Joe Paterno Fired: Penn State Students Riot in Protest

Good Morning America

Thousands of enraged Penn State students tore through the streets of State College, Pa., overnight to protest the firing of Joe Paterno after the longtime head football coach was removed from his position effective immediately.

Amid chants of "We want JoePa," "One more game" and "F*** the media!," rioting students flipped over a television van, knocked a lamppost onto a car, threw toilet tissue and rocks at police and set off fireworks.

Police met the rioting crowds with tear gas as it became clear that the army of officers, who were out in riot gear, were far outnumbered by students. Every local police department in the county contributed officers to the effort to control the crowd, along with state police and the county sheriff's department.

Several students directed their rage at the media by overturning over a satellite van belonging to a local CBS affiliate, breaking its windows and threatening to burn it amid chants.

At least two students were arrested and at least one injury was reported after a girl who was hit in the head with a rock was taken to the hospital.

By 3 a.m. the crowd had mostly dissipated as the cold, rainy conditions in State College likely encouraged many students to return home. A small group of students gathered at the Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium to sing the school's alma mater after the mob disbanded.

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin tweeted the following late Thursday: "This is a tough time But the outrage we are feeling now is nothing compared to what the victims are going through.keep them in our prayers."

Paterno, 84, announced Wednesday that he was "absolutely devastated" by the scandal and would retire at the end of the season, will not get to leave on his own terms. Penn State's head coach of nearly five decades will not coach another game, according to the trustees.

"Right now, I'm not the football coach, and that's something I have to get used to," Paterno said, according to The Associated Press.

As he spoke, people gathered at Paterno's house and were seen crying. Paterno eventually came out to suggest the students go home and study, and thanked them for their continued support.

"I am disappointed with the board of trustees' decision, but I have to accept it," he said in a statement. "A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed. 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."

Federal Investigation of Penn State Allegations

The end of the line for Paterno and Spanier at Penn State came a few hours after the U.S. Department of Education announced it was launching an investigation into whether university officials mishandled the allegations.

The Education Department is checking to see if the university failed to comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act), which requires colleges to disclose reported criminal offenses on campus.

"If these allegations of sexual abuse are true, then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a news release. "If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse. Schools and school officials have a legal and moral responsibility to protect children and young people from violence and abuse."

Paterno Assistant, Officials Charged Over Alleged Abuse, Cover-Up

The turmoil follows the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, charged with abusing at least eight boys over 15 years.

Athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz were charged Tuesday with not reporting the sexual abuse to police and lying to a grand jury under oath during the investigation.

Paterno and Spanier have come under intense pressure because they were also told of at least one incident, but did not alert police.

"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case," Paterno said in a statement today before his dismissal. "I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief."

"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," he said.

Paterno has coached Penn State's football team for 46 years and is the winningest coach in top level college football ever.

"I have been incredibly blessed to spend my entire career working with people I love," he said in his written statement following his dismissal. "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."

However, Tom Bradley has been named interim coach for the rest of the season, John P. Surma, vice chairman of Penn State's board of trustees, told reporters this evening.

"These decisions were made after careful deliberations and in the best interests of the university as a whole," he added.

Spanier issued a statement that seemed partly to agree with Surma's sentiment.

"This university is a large and complex institution, and although I have always acted honorably and in the best interests of the university, the buck stops here," he wrote. "In this situation, I believe it is in the best interests of the university to give my successor a clear path for resolving the issues before us."

Spanier apparently had submitted a letter or resignation and the board only needed to accept it at a closed-door meeting that preceded tonight's news conference, a source told ABC News' Lauren Pearle.

Joe Paterno Offered to Retire

In an earlier statement before the trustees dismissed Paterno and Spanier, Paterno said it has been his intention to "serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care."

"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season," Paterno said. "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."

The coach had a closed meeting with his team and coaching staff yesterday morning where he reportedly broke down in tears while telling them he was leaving, according to the Associated Press. Players, also choking back tears, gave him a standing ovation as he walked out of the gym, the report said.

Penn State Sex Scandal Grows

Sandusky was arrested Saturday and charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years, all of whom he met through his charitable organization, The Second Mile, a group home and outreach program for troubled boys.

The charges stem from a March 2002, incident in which graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a locker room shower in the Penn State football department. McQueary told Paterno what he saw, and Paterno in turn told Curley and Shultz. None of the men reported the incident to police.

The Pennsylvania attorney general said Monday that Curley and Shultz were legally required to alert police to the incident, while Paterno was only legally obligated to tell his superiors. But Paterno has come under fire for failing what police called a "moral obligation" to alert them to the crimes.

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