed,” Paterno said in a statement late Wednesday night. “I appreciate the outpouring of support but want to emphasize that everyone should remain calm and please respect the university, its property and all that we value.
“I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love. I am grateful beyond words to all of the coaches, players and staff who have been a part of this program. And to all of our fans and supporters, my family and I will be forever in your debt.”
A source told ESPN’s Joe Schad that Paterno received and envelope at his home Wednesday night before the board made their announcement, and that it contained a paper with a number to call. Paterno called and a board member told him “you are relieved of your duties.”
Paterno has had a hard time grasping the scope of the allegations being brought against Sandusky.
People have been asking since the scandal began why Paterno as well as other top Penn State school officials didn’t notify the police in 2002 when Mike McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time and is now the wide receivers coach for the football team, told them that he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in the school shower one night.
Paterno, who has wanted to speak to clarify some things, but had his weekly press conference cancelled by the school, will do so possibly as soon as Thursday. Paterno while saying he should have done more recalls McQuearly “vaguely” making references to “fondling” or “touching” by Sandusky and a young boy, but never understood that McQueary had witnessed a “rape.”
On Wednesday Paterno said in a statement that he was “absolutely devasted” by the case in which Sandusky was charged with molesting eight boys in a span of 15 years. Some of the alleged abuse was said to have taken place at the football complex.
Paterno’s firing ends one of the greatest coaching careers seen in sports. In his 46 year tenure as head coach of Penn State, Paterno has won 409 games, 2 national titles, and coached 5 teams to undefeated seasons. He’s also the fastest coach to reach 300 wins.
Penn State is currently ranked 12th in the BCS and the AP poll sitting at 8-1 losing to Alabama. They play 19th ranked Nebraska this weekend, at Ohio State, and at 18th ranked Wisconsin looking to secure a bowl bid.
In a statement, 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.”
Penn State now looks to move forward and put this scandal behind them and the firing of the great “JoePa” is the first step in that direction.