Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier have been removed from their positions, effective immediately, according to the school's board of trustees, amid allegations one of Paterno's former assistants abused children and school officials didn't report what they knew.
Paterno, 84, who earlier today announced 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, after all.
In fact, 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.
People gathered at Paterno's house 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 written 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."
However, many students in State College, Pa., reacted angrily to Paterno's removal, with thousands gathering on the city's streets. They shook light posts, threw toilet tissue, set off fireworks and yelled out sentiments such as, "We want JoePa," referring to one of Paterno's nicknames, and "One more game."
Lines of police were out in riot gear, but they were far outnumbered by students.
Several students directed their rage at the media, flipping over a satellite truck, breaking its windows and threatening to burn it amid chants of "F*** the media."
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 Shultz 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.
"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 today 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 this 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.
Paterno was showered with affection by Penn State students who showed up outside his house Tuesday night.
"I've lived for this place. I've lived for people like you guys and girls," Paterno said when he emerged from his home. "It's hard for me to say how much this means.
"As you know, the kids that were the victims. I think we ought to say a prayer for them," he 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.
Pressure has also increased on Spanier because Curley and Shultz reported to Spanier that there had been an inappropriate incident with Sandusky and a child in the locker room showers, and that they had taken away Sandusky's privilege of bringing children onto campus. Spanier approved the decision and never reported the Sandusky incident to police.
Sandusky allegedly molested some of the children that he brought to the Penn State campus to meet the team members and work out at the facilities. He also brought them along on trips to away games and plied them with gifts, according to the presentment.
Two earlier sexual assaults on campus had been brought to the attention of employees and administrators, neither of which were reported to the police, according to the attorney general. In 1998 two boys reportedly came forward to say Sandusky had fondled them in the team's showers. Campus police had eavesdropped on a conversation between Sandusky and one boy's mother. That mother recently described the exchange to local reporter Sara Ganim with the Patriot News.
"He admitted to taking the shower, he admitted to some extent something bad happened," the woman, who was not identified, said. "He asked her for forgiveness. He said 'I probably won't get it from you,' and then he said 'I wish I were dead.'"
The mother said that she was proud of her son, who had the courage stand up to one of the giants of college football, according to Ganim. The boy's allegation led to the three-year grand jury investigation that resulted in sexual assault charges.
Sandusky was a coach and defensive coordinator for the team for 23 years before retiring in 1999. After his retirement, he continued to have unlimited access to the football department and campus, and continued to run football camps for boys at Penn State's campuses.
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